Iowans are not giving up on social issues. These remain strong “bridge” issues that bring minority voters together with social conservatives whenever questions like abortion funding or overturning true marriage are put on the ballot. When pollsters find that Iowa’s likely caucus-goers—including large blocks of Evangelicals, Catholics, and Lutherans—are citing the stricken economy as their greatest concern, this does not mean social issues have been forgotten.
First, most of the GOP candidates are already on board for the defense of human life and true marriage. So it makes sense for Iowa voters to tell pollsters and focus group moderators that their primary concern is the economy. This does not mean they don’t care about abortion or attempts to undermine marriage. It just means that after numerous candidate debates, those who advocate “civil unions” as a supposed compromise on the marriage issue have difficulty even making the cut to be on the stage. Iowa’s Caucus-goers voters aren’t buying this obvious ploy.
Second, there need be no conflict between economic and social conservatives. I’m reminded of a story about blueprints for an Iowa convent that had to be approved by the Vatican. The plans came back from Rome with a question: Sunt angeli? Are they angels? The local architects had neglected to put bathrooms in the convent.
We who are pro-life and pro-marriage know that families need jobs. They need a growing economy. But economic conservatives need to recognize that it is stable married families having children that drive economic growth.
Former Wall Streeter David Goldman pointed out in Of Demographics and Depressions (First Things, May 2009) that the economic slump began in the home mortgage industry because we have no more young marrieds with children than we had in 1969. The home mortgage industry has been the driver of America’s post-World War II economic prosperity. Cohabiting couples and single parent families tend to rent, not buy.