Free Markets, Free People


Recipe for Realignment

Damon Linker at The New Republic has a thoughtful post about how President Obama can win and end the culture war. It goes against the intuitions of most of the Left, but I think he’s figured out something that has eluded almost all of them — a way to unravel some of the most significant bonds that have held the Republican coalition together for the last several decades.

While I think he’s right about same-sex marriage (social conservatives are losing ground steadily), I find his thoughts on abortion particularly cogent.

How could Obama — how could liberals, how could supporters of abortion rights — both win and end the culture war, once and for all? By supporting the reversal or significant narrowing of Roe, allowing abortion policy to once again be set primarily by the states — a development that would decisively divide and demoralize the conservative side of the culture war by robbing it of the identity politics that holds it together as a national movement.

If that sounds strange to you, read the whole thing.

I have said for years that overturning Roe v Wade, and thereby sending the issue back to the states, would effect a political realignment in this country.

Conservatives can’t enact a federal ban on abortion through Congress, RvW or not; whatever Republican politicians may say to win primaries, that would be mass political suicide and they know it. For social conservatives, there is one reachable goal — overturning RvW through the slow process of controlling Supreme Court appointments — meaning conservatives need to control the White House and the Senate for long, preferably unbroken stretches of time. That means that social conservatives expend a disproportionate amount of energy on the very top levels of national politics, allowing them to leverage their energy through GOTV efforts.

But like a dog chasing a car, they don’t have a clear idea of what they would do with it if they got it. If RvW were overturned or significantly narrowed, suddenly abortion would be a state-by-state fight.

It’s much easier to direct their energy into Senate races and presidential elections to win the broad-brush fight against RvW than to convince the state-level electorate on the nitty-gritty details of pro-life policy.

In the vast majority of states, social conservatives wouldn’t be able to put any but the most basic restrictions on the practice – perhaps limiting partial-birth abortions in some, third-trimester abortions in fewer. The options of limiting state funding for abortions, and requiring minors to obtain parental consent or at least knowledge, are both available under current constitutional law.

Virtually no one opposes abortions when the mother’s life is at stake, and while I haven’t looked at the state-by-state poll data, I doubt there’s a state in the union that would ban abortions even in cases of rape and incest. Finally, let’s put something simply: whether principled pro-lifers like it or not, there’s just not enough voter support to really punish women who undergo abortions. Practical pro-life politics would target doctors and institutions, not customers/patients.

And then? Then the fire would die down. Unlike taxes and spending or environmental issues, there are only a few ways to move the ball in either direction on abortion. Once elections make clear the basic outlines of what is achievable on such a narrow issue as abortion, the issue’s potency as a politically unifying force will diminish.

See, when there’s no way to compromise, the radicals control the conversation. So we have two starkly divided camps, each internally united by the near-fiat Supreme Court decision. If specific policy decisions were made by the people and representatives of each state, the camps would begin breaking down visibly based on actual policy preferences, roughly based on gradients of moderation.

At that point, those outside the mainstream have little choice but to begin the hard work of changing hearts and minds, and working through regulation and appropriations. That’s the moderating force of democracy.

The full effects on the national political scene are hard to predict, but they would be wide-ranging.

  • A powerful wedge issue would lose a great deal of potency, allowing people who are otherwise uncomfortable fits in their political coalitions to move between parties, or become less reliable partisan allies of politicians who take a hard line.
  • We would see moderation at both the federal and state levels, although evangelicals and Catholic groups would probably become more energetic for a while at the state level at the expense of federal efforts.
  • And finally, we would do the good work of returning policy and political focus to more local levels of government, and convert a great deal of energy spent on politics into energy spent on private education and outreach.

Whether the parties to this culture war want it to end is another matter.

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26 Responses to Recipe for Realignment

  • Huh, Social Conservatives are losing ground, on gay marriage?  What colour is the sky where you live?  Prop 8 won in California, even as Obama was taking the state.  Obama, does NOT support gay marriage-he says- but the social conservatives are losing ground. OK, tell yourself whatever makes you feel good, I guess.

