Daily Dispatches
E.J. Dionne speaks during a taping of 'Meet the Press.'
Getty Images for 'Meet the Press'/Photo by Alex Wong
E.J. Dionne speaks during a taping of 'Meet the Press.'

Signs and Wonders: GOP can't write off social conservatives just yet


Bridging the gap. Conventional wisdom in the Republican Party says social conservatives are too conservative to win independent voters. That “wisdom” says the GOP needs to be more moderate on social issues and stress economic issues to win moderates, independents, and elections. Not so fast, according to the “2013 Economic Values Survey,” conducted by the Public Research Institute and the Brookings Institution. Researchers concluded fiscal conservatism “has the weakest hold in American public opinion.” Based on the response of conservatives, 38 percent of Americans are theological conservatives, 29 percent are social conservatives, and only 25 percent are economic conservatives. At a news conference announcing the data, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, who is no conservative, said, “conservatives can’t win without social conservatives. It turns out that social conservatives loom larger as part of that conservative constituency and more consistently than economic conservatives do.” He suggested that social conservatives might be the bridge between the GOP and independents and Democrats, since about one-third, 31 percent, of Democrats are theological conservatives and 19 percent are social conservatives, but only 3 percent of Democrats are economic conservatives.

Bad teacher. America’s teachers’ unions have consistently stood in the way of bringing market-based reformed to education. So when the president of a major teacher’s union, Randi Weingarten, said bad teachers should leave the profession, it’s worth noting. She made the comments Monday at the American Federation of Teachers’ convention in Washington. I wonder, however, what it really means. In most school systems, it is extraordinarily difficult to get rid of bad teachers, thanks to union contracts. Would Weingarten call for real steps to create a system that actually gets rid of bad teachers? Teachers say they think they should have the same professional status as lawyers and accountants. Lots of law firms and accounting firms “force rank” employees every year and encourage those at the bottom to leave. Would the teachers’ unions advocate such a system for its members? I doubt it. The general population has grown weary of unions, and one of the signs has been a significant decline in union membership in recent years.  So I can’t help but suggest Weingarten’s statement is—as they say in Texas—“all hat and no cattle.”

Zimmerman and race. We’ve seen so much blind, one-sided comment on the George Zimmerman verdict that even facts and reasonable comment are manipulated and misinterpreted. I emailed a prominent black conservative columnist—who had been strangely silent on the matter—what his thoughts were, and he responded: “I got nothing. But I do know that college football season starts in about five weeks.” He’s a wise man for choosing not to wallow in the rhetorical mud. I, however, can’t resist, so I took note of a survey that quantifies what is obvious to anyone paying even a little bit of attention: Race determined your reaction to the Zimmerman verdict. The Pew survey said 42 percent of respondents are “dissatisfied” with Zimmerman’s not-guilty verdict. About 39 percent said they are satisfied, with 19 percent offering no opinion. About 52 percent said race is getting too much attention, but 36 percent think the case is generating a necessary discussion about race. These data suggest ambivalence, but a closer look reveals anything but. Among blacks, 86 percent are dissatisfied with the verdict. Among whites, 60 percent think race is getting more attention that it should. Whatever your opinion of the verdict, or of these questions, it’s clear that a wide perception gap among the races still exists.

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Remembering Dan Peek. I note that two years ago today Dan Peek died. He was a member—and a key songwriter—of the soft-rock band America. As a member of America, Peek wrote or co-wrote many of the group’s top hits, including “Don’t Cross The River” and “Lonely People,” which hit number 1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary charts. Peek later admitted his tenure with America—1970 to 1977—was not a happy time for him. He abused alcohol and drugs during that period, creating tension within the band. But that dark period also precipitated a return to the Christian faith of his youth. He left the band and turned to contemporary Christian music. His 1979 album All Things Are Possible was one of CCM’s first crossover successes. The album’s title song topped the Christian charts and was a Top 10 Adult Contemporary hit. That began a string of Christian hits that lasted for nearly a decade. One of those hits was a re-make of “Lonely People” that included a new verse reflecting Peek’s Christian faith. Despite continuous encouragement from fans, Peek never fully reconciled with the guys in America, who continued to tour and record without him. Dan Peek died of heart disease at age 60.

Warren Cole Smith
Warren Cole Smith

Warren is vice president of mission advancement for The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview and the host of WORLD Radio’s Listening In. Follow Warren on Twitter @WarrenColeSmith.


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