George Will's most recent column
uses the Mark Foley scandal to highlight the tenuous fusion between "two flavors of conservatism -- Western and Southern."
[Western conservatism] is largely libertarian, holding that pruning big government will allow civil society -- and virtues nourished by it and by the responsibilities of freedom -- to flourish. The Southern, essentially religious, strand of conservatism is explained by Ryan Sager in his new book, "The Elephant in the Room: Evangelicals, Libertarians, and the Battle to Control the Republican Party":
"Whereas conservative Christian parents once thought it was inappropriate for public schools to teach their kids about sex, now they want the schools to preach abstinence to children. Whereas conservative Christians used to be unhappy with evolution being taught in public schools, now they want Intelligent Design taught instead (or at least in addition). Whereas conservative Christians used to want the federal government to leave them alone, now they demand that more and more federal funds be directed to local churches and religious groups through Bush's faith-based initiatives program."
This makes me wonder: what kind of conservative is Mitt Romney? The Republican party is much more diverse than those two categories suggest, but as George Will points out, this does seem to be the major dichotomy in the Republican party right now. As it turns out, the Southern conservatives and the Southern conservative agenda are dominating the Republican party, but it wasn't always so -- George W. Bush and Barry Goldwater are nearly polar opposites. There was a time when abortion wasn't even on the radar of the Republican party.
Romney appears to me at his core to be a Western conservative. In order to get elected, though, he will have to appeal to a wider array of Republicans, and since the current Republican power structure is in the hands of the Southern conservatives (and, perhaps relatedly, because the primary system favors the South) he is emphasizing Southern conservative values.
It's impossible to know truly what kind of president any candidate will be until they get into office (remember how we thought Bush was going to have a "humble" foreign policy and that he didn't believe in nation building [said he, "...I think the United States must be humble and must be proud and confident of our values, but humble in how we treat nations that are figuring out how to chart their own course."
]) It will become evident largely in what kinds of people he surrounds himself with.