    And an over-turn of Roe will DEMORALIZE Conservatives?  You believe this?  Again, what colour is the sky there?  So did the Emancipation Proclamation demoralize abolitionists?  Did the Victory in North Africa demoralize the Allies; did the victory at Midway demoralize the Americans?  It would ENERGIZE, the Conservatives, our first major victory, yeah we’d be all down that now the primary bar to eliminating abortion and the salvation of millions of innocent babies had been over-turned or greatly diminished…Yeah, we’d be all so, “Gee now we see victory in the wind screen, how much better it was to be in a seemingly endless struggle to return to the Constitutional Status Quo.”  Oh yeah we’d be down…

    The people who would be in a severely negative mood, would be the Pro-Choice/Leftists…they’d be livid, seeing one of the sacraments of the New Left being over-turned!  They might be demoralized, per se, but they’d be negatively energized…desperate, angry, not sure they’d be demoralized.  But I sure know that the Pro-Life is not going to be down, were it to happen….

    I guess the libertarian conservatives would like to lose the social conservatives from the mix…like for them to be split off, then you boyz wouldn’t have to put up with those people, too godly, too opposed to legalized drugs, too…CONSERVATIVE.  So, if ending Roe v. Wade would, supposedly. Demoralize us and split the coalition, that’d probably make their day.  Of course, after we left…the libertarian wing of the movement would realize that they represent about 10% of the electorate, and then they might be the ones who would be demoralized….

    Finally, the way to win the culture war is to CAPITULATE on one of the prime tenets of modern Liberalism?  Yeah I can see that…that makes sense…beat the conservatives, by becoming conservatives…..Sure an Obama Administration is going to support that in any way…the POTUS who said he’d sign FOCA as soon as possible, a POTUS who doesn’t want his children punished by children, a POTUS that was solidly supported by the Pro-Abortion Left and Womyn’s groups, sure that’s going to happen.

    Bottom-Line: interesting read…yeah if you believe the Moon is Green Cheese and that babies can be found under cabbage leaves in the garden….

    • Huh, Social Conservatives are losing ground, on gay marriage?  What colour is the sky where you live?  Prop 8 won in California, even as Obama was taking the state.  Obama, does NOT support gay marriage-he says- but the social conservatives are losing ground. OK, tell yourself whatever makes you feel good, I guess.

      It’s not about what makes me feel good — it’s what polling indicates is happening.  Public attitudes have been shifting, slowly but surely, for some time now, and it’s even said that Prop 8 won partly because of the increased black vote brought out by Obama.  Not everything is so cut-and-dried as “big Democrat turnout = best shot for pro-choicers.”  Ask anyone who’s pushing for same-sex marriage, and Prop 8 is just a temporary (if saddening) setback.  They didn’t get it this time, but they fully expect to get it in time.

      And an over-turn of Roe will DEMORALIZE Conservatives?  You believe this?  Again, what colour is the sky there?

      Right now, it’s black.  And yes, the ultimate outcome of reversing Roe would demoralize conservatives, for reasons both Linker and I discussed.  I’m sure all social conservatives would be elated in the short run, but when they run into the wall of state-by-state public opinion, and conservatives can’t use the issue to get out the vote in federal elections, that will enervate them. 

      I guess the libertarian conservatives would like to lose the social conservatives from the mix…like for them to be split off, then you boyz wouldn’t have to put up with those people, too godly, too opposed to legalized drugs, too…CONSERVATIVE.

      It’s not about what I want, either.  If you’d bother to ask first, you’d find that I’m actually very strictly pro-life.  But you decided to speculate on my motives, and look how well that worked out for you.  You’re 0 for 2.

      And I’ve warned my fellows on the Right who started agitating to purge some part of the party that it would be political suicide to do so.  They talk about dismantling the coalition without saying how they would make up the difference and put together a plurality coalition. 

      Social conservatives like Huckabee talk about getting rid of libertarians and libertarians talking about purging social conservatives and everybody talking about getting rid of the neo-cons or the RINOs… did you ever see me cheerleading any of that?  I think social conservatives may have over-reached a bit, emphasizing certain issues before checking to see whether they had a winning coalition on board first, but I haven’t ever advocated a purge.  I dare you to find evidence to the contrary.

      Bottom line: there’s no substance to your rant.

    • So did the Emancipation Proclamation demoralize abolitionists?

      It’s not the point they were demoralized,  it’s that after the E.P. and the 13th amendment–they had no point.  So they weren’t.

      Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp

  • Rant, dude, what rant?  It’s the truth…not a rant.

    Public attitudes have been shifting, slowly but surely, for some time now, and it’s even said that Prop 8 won partly because of the increased black vote brought out by Obama.  Not everything is so cut-and-dried as “big Democrat turnout = best shot for pro-choicers.”  Ask anyone who’s pushing for same-sex marriage, and Prop 8 is just a temporary (if saddening) setback.  They didn’t get it this time, but they fully expect to get it in time.

