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Back From Atlanta

PoliticsThe past few days have been a blur of tech talk about the cable industry, public policy discussions, cocktails and food. It’s good to be back in DC… Though I have to admit, the only thing that really changes in the mix is a slight reduction in the number of cocktails.

Having been away for a few days, I have been absent from the chatter about California 50, the Enron trial, Card’s last days, Tobin’s phone records and Bush’s stagnant/anemic/horrid approval numbers. To be honest, it felt great.

Now that I’m back, though, I’d like to tackle the last. PunditGuy argues that the fallen poll numbers are an indication of a decline of GOP support. I think he’s right. He argues this is because:

Conservative voters are heartsick over the craziness that has occurred within the White House and in Congress over the past few months, and it’s starting to spill over into national polling.

I think he’s wrong.

His post assumes there is only one sort of conservative. That is demonstrably false.

The GOP breaks down along two distinct lines. There is a fiscally conservative Republican and a socially conservative Republican. That’s not to say there is no crossover between social and fiscal concerns within any individual, but their motivations are different.

For social conservatives, the advancement of the social cause is worth spending money on. They’ll inflate the federal government if it suits their social agenda. For evidence, look at the Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives. This is an office that didn’t exist until someone found a way to funnel federal funds into religious groups without any offsetting cuts in traditional social programs.

For fiscal conservatives, there is no such thing as a government that is too small. We want cuts to damn near everything. We believe there is no concerted effort to get a good deal in Washington, and as a result, the government is full of more waste than your colon after hot dogs and beers at a baseball game.

As a coalition, we generally coexist pretty peacefully. The fiscals accept that the GOP has to placate the socials occasionally and we’ll get our piece too. The socials tolerate the fiscals because the symbiosis gets them a voice in politics they would otherwise be to small alone to gain.

To Pundit Guy’s point, the trouble is not that “conservatives” have had enough. It’s specifically the fiscal conservatives that have reached the breaking point. We’re damn tired of watching Congress and the President rubber stamp every stupid spending bill and we’re calling in our chits.

I would like to see a poll that gauges whether GOPers consider themselves fiscally or socially inclined. I’d like that to be cross tabbed with declining approval ratings. I will lay money that you would see a dramatic decline in fiscal conservative support and a relative stagnation in social conservative support.

Written by Michael Turk