Social conservatives, like so many voters this year, are disgusted with the two major-party presidential choices.
I am a SoCon, shorthand for social conservative. We SoCons often overlap with fiscal conservatives (FiCons). Together, we made up a majority of the GOP — or at least we did before Donald Trump commandeered the party during a wild 2016 primary season.
On March 1, Minnesota’s GOP caucusgoers did their best to repel Donald the Pirate, giving him only 21 percent of the presidential preference vote. Minnesota’s Republicans chose Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, and a poll in this paper suggested that he could have beaten Hillary Clinton in Minnesota. Sigh.
Doing their part, our DFL friends did their best to fend off Clinton, giving Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont nearly 62 percent of their votes.
Though the national primary battle went to Trump and Clinton, our collective state results make me proud to be a Minnesotan.
Still, we are stuck with two very unpleasant choices on Nov. 8. So what am I going to do with my vote?
First, what is a social conservative? SoCons are a large but shrinking portion of the population. Since Gallup started polling self-identified social ideology in 1999, the percentage of respondents saying they are social conservatives has decreased from 39 percent to 31 percent, while the percentage identifying as social liberals has gone from 21 percent to 31 percent. A major cause of the shift has been the increased acceptance of same-sex marriage. Support rose from 35 percent in 1999 to 61 percent this year. It is no surprise that laws have changed, and we SoCons know that we have to adapt.
The SoCons that I know are committed to respectful tolerance of all our fellow citizens. The question is whether courts and cultural institutions will redefine respect for gay citizens and tolerance of gay marriage as requiring positive affirmation and public celebration. Major conflict could be on the way, since many Americans continue to believe (and to teach their children) that marriage is between a woman and a man and that children benefit most by having a mother and a father. Labeling those views as hate speech is ridiculous.
SoCons are troubled by evidence that the left is not willing to settle for tolerance on the divisive issues of life and love. Clinton and the Obama administration are clear that their definition of religious freedom is very limited — essentially allowing freedom of expression only within the confines of religious institutions. Expressions of conservative belief in the public sphere of daily life or commerce are considered out of bounds by the cultural left. Thus Hobby Lobby’s refusal to provide insurance coverage for abortifacient birth control is anathema.
Though the legal redefinition of marriage was a resounding defeat for SoCons, increasingly prolife public attitudes on abortion paint a much more conservative cultural picture. According to Gallup, over the last 20 years the percentage of those who identify as prochoice has decreased from 56 to 47 percent, while the prolife percentage increased from 33 percent to 46 percent. Most impressive is the fact that 69 percent of Americans believe that abortion should be either illegal or limited — a percentage that has not changed over the last two decades.
The U.S. joins only China, North Korea and Canada in effectively having no gestational age limits on abortion. This disconnect between public policy and public opinion is the reason that abortion is a continued open wound on our body politic. Clinton and the Democratic Party embrace an extreme position opposing any restrictions on abortion — a position shared by only 29 percent of people. The DNC platform’s call for repeal of the Hyde amendment is an insistence that abortion is a positive good that we all must pay for. (Hello safe, legal and rife).
Those who argue for an expanded definition of diversity in love are hypocritical if they refuse to love, respect or protect unborn human life.
Since the Supreme Court eventually decides issues involving love and life, nomination of justices is the primary reason that SoCons might vote for Trump. It is certain that Clinton would appoint two or three more Elena Kagan clones who will impose totally unrestricted, publicly funded abortion on our country — contrary to the will of 2 out of 3 Americans.
The recent announcement of a $30 million Planned Parenthood effort to get out the vote for Clinton isn’t a surprise coming from an abortion-obsessed organization that receives $500 million a year in federal funding. A Republican House majority may be all that stands in the way of Planned Parenthood becoming another federal agency.
Trump has been ambiguous on the love and life issues. He seems to be on board the love train. The fact that Peter Thiel was cheered as an openly gay Republican at the GOP convention was a milestone. Yet as I write, Trump professes a prolife position. But Trump’s prolife stance is recent and diametrically opposed to his past statements. His opposition to abortion might be an opportunistic charade (as suspected of McCain, Romney and many other GOP pols), but perhaps his experience as a father and grandfather has been instrumental in his conversion on this issue. Since SoCons are repelled by Clinton’s abortion extremism, virtually none will vote for her.
I was an idealistic 18-year-old when I first voted in the 1972 presidential election. Ratification of the 26th Amendment to the Constitution made Nov. 7 of that year a milestone for me and the other 6 million 18- to 20-year-olds who voted. I cast my 1972 ballot for George McGovern, who lost in a landslide to Richard Nixon. My vote had nothing to do with social conservative issues. Roe vs. Wade was a year away, and I hadn’t formed an opinion on abortion. Opposition to the Vietnam War thoroughly occupied my 18-year-old mind.
However, Nixon’s overwhelming re-election did not save him from subsequent impeachment and resignation. What eventually comes to light from the dark recesses of Clinton’s ethical attic and basement may lead to the same fate. She may win an electoral victory, and we all may seriously regret what follows.
Events continue. A recently released vulgar video graphically revealed Trump’s character to be every bit as base as that of our 42nd president (a fellow named Clinton who had the good fortune of being a Democrat whose morality didn’t seem to matter). Before this revelation of Trump’s repugnance, the issue of the Supreme Court was an argument in his favor for me. Not any more.
I am saddened that some SoCons will still vote for him. My wife of 39 years and I won’t be among them. That seems to be the plan for most of my SoCon friends. The loss of such voters will be disastrous for Trump.
SoCons are realistic. We know that Clinton includes us in her “basket of deplorables.” We don’t pine for a Puritan society; we want to live in a diverse and vibrant country that is a marketplace of beliefs — respectfully expressed and lived. But here’s our concern: Within one presidential term, a Clinton-designed Supreme Court could destroy the framers’ idea of separation of church and state. In its place, the court would set up a secular religion that defines acceptable religious practice within narrow cultural-left boundaries.
The 2016 presidential campaign has been a slow-motion train wreck for Americans of all political persuasions. It can’t end soon enough. In the final three weeks, Trump will erratically demonstrate his pathetic self-regard, while Clinton will stick to her play book: prevaricate, parse, pause and repeat. The national disgust with these two will only increase.
The American body politic is ill. Trump is our political version of cramps and diarrhea, while Clinton is the equivalent of severe nausea and vomiting. The lower GI complaints will likely end in three weeks, but we are probably going to be throwing up for four years. However, after recovering from our bout of the “Trumps” we will find that it masked the cancer of crony capitalist corruption embodied in Clinton.
SoCons will vote with the rest of America on Nov. 8. My vote will likely be a write-in for Rubio. It’s important to know that my SoCon friends and I are short-term pessimists but long-term optimists. That confidence is grounded in ancient and eternal wisdom.
SoCons aren’t all religious, but for those of us who are, our trust is in God, described in the Old Testament book of Daniel as the one who “changes times and seasons,” and “sets up Kings [and Queens] and deposes them.”
Steve Calvin is a Minneapolis physician.