Senator Scott Brown describes himself as a fiscal conservative and a social moderate. This formulation challenges voters to think of fiscal policy and social policy as two different things, instead of the old left-right divide. This means that policy choices can be sorted into four buckets instead of two. Of course, real politics is more complicated than that, but – for voting purposes – two dimensions are better than one. Here, then, is a two-dimensional taxonomy:
Fiscal and Social Conservative
This is the new, socially-oriented Republican Party. There are no Democrats in this box, and not even all Republicans. For these people, the social dimension dominates, which means protecting their ideal of social organization and family values in particular. They are often blind to fiscal policy, and they consider social moderates like Sen. Brown to be false Republicans.
Fiscal Progressive and Social Conservative
It is hard to find any voters in this category. Most people who are social conservatives are also fiscal conservatives, or at least indifferent to fiscal policy. To find leftist fiscal ideas together with social conservatism, you have to consider old-school union labor – intolerant of social minorities and big business alike.
Fiscal and Social Liberal
Modern Democrats have the advantage of moral consistency. Since the 1960s, Democrats have been socially liberal, anti-war and hostile to business. They favor big government and they don’t mind high taxes, especially taxes on corporations and “the rich.” Since they have been in the majority, Democrats have drifted ever farther to the left.
This is the grand old Republican Party, as Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan knew it – small government, low taxes and states’ rights. Goldwater fought a losing battle against the religious right, as did his successor John McCain. Today, only “northeast Republicans” are in this category, along with “blue dog” Democrats.
Ask yourself which part of “taxpayer-funded abortion” offends you, or “bank bailout.” The answer may be more complicated than you think.