For years, we’ve heard politicians and other political actors promote themselves as “socially liberal, but fiscally conservative.” (Let’s call it the “soli-fico” position.) Nationally, this impulse has seemed to be driven (at least in part) by donors. Business elites are more likely to fall in that category, and the Koch Brothers were notable funders of the right with a libertarian mandate.
Recently those who’ve tried to remain at least palatable to the soli-fico advocates have been reconsidering. On principled grounds, soli-fico is maybe the most cold of philosophies, leaving vulnerable people lacking the protections of both government intervention and social stability. Once soli-ficos could claim that getting government out of the way would let society address cultural issues, but after many libertarians embraced the use of government — mainly the courts — to redefine marriage nationwide and then proved, at best, ineffective in keeping at bay early persecution of objecting Christian businesses, that balance proved illusory.
On financial grounds, the right has many donors who are not socially conservative, and they were arguably under-served during the soli-fico years.
In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, F.H. Buckley highlights a study reinforcing this recent turn:
Most Hillary Clinton voters were deeply liberal on both [the economic and the social] axes. The surprise was the Trump voters, who were very conservative on social issues but moderate on economic ones. By Mr. Drutman’s count, 73% of all voters were left of center on economics. Most of the remaining Trump supporters were quite moderate on economic questions. …
While the great majority of voters were liberal on economic issues, a small majority (52%) were social conservatives at the top of the diagram, enough to swing the election to Mr. Trump. Only 3.8% of voters were libertarians in the lower-right quadrant, socially liberal and economically conservative. They split their votes evenly between Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton.
The scatterplot that Buckley reproduces and other charts from the study are worth reviewing. Soli-fico voters make up just 4% of the electorate. Moreover, the opportunity for social conservatives to win over voters by explaining why their policies will accomplish the same goals as economic liberalism is greater than the opportunity for social liberals to win over economic conservatives.