    Yeah sure they are, and that’s why in the overwhelming majority of cases where the PUBLIC has a say anti-gay marriage wins.  I might add that social conservatives are the best way to make inroads amongst African-Americans, as they are much more traditionally oriented than their white and much more liberal democratic counter-parts.

    I’m sure all social conservatives would be elated in the short run, but when they run into the wall of state-by-state public opinion, and conservatives can’t use the issue to get out the vote in federal elections, that will enervate them.

    Again what?  The end result will be our enervation?  Yeah, right…the end result, in phase II of the struggle will be that abortion becomes illegal in all the states that voted Bush, and only legal in states that voted for Michael Dukakis..  Phase II will see us moving to limit and then end it there.

    Finally, I note there was no response to WHY Obama would adopt this goofy strategy?  Yeah, that’s because the Pro-Choice people helped him get there, he’s pro-choice so it’s a non-starter from the get –go…but keep believing this sort of stuff if you want to.

    Yeah we want to end the Culture Wars, we want to win it…and so does the Left.  It isn’t just electoral politics.  You might also want to move beyond thinking that’s it…sure there are some political animals that are interested in “using” cultural issues SOLELY for political gain, but they are the minority.  Most culture warriors are in it for the win…whichever side they are pulling for.

    • Rant, dude, what rant?  It’s the truth…not a rant.
      Ranters often think they’re telling it like it is.

      Yeah sure they are, and that’s why in the overwhelming majority of cases where the PUBLIC has a say anti-gay marriage wins.  I might add that social conservatives are the best way to make inroads amongst African-Americans, as they are much more traditionally oriented than their white and much more liberal democratic counter-parts.
      You’re not listening.  I said public attitudes have been steadily shifting, and you come back with “but conservatives just won on Issue X not too long ago!”

      Again what?  The end result will be our enervation?  Yeah, right…the end result, in phase II of the struggle will be that abortion becomes illegal in all the states that voted Bush, and only legal in states that voted for Michael Dukakis..  Phase II will see us moving to limit and then end it there.
      What in the world makes you think that pro-lifers have the numbers to make that happen?  Public opinion polls simply do not support what you’re saying.  Not even close.  If they can’t pass a law against abortion in South Dakota, where exactly are they going to be able to ban it?  You mentioned California — they can’t even pass a law requiring parental knowledge or consent for minors getting abortions.

      Finally, I note there was no response to WHY Obama would adopt this goofy strategy?  Yeah, that’s because the Pro-Choice people helped him get there, he’s pro-choice so it’s a non-starter from the get –go…but keep believing this sort of stuff if you want to.
      I didn’t say it was going to happen.  I do believe it would be effective, though.  Its main problem is that it’s counterintuitive — lose the battle to win the war.  Everyone’s gotten so worked up about winning this battle that almost nobody’s thought through what happens if conservatives win.

      It’s a common mistake to believe that if your opponent secures one of his tactical objectives, you must be losing strategically.  If conservatives finally got to take this fight to the states, they’d quickly run out of achievable objectives (which would be modest, if the polls are to be believed), and then they wouldn’t have much to organize for every election cycle, would they?  They’d be winning or defending small patches of turf instead of fighting for the Holy Grail.

      Yeah we want to end the Culture Wars, we want to win it…and so does the Left.  It isn’t just electoral politics.  You might also want to move beyond thinking that’s it…sure there are some political animals that are interested in “using” cultural issues SOLELY for political gain, but they are the minority.  Most culture warriors are in it for the win…whichever side they are pulling for.
      Like I said, you’re not listening.  It doesn’t matter how sincere they are about wanting a win.  Conservatives’ real-world gains at the state level, if they managed to overturn Roe, would be very modest.  And then they would be far less reliable as the energetic GOTV machine that they have been for the Right.

      And I still don’t think that Republicans would pass a federal ban on abortion even if they had 67 Senators, a comfortable House majority and the White House.  That is a bridge too far, and they would be thrown out of power for a generation if they did it — and meanwhile, the ban would be reversed.

