Neal Boortz, subbing for Sean Hannity on his radio show on the day after Christmas, took the opportunity to unload a heap of libertarian wrath upon social conservatives, saying that Republicans will not win another election if they continue ”screaming and yelling about abortion, about gay rights, about prayer in school.” Boortz spat the words “social conservative Republicans” into the airwaves as he railed against (some unnamed) Republicans who, apparently “obsessed” with social issues, are running around the country raging against the forces trying to take prayer out of school. Boortz seemed particularly upset with Republicans who want to peer into everyone’s bedrooms to find out who is sleeping with whom.
During the three-hour show, Boortz dragged out nearly every straw man that the left uses to waylay Republicans in elections, using a few isolated cases as the exemplars of social conservatism in the GOP.
Perhaps Boortz has missed this development, but Rick Santorum is no longer the face of the Republican Party and he’s not even the face of social conservatism. For that matter, even during the course of his presidential campaign, Santorum was not much of a social crusader. The left and their collaborators in the media are the ones who are “obsessed” with social issues, having put them on the front lines of the 2012 campaign, including their contrived War on Women. Santorum could hardly stick to name, rank, and serial number when he was relentlessly badgered about abortion, gay marriage, and contraception on the campaign trail. At least he had the decency to be intellectually honest about his views rather than taking the politically expedient route.
But social conservatives have, by and large, moved on. If you look at the list of supposed presidential contenders (according to a recent Fox News poll), none are “screaming” about social issues. Leaving Christie out of this discussion because he seems to be evolving at the moment, all of the others on the list have professed, to one degree or another, support for the social conservative agenda. But which one of those potential candidates is running around the country “screaming” about them?
Instead, most social conservatives have shifted the debate to the issue of liberty. There is every reason to believe that it’s a winning strategy for Republicans to defend freedom and liberty — freedom of speech, religious liberty, the right to life. Even many on the left are beginning to reject the absurd and illiberal trajectory of what Mark Steyn has called the Bureau of Conformity Enforcement. When even liberal feminist Camille Paglia describes the fisking of a 67-year-old Christian grandfather from Louisiana as ”punitive PC, utterly fascist, utterly Stalinist,” we know that support for this battle for freedom of conscience is growing by the hour. Though social issues are necessarily rooted in religious and moral questions, that’s not the only way to discuss them in the public square, as many conservatives are learning.