Inside the Beltway, the preferred way of running a candidate for the GOP is to run as an economic conservative who could not care less about abortion or gay marriage. You see this reflected in a lot of consultants, their preferred candidates, etc. Conservatives like me argue that conservatives should run as both fiscal and social conservatives. But the reality is the real winning combination is the fiscal moderate to liberal who is also socially conservative.
The sweet spot in American politics is thus the upper-left quadrant of the double majority: economic liberals and social conservatives. It’s the place where presidential elections are won, and the winner is usually going to be the candidate who’s won’t touch Social Security and who promises to nominate judges in the mold of Antonin Scalia. In other words—Donald Trump. Mr. Drutman labeled such voters populists, but I prefer the term that Mr. Trump himself has applied to them: the Republican “workers party.” They constituted nearly 30% of voters in 2016 and they split 3 to 1 for Mr. Trump.
Take into account blue collar workers, black voters, Hispanic voters, etc. and the data holds up beyond anecdote. Voters are okay with a government deeply involved in the economy, but voters also want to keep men out of their daughter’s bathrooms and they are not as down with gay marriage as even a lot of polling suggests. Remember, polls have always shown gay marriage doing better than it actually did at the polls.
The same holds true for abortion, transgenderism, etc. Voters tend to be more socially conservative than they are fiscally conservative. Republicans have tended to win with economically populist messages, while promising conservative social policies and judges.
The problem, long term, is that economic liberalism writes checks the voters cannot pay. Sound fiscal stewardship has to come into play at some point. But I suspect over time we are going to see a lot more Republicans willing to raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires while keeping the voters’ daughters safe.