No more social issues?

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Last Friday, Slate’s David Weigel advanced the proposition that while politicians like Rick Perry and Jim DeMint may still care about social issues, that ain’t the case for voters–including those who happen to be members of the social issues intelligentsia who teach at Princeton.

Even Robby George is climbing on board. On Monday, George will join Sen. Jim DeMint and Rep. Steve King as a moderator at a five-candidate “freedom summit” in South Carolina. In a Friday interview
with ABC News, George–a co-founder of NOM, widely recognized as the
intellectual paterfamilias of the “traditional marriage” movement–didn’t
even mention social issues. “The issue that’s in front of everyone’s
mind today is the economic issue, the debt issue, and the jobs issue,”
said George.

Well, but on Monday there was Prof. George beating away on the abortion drum, with a tip of the cymbal to same-sex marriage.

No doubt, as Weigel, concludes, the GOP has prospered by turning attention away from the abortion/SSM litany and rebranding itself “as the party that cared about the economy and nothing but.” But the success of actual Tea Party candidates–up to and including one time pure libertarians like Rand Paul–has depended on toeing the social conservative line.

Here and there, there have been differences in which provisions of which anti-abortion or anti-SSM pledge the several GOP presidential wannabe will sign on to. The bottom line is that the social issues don’t work as wedges inside the Republican Party these days because it’s essentially impossible to pry the candidates apart on them. I’ll believe that social issues have disappeared when I see pro-choice and/or pro-SSM candidates winning GOP primaries outside those tiny slices of the Northeast where socially liberal Republicanism still survives.