In recent decades social conservatism has become not only a core component of Republican election victories, but a defining characteristic by which Republicans know themselves and are known to others. Yet today, much of elite Republican opinion has turned hostile to a political role for social issues, preferring they be paid only lip service and removed from political debate whenever possible.
In The Case for Polarized Politics, Jeffrey Bell asserts that social conservatism is not only unlikely to collapse, but that it is has become an increasingly unified and coherent movement, one that reflects the dearly held beliefs of millions of Americans. The resulting polarization, unpleasant as it may be, is preferable to the alternative which is being played out in the declining societies of Western Europe and Japan, countries where there is no resistance to the left’s agenda of relentless cultural and social transformation. In the United States, by contrast, polarization reigns because social conservatives have proven impossible to marginalize. Social conservatives may be far from prevailing, but the battle over social issues continues to drive the national debate and its issues will always play a huge role in voters’ decisions. Both the left, and more importantly the right, attempt to marginalize it at their own peril.