Brexit, Abortion, and the Future of Party Politics

With the rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, a political pundit recently predicted that the two major political parties would eventually realign to reflect new policy priorities among voters. As I read the prediction and as I thought about the Brexit vote and the Supreme Court’s abortion decision this week, I couldn’t help but think of another aspect of that alignment that social conservatives may need to consider.

The pundit pointed out that social issues have tended to draw people to one party or the other, even though those people may not have shared that party’s other platform policies. The pundit predicted that, with the “social wars” over, we would now see a “policy realignment” within the parties based on “a clash between nationalists, mostly on the right, and multicultural globalists, mostly on the left.”1

While I don’t think the “social wars” will ever be over, I realized I had touched on this idea several weeks ago in one of my commentaries:

I think some social conservatives have despaired of “values candidates” actually doing anything in support of their values. They have not lost their concern for the social values that drove them in the past to reluctantly support the Doles, McCains, and Romneys, and the do-nothing-but-make-excuses-for-inaction social conservatives who have been elected to Congress, but they have decided that supporting such conservatives isn’t going to result in those values being reflected in public policy. So, at this point, I think some social conservatives … are voting for someone who talks tough on the other issues they care about.

But this shift also seems a bit like the vote that just took place in Britain. I couldn’t help but notice several statements of this type:

But the really important thing is that future Prime Ministers will really have the power to run the country. No longer will they have the excuse that this or that isn’t possible due to some EU directive. Then we will have the chance to throw them out. That is the precious democratic inheritance that our parents and grandparents had which we have recovered and can pass on to our children and grandchildren.2

And I couldn’t help but think how something similar could be said of the United States if the size of the federal government shrunk and the people demanded that the imperialist U.S. Supreme Court be reigned in. Politicians would no longer “have the excuse that this or that isn’t possible due to” some Supreme Court decision or some federal law or regulation. The precious “democratic inheritance” we were given and have squandered could be “recovered” and “pass[ed] on to our children and grandchildren.”

That brings me to the Supreme Court’s abortion decision this week. Pro-life advocates have decried the decision and vowed to continue to fight to overturn Roe v. Wade. As much as I support that idea, it’s fighting the symptom, not the disease. The disease is the judicial philosophy of the Court (and courts at every level) coupled with its lack of accountability. With this judicial philosophy and a completely unaccountable judiciary, we need to realize our “democratic inheritance” is gone.

So how does all this hang together? If the pundit is right about the parties being realigned based on globalist vs. nationalist kinds of ideologies, then a secondary but parallel issue may well be alignment based on whether one party supports a strong national government or a more limited federal government in which states take on an increasing policy function as envisioned by our Founders under the Constitution prior to its reshaping by the Supreme Court.3

The first question in my mind is which party will embrace which of these two competing internal governing structures for the U.S. And the second question is whether social conservatives will, at least for the time being, be content to accept domestic policies crafted at the state level, even if it means some states do some things they won’t like.

The bottom line is that things are changing. Social conservatives would do well to figure out what that change is and where they fit within it.


  1. Michael Lind, “This Is What the Future of American Politics Looks Like,” Politico, May 22, 2016
  3. People forget that the Bill of Rights that the Supreme Court has applied to nationalize the federal government and strike down state policies the Court majority doesn’t like originally only applied to the states. It was not until long after the adoption of the 14th Amendment that the Court began to use the Bill of Rights against the states.

David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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