      • Bryan, as difficult as it might be to get anti-abortion legislation passed state by state, it would be orders of magnitude easier than (1) getting an anti-abortion amendment to the US Constitution passed, or (2) Getting enough votes on the Supreme Court to overturn Roe. I don’t even think Roberts or Alito would vote to overturn, in mistaken deference to stare decisis. If Obama could return the abortion question to the states, pro-lifers would justifiably rejoice. You don’t think an anti-abortion law could get passed in Utah? Not every state is Utah, but you just have to convice 50% +1 state by state.

        … of course, seeing as how Obama has no power whatsoever to do this, this scenario shouldn’t weigh too heavily on our minds. The Supreme Court still makes the call on Roe, and nominating another vote against Roe would destroy his career. It’s nice, though, that the author at the link does understand the profound frustration of the pro-life side, and doesn’t resort to the frequent pro-choice canard that we’re all misogynists who think women should barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.

        • Bryan, as difficult as it might be to get anti-abortion legislation passed state by state, it would be orders of magnitude easier than (1) getting an anti-abortion amendment to the US Constitution passed, or (2) Getting enough votes on the Supreme Court to overturn Roe.
          I don’t doubt that some anti-abortion legislation would pass, but it would be very modest.  The difficulty comes with enacting strict laws.  Utah is one of a few states that could pass relatively strict laws, but even if and when it does, it will still quickly reach a decisive limit — where a convincing majority rejects the next step.  When that happens, it will be very difficult to keep the fire going in the religious Right.
          I agree that passing an anti-abortion amendment is–well, it’s impossible.  Getting enough votes on the SC to overturn Roe is not.  I doubt it would be completely overridden, but I think that replacing two justices, maybe even one, would do enough to at least get a substantial narrowing of that ruling.

          … of course, seeing as how Obama has no power whatsoever to do this, this scenario shouldn’t weigh too heavily on our minds. The Supreme Court still makes the call on Roe, and nominating another vote against Roe would destroy his career.
          I agree, this scenario is unlikely.  As Linker wrote in his follow-up post, it’s about how Obama could end and win the culture war, not about a likely action on his part.  But then, it wouldn’t be the first time a president completely misjudged a nominee.  Reagan and Sandra Day O’Connor, for instance.

  • It’s not the point they were demoralized,  it’s that after the E.P. and the 13th amendment–they had no point.  So they weren’t.

    Oh well…small price to pay for defeating an evil don’t you think?  Or would you posit that it might have been better if it never happened?  Or to carry this further, what if the CONFEDERATES had emancipated the slaves, that’d show the Yankees….

  • The culture wars will continue for all generations, it is endless

  • Bryan,

    The whole “send it back to the states” deal is just subterfuge.

    What conservatives want is for the Supreme Court to declare the 14th-amendment rights of the fetus and to outlaw abortion nationwide.  That’s the goal.

    I agree with you that “sending it back to the states” would remove a major organizing issue of the Republicans at the federal level.  But I think the goal is to pack the court with social conservatives who would overturn Roe and include a finding that would end abortion completely.

  • I am not sure what the consequence of such an action would be, but I suspect it might be very different than the author theorizes.

     Such an action might drive away a large percent of Obama supporters. It would cause cival war within the Democratic base. A lot of people would be very, very angry at Obama for doing that. I wonder if they would be angry enough to vote for a third party candidate in 2012, splitting the left vote.

    Think about it. If even 5-10% of the left is feminists who think this should be an absolute right and feel betrayed, they will vote for Nader or whoever. Those defections coupled by some feminists coming over to Palin, could swing her into a win. And she could actually campaign while IGNORING the issue – saying its seems bipartisan consensus had been reached, etc.

  • In the vast majority of states, social conservatives wouldn’t be able to put any but the most basic restrictions on the practice – perhaps limiting partial-birth abortions in some, third-trimester abortions in fewer. The options of limiting state funding for abortions, and requiring minors to obtain parental consent or at least knowledge, are both available under current constitutional law.

    Virtually no one opposes abortions when the mother’s life is at stake, and while I haven’t looked at the state-by-state poll data, I doubt there’s a state in the union that would ban abortions even in cases of rape and incest. Finally, let’s put something simply: whether principled pro-lifers like it or not, there’s just not enough voter support to really punish women who undergo abortions. Practical pro-life politics would target doctors and institutions, not customers/patients.
    And then? Then the fire would die down. Unlike taxes and spending or environmental issues, there are only a few ways to move the ball in either direction on abortion. Once elections make clear the basic outlines of what is achievable on such a narrow issue as abortion, the issue’s potency as a politically unifying force will diminish.

