Mike Konczal and Bryce Covert have a new article and paper out that confirm a long-held position of mine: the economic and social agendas of the right are one and the same. As Mike and Bryce show, 12 states are responsible for over 70 percent of the state and local public-sector layoffs since 2011. Eleven of those states were taken over by Republicans in the 2010 election, thanks in large part to the efforts of the Tea Party. Those 11 states were also far more likely to restrict the reproductive rights of women than were other states. Mike and Bryce don’t talk about how those 11 states compare with other states when it comes to rolling back worker and labor rights (though given the higher rates of unionization among public-sector workers, cutting public-sector jobs is obviously connected to that question). I have my suspicions, but it’d be good to see more research on that as well.
As Mike writes, the research he and Bryce have done sheds critical light on how we think about the right:
I had two questions about this that I tried to answer in this article. The first was where these state losses were occurring, and whether there was anything interesting going on with the distribution of lost jobs.
The second question was how the new Tea Party influenced Republican state legislatures, especially Republicans that took over 11 states in the historic 2010 midterm elections, were governing. There’s two theories I saw. The first could be called the “social issue truce” theory, based on a statement Mitch Daniels made. As Dick Morris put it, “No longer do evangelical or social issues dominate the Republican ground troops. Now economic and fiscal issues prevail…It is one of the fundamental planks in the Tea Party platform that the movement does not concern itself with social issues.” They aren’t interested in restricting voter restrictions or reproductive freedoms. (A corollary theory is David Frum’s argument that ”these new majorities will arrive with only slogans for a policy agenda.” They won’t even know what to do as there aren’t independent conservative intellectuals to guide them.)
The second theory could be called the Corey Robin theory, which would argue conservatism is everywhere a “reactionary movement, a defense of power and privilege against democratic challenges from below, particularly in the private spheres of the family and the workplace.” In this theory, beyond just shredding the public sector in favor of the private, the movement would be compelled to combat challenges against the family that come from reproductive freedoms and threats to entrenched power that come from expanded democratic access. They might, for instance, be more likely to pass bills restricting reproductive freedoms as well as voter suppression bills than non-GOP states in this theory, where under the “social issue truce” we wouldn’t see a difference.
I think we were able to get an empirical handle on both questions.