Over at Powerline, my friend John Hinderaker takes the New York Times to task for assuming that if Ken Mehlman had come out in 2004, it would have been a headache for the GOP as opposed to the mostly blasé response it’s been getting today:
That is, I think, untrue. We didn’t care about Mehlman’s personal life then, and we don’t care now. I believe our attitude is characteristic of the vast majority of conservatives. We wish Mehlman well. But whether Ken Mehlman is or is not gay has no bearing on the public policy question of whether gay marriage is a good idea or a bad idea.
He’s right. It’s been my experience, as a gay conservative blogger, that most conservatives could care less about my sexuality. But, Times reporter Kate Zernike is right about one thing:
The muted reaction reflects not only changing values in the country generally, but also, more notably, among many Republicans and conservatives.
The center of gravity of the conservative movement in this election season is with fiscal conservatives. The Tea Party is infusing the Republican Party with new energy, and Tea Party leaders and supporters say they do not want to talk about social issues: even if they do not personally support same-sex marriage or abortion, they think the Republican Party spent too much time talking about them and not enough time trying to rein in spending.
Ms. Zernike may not be entirely up-to-speed about the conservative movement. Fiscal issues were always important to movement conservatives. Th is is not something new. If you don’t believe me, then just take a listen to this 1964 speech. But, she’s right in that the Obama Democrats big-spending initiatives which led to the rise of the Tea Party movement put those for whom fiscal issue are paramount back in the drivers’ seat.
During the Bush era, we were relegated to a side car. We found it hard to gain traction when the then-Republican president was not himself a fiscal conservative, but was taking heat from the left on any number of issues, particularly the War on Terror. We devoted our energies to defending him, believing that winning that war was paramount to our national security (another defining issue for movement conservatives).
So, Mr. Zernike is right, the center of gravity has shifted on the right, but back to where it has long been, but this is more a return, a restoration even, to the bedrock principles of American conservatism than anything else.