  • It is a pointless speculation like when people argue that Hitler might have won the war if he had not attacked the Soviet Union. It is silly to speculate because it cannot ever happen, just like Hitler could not resist stabbing Stalin in the back.  The left can no more compromise on this sort of issue than will the ardent pro-lifers.

    At any rate Obama will indeed put the culture wars on the back burner. Because he is going to wreck the economy so bad that no one will be talking about social issues.

  • Exactly what would “Emily’s List”, NARAL and Planned Parenthood do ?

    Yes, Roe may be the case of the dog chasing the fire truck, but this is happening on both side of the steeet.

  • Gosh, Bryan, your arguments for reinstitutionalizing slavery in a way that would defuse the political passions of abolitionists is just brilliant.

    But if we should, by some chance, wind up with a faction of slave states and a faction of non-slave states, won’t that be an invitation for civil war?

    Of course I’m using the terms “slavery” and “slave” here as substitutes for the grievous moral evil that became normal just as the norm of segregation was ending about a century after the norm of slavery had ended.

    Those slaves were somebody’s property. You get that, right? Just the way the unborn ain’t nobody’s business, O.K.?

    Every human life begins when it begins. It is not arbitrary. There is a bright line in nature that marks it. A unique genetic code begins to dynamically unfold. There is no more a right to make a “choice” once that has begun than there was a “right” to own another human being.

    To the extent that we know things through time, just as it became known through time that slavery, despite being institutionalized through millenia, was wrong, we can look at the simple facts of new lives being murdered, just as our forbears finally looked at other human being being held as property, and know that it is wrong and grievously evil.

    Or would you not mind at all if your neighbor held slaves, if it were legal, because that’s not your business?

    • Martin, I don’t know who you’re arguing with.  You wrote my name, but you seem to not know where I stand.  This post is about what could happen, not the way I want the world to be.  And you seem to be under the mistaken impression that I am pro-choice.

      Anyway, about this question specifically:
      But if we should, by some chance, wind up with a faction of slave states and a faction of non-slave states, won’t that be an invitation for civil war?
      I highly doubt it.  Right now, anyone with even the slightest pro-life leaning already has reason to be dissatisfied with the government, so any state that wants a pro-life policy already has reason to part ways with the federal government.  That would be less likely to be the case if every state was able to make its own policies.

      Or would you not mind at all if your neighbor held slaves, if it were legal, because that’s not your business?
      Damon Linker discussed that very point in his post.

  • I disagree on the end result – removing RvW from the national discourse helps republicans more than it hurts…  this is a net gender win for democrats right now because I know women who vote D because of this issue alone.  Removing it from the national stage also sets the stage to frame the debate as it should be framed: ‘Abortion as a medical procedure should be safe. As noted rape, incest, and most importantly the safety of the women take priority.  Our candidates are certainly against forcing or encouraging abortions on anyone, support alternatives such as adoption, and think anyone contemplating one should be counseled on the decision but ultimately the law and morality indicate that its to be their decision.  ‘  – Being able to reframe the debate in that context would be a net win for national republicans not a loss – there are plenty of other social issues that republicans can use to motivate the base.

    • [Abortion] is a net gender win for democrats right now because I know women who vote D because of this issue alone.
      Anecdotes are nice, but data are better.  People vote for both parties based largely or entirely based on this one issue.
      You believe there are plenty of other issues to use to motivate the base, but I can’t think of any with the endurance or motivational power that abortion has.  Gay marriage is the most prominent issue that comes to mind, and it doesn’t match up on either standard.

      • Bryan,
        Much of your post is based around the hypothesis that there are more people who vote R only because of pro-life commentary then there are those that vote D only for abortion rights.  I disagree in that the religious right isn’t defined by just abortion – they have an array (which not being in agreement or fully familiar with I can neither list nor defend) which would limit the transition of those voters to D… much more so than the transition of those worried about abortion rights. 

        Each issue has those on the far ends of the opinion – in the case of abortion this is dominated by women on the abortion rights side.  Most men while we may agree with keeping abortion available, may have daughters etc. don’t put the same level of personal “that’s me they’re talking about” into this issue.  Polling data has consistently shown women favoring the D ticket since this issue came on the political scene.

