For Conservatives these are not easy times. On the social front, gay marriage and even marijuana legislation threaten to divide the libertarian and traditionalist religious right. So far the coalition has held because both agree that the liberal alternative, in their collective view, would be far worse, yet it is hard to see how the marriage will last.
Remember one of the key figures in striking down the Defense of Marriage Act was Theodore Olson. He gained fame by helping to block Al Gore's attempt to recount the Florida results. During the DOMA challenge he associated himself with David Boies, who was Gore's chief counsel in 2000. Olson's ideas on liberty were rooted in his belief in the sanctity of private property, not in defense of traditional values.
It is a form of neo-Whig thought which rejoices at material progress and allows society to shape itself along those lines. Poverty and moral consideration all take a back seat to the accumulation of wealth. Ayn Rand meets Henry Clay in a union of total freedom with little regard for social consequences. Either way, anyone who desires a protection of old barriers is a sore loser.
Although liberals face similar dilemmas, they are more active than the Conservative camp. With the victory on the LGBT front and, depending on your perspective, marijuana legalization, the old social issues are settled. Now the cry is wealth inequity, as Bill de Blasio, the new mayor of New York City, emphasized in his inaugural address. But like Conservatives, liberals are also divided into social and traditional camps. Jerry Brown is a staunch foe of marijuana legalization. Indeed some progressives have views on social responsibility not unlike their Christian Right adversaries.
But the greatest strains are in the GOP. No wonder they lay down their fire against the Affordable Care Act. Obamacare is now the great unifying principle of the Republican Party. If President Barack Obama is not there, the contradictions of the Republican Coalition becomes obvious.
They have looked the other way at their memberships' indiscretions. From drug offenses and prostitution to adultery, the Christian Right can justify their support through forgiveness, and rightly they can point to Democratic support for Bill Clinton to justify their steadfast unity for those of weaker moral fiber. However, as the Anthony Weiner situation proved, Democrats are far tougher on moral indiscretions than the GOP.
As the old money-wing of the Republican Party asserts itself and libertarians push their libertine agenda, the traditional Christian Right is bound to be pressed. No spokesmen are on the horizon. Mike Huckabee is a variety entertainer and Sarah Palin has morphed into a caricature. More and more, Conservatism is becoming a divided camp, united only against Obama and a fondness for FOX News. This perhaps will get them through 2014, but it might not be as easy as previous to keep cohesion.
Like Democrats a generation ago, Republicans have seen their coalition in Ronald Reagan's presidency frayed at the collar. The GOP has prevailed before - however, the present conundrums are uncertain of possible remedies.