R.R. Reno’s article about the culture war today—that the Democrats are becoming the party of culture war, a transition confirmed by the decreasing power of economic interests in the party—is further confirmed by this observation: The Republicans are becoming the party of economics. They’re not going to drop their social conservatism, but if you’ve been keeping track of the conversations about the future of conservatism and the Republican party (which are two distinct but not entirely separate conversations), maybe you’ve noticed that the conversation is all around reframing the movement’s and the party’s economic message in various ways. To the extent that social issues are discussed at all, it hasn’t really gotten beyond “don’t say stupid things about rape.” The usual chorus of libertarians complaining that the social conservatives have to be kicked out of the movement/the party, while present, has been surprisingly marginal. All the real conversation is about how to deliver a message of economic hope that resonates with people who haven’t made it yet—as Ted Cruz famously put it, to counter “you didn’t build that” not with “you built that” but with “you can build that.” Or as Henry Olsen put it, to stop talking about free enterprise in ways that sound like it empowers management at the expense of labor.
The big question to my mind is whether the GOP follows the pattern of the Democrats in the last generation and becomes a party of economic interests, or manages to find a voice for an economic ideal that can at least partially subordinate those interests. That, in turn, will probably be settled by the outcome of the distinct-but-not-separate conversation going on in the conservative movement.