        Thus I feel that while you are right – removing this issue would change (and in my opinion improve) the current political alignment – I’m not sure it’s as negative for the conservative party as you have portrayed it, annd my opinion is this could be a net positive for conservatives.  Sure places like New York and California might become much more liberal, and as shown in SD very few places would ‘shut down’ abortions but I think there would be a better balance based on different regions in the country – the socially conservative states would impose new but not draconian limits and the issue would be less of a national issue – except those on the rights side fear that very result – they want to keep it much more of a national issue and it must be an issue because people on both sides provide money to support their veiw of that issue.

  • The argument that the culture war would end in liberal victory is based on the assumption that abortion is the sine qua non of the conservative movement and the only major issue dividing conservatives and liberals in the country.  There is no question but that it is a MAJOR issue, but it is not the only issue.  I would like to see abortion turned back over to the states because I believe that this is where it (and many other issues) belongs under the Constitution.  I would say, therefore, that killing Roe v Wade and handing the issue back to the states would be less a victory for liberal scum than a RESOUNDING victory for anybody who believes in federalism.

    • The argument that the culture war would end in liberal victory is based on the assumption that abortion is the sine qua non of the conservative movement and the only major issue dividing conservatives and liberals in the country.
      That’s not entirely accurate.  Let’s be precise: I’m talking about specific groups within the Republican coalition, not conservatives generally.
      And as I told BillS, I can’t think of any other issue with the endurance or motivational power that abortion has.  Social conservatives are steadily losing ground on same-sex marriage.  Many Republican-voting pro-lifers also line up with the Right on taxes and spending and so on, but I believe (a) some pro-lifers do not and (b) those who do would be less energetic about supporting Republicans without the powerful motivator of abortion, which is effectively an issue in every election.

      I would say, therefore, that killing Roe v Wade and handing the issue back to the states would be less a victory for liberal scum than a RESOUNDING victory for anybody who believes in federalism.
      As I’ve been saying, I’m aware that it would be a tactical win for social conservatives (and other sympathetic people).  But Republicans would lose a powerful motivating force, an issue they perennially rely upon to fire up the parts of the base that get the vote out for critical victories.  Overall, accomplishing that objective would rob the Right of an important source of energy in elections, particularly at the federal level. 

      Evangelicals have been some of the most reliable voters and volunteers in the GOP for a while now, and they are motivated by a small number of powerful wedge issues, abortion most of all.  If Roe were overturned, regardless of who did it, the Left overall would be losing the battle, but winning the war.

  • Bryan, I think that you’re missing BillS’s point.  He’s saying that there are people who vote straight-ticket Dem because they’re anti-ban, and there are people who vote straight-ticket Rep because they’re pro-ban, but that there are many more of the former than there are of the latter–and the former often trend Rep on everything _but_ abortion.

    I also strongly disagree with your assertion that there wouldn’t be a “conservative movement” without abortion as a single rallying issue.  It’s kind of demeaning to actual conservatives to suggest that there’s nothing in our heads other than abortion!

    • Bryan, I think that you’re missing BillS’s point.  He’s saying that there are people who vote straight-ticket Dem because they’re anti-ban, and there are people who vote straight-ticket Rep because they’re pro-ban, but that there are many more of the former than there are of the latter–and the former often trend Rep on everything _but_ abortion.
      I understand where he was going with it.  I think there are more Dem-trending pro-lifers than Rep-trending pro-choicers, and that the pro-lifers are more essential to motivating Republicans than pro-choicers are to motivating Democrats.

      I also strongly disagree with your assertion that there wouldn’t be a “conservative movement” without abortion as a single rallying issue.  It’s kind of demeaning to actual conservatives to suggest that there’s nothing in our heads other than abortion!
      I didn’t make that assertion at all.

      • Byron, I don’t see how it’s possible to read your post as anything but making that assertion.

        • Well, let me help you see what is possible:

          The existence of a  “conservative movement” doesn’t require it be politically successful.  The same goes for the Republican coalition, although a party has to have some successes over time to remain viable.

          Abortion is a distinctively powerful motivation for a part of the Republican coalition that has been important to many of its electoral successes.  I believe that without that issue, which is essentially always in play, social conservatives would be much less energetic supporters of Republicans, and some of those social conservatives would be much more willing to vote Democrat.  I think this would be a significant enough number to effect a realignment in this country — there could quite easily still be a conservative movement, but it would look different than it does today.

          “Actual conservatives”, as you put it, do have other things in their heads.  The thing is, some of those things in some of their heads make them more likely to vote Democrat.

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