Here’s another reason why keeping those issues in the governmental realm is pointless. Imagine what would happen if Roe v. Wade actually were overturned. Would abortions end? A few, perhaps, but not many. It would, however, be a boon for the travel industry. (“Botticelli Bye-Bye. Abort Your Baby in Historic Tuscany,” “Montreal D & C: Practiquez votre français pendant…” Well, you get the idea.) Unsanitary abortion doctors would undoubtedly be back for the poor. I don’t mean to be cynical but that’s the reality, unless you expect human behavior to change after thousands or millions of years – not exactly a conservative position.
So why not keep this all in the family where the real family values are? Your argument is likely to be much more persuasive and enduring there. It would have more effect. (I’m light years from an expert, but surely when Christ said, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” he was not referring to what happens in the bedroom.)
On the abortion issue, then, the social conservatives can win by losing. In fact, they can win big by appearing to be what people of faith are supposed to be — the good guys.
It’s not as easy on the gay marriage issue and, as I noted, I’m not on their side on this one, but there is also a way here.
But first, a heavy dose of reality: Unlike abortion, where public opinion is going in the social conservative direction for various reasons (including sonograms), on gay marriage, it’s the fourth quarter, the score is about 80-0 and you’re on the your own five yard line with two minutes to go.
De facto gay marriages have existed in significant numbers in every one of our major cities and a lot of our suburbs for decades. Every year, the vote in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage is greater, recently winning in several states, and is likely to increase since the young vastly favor it. If you don’t think it’s going to be a fait accompli in the Western world in twenty-five years (probably considerably sooner), you’re living in cloud-cuckoo-land.
But even so, social conservatives would be well advised to approach this in the same manner as abortion — that is, take marriage away from the government. It’s a sacrament, after all.
Lobby for all adult couples, no matter the sex, to have one-on-one government civil unions with the same legal protections. Our churches, synagogues, and other similar institutions could perform the marriages, according to the predispositions of those institutions. Some would be same-sex, others not. Individuals would be free to follow and acknowledge whichever of these institutions and ceremonies they wished. Marriage would be outside the government.
I know this is a crazy libertarian idea that seems impossible to accomplish, but is it? Whatever the result, in a system like this, those opposed to same-sex marriage would have more fecund ground to make their case — the realm of the familiar, voluntary and private, the realm of the religious and spiritual.
Of course, my overall intent here, no matter what your attitude toward marriage or abortion, is winning in the larger scheme of things. The continued alienation of women — the largest voting bloc in our country — in the last election from the Republican Party has dangerous, even perilous, implications. It’s time to consider doing an end-around.
I would like to see the social conservatives win at least one part of their argument. But they can help us win the larger economic and foreign policy arguments that seem particularly ominous at this moment, even threatening to end our country as we know it, by taking their issues off the political playing field. And, ironically, they can win friends and influence people, as the saying goes, in the process.
(Thumbnail image on PJM homepage by Shutterstock.com.)