The media (especially in Europe) has often made an ignorant mistake when covering social conservatives. This mistake is egregious and often goes without any critique.
They call social conservatives “cultural conservatives.”
Is this concern merely semantic or seriously substantive?
Although they can and frequently have been allies, social conservatism and cultural conservatism are deeply and diametrically opposed and are utterly incompatible.
When Europe was united under the banner of Christendom, national and foreign policy was dictated primarily by ideology. The Crusades were a prime example. The Franks had little direct or immediate national interest in whether the Byzantine Empire fell to the Turk. If the Byzantines fell, the Holy Roman Empire and the city Republics of Italy would still stand between the scimitar of Islam and the meadows of France.
However, in 1071, the Byzantines lost the Battle of Manzikert and Pope Urban II called forth “Christian Knights” to fight the Turks to reclaim the Holy Land, and knights from all of Europe (but mostly Franks) launched the Crusades. They were concerned with the ideological battle between Christendom and Islam, although a secondary concern was that once Islam laid waste to Constantinople, it would be at Vienna next (a prescient worry).
When the powerful nation-states of modern Europe emerged out of the ruins of Christendom as the result of the Protestant Reformation, they were founded on ethnic nationalism. France, Germany, and Britain, for example, derived their ideology from French, German, and English culture respectively. So anything that threatened those cultures directly threatened the principles of the nation. Immigration and ideological foreign policy, needless to say, were minimal (at least until demographic necessity struck in the 20th century at which point integration of immigrant culture was a problematic mess).
The United States, on the other hand, was found on the statement: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” The natural rights philosophy of the US is a philosophy of human nature. As a result, immigration has been frequent and successful, foreign policy has been altruistic and human-rights oriented, trade with other peoples has flourished, and diversity has been a source of strength rather than a weakness. Social conservatism is the predominant human rights ideology in the US today and is rooted in this founding human rights-oriented ideology of America.
Cultural conservatism has not been strong in the United States compared to social conservatism but it believes that the US derives its strength not from its philosophy of man but instead from the cultures that made it up early on. The America Conservative is the predominant cultural conservative publication. It is, predictably, a small publication, anti-immigration (concerned about loss of culture), isolationist in foreign policy (unconcerned with non-Americans), anti-trade (benefitting non-Americans temporarily at the expense of American industry), and anti-diversity. This is at direct variance with the founding principles of the Republic which social conservatives have championed.
Pat Buchanan is the most visible face of cultural conservatism in the US. His article, Can Diversity Destroy Us? opposes diversity and non-white ascendancy, struggles to find a consistent philosophy governing the US, and is at strong variance with social conservatism.
Although cultural conservatives fondly remember a world where abortion was unthinkable and have united with social conservatives on the issue, it is important to remember that they were not with the true application of founding principles on slavery or segregation.
That is why social conservatism is American and cultural conservatism is not.