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Roger L. Simon

‘Mind Your Own Beeswax!’: How Social Conservatives Can Win By Losing

November 28th, 2012 - 8:05 pm

Hypocrisy is rife in American politics, particularly on the Left.

We are by now used to the likes of Oliver Stone and Sean Penn — who themselves live, quite literally, like Medici princes — spewing endless neo-Marxist drivel like sophomores at a four a.m. reefer klatsch. (Most recently, Stone has unleashed upon the public the eponymous Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States, a work best described as “Stalin porn.”)

Perhaps more significantly we are used to the giant leftist hypocrisy of supporting supposedly exploited Third World nations that themselves espouse and seek globally to expand virtually everything leftists claim to abhor (misogyny, homophobia, theocracy, etc.). Go figure.

But the Right is guilty of its own kind of hypocrisy. It’s interesting how some of those who most vociferously object to government interference in our economic affairs are most desirous of government interference in our personal ones.

I’m referring of course to social conservatives, who want to legislate our morals and values according to their views.

To be clear, I am quite sympathetic to the social conservative argument on abortion. Life, it appears to me, does begin at the moment of conception. (I can’t think of another time.) And at whatever phase of pregnancy an abortion occurs, a choice must be made between human lives, a horrible, and perforce immoral, situation.

I am less sympathetic to the social conservative position on same-sex marriage, which seems to me a civil rights issue.

But hold your tongues (and you blog comments) for a moment. Arguing my positions on these issues is not my intention here.

My point is: The social issues, whatever your position, are best dealt with outside the governmental realm.

I realize this is an unattainable goal and that government will always intrude in our private lives to some degree, but we must fight against it as much as possible for several reasons.

To begin with, social conservatives will be vastly more successful at having their views accepted if they make their case extrinsic of government.

Don’t believe me? Well, most of us remember “Mind your own beeswax!” from grammar school. That made an impression for a reason. People resent intrusion in their private lives to the extent that they often will do just the opposite of what was sought or recommended.  Generally, people don’t want anonymous others, folks they barely know, the government most of all, telling them what to do about matters that are extremely personal. They would prefer to hear that from close friends, family, clergy and healthcare professionals they know and respect. Wouldn’t you?

This is a great part of the explanation for why the Republican/conservative side lost in the election, although the popularity of the pro-life position has grown considerably since the 1970s. Democrats may hold the nanny state prize for our economic lives, but Republicans were given the nanny state prize for our private lives. We are the busybodies.

Unfair? Sure, considering the idiotic intrusions of the likes of Michael Bloomberg who wants to tell us how much soda pop we can drink. Also, because we’re really not, at least not most of us.

But the perception is real, especially among women. The rise of the bogus women’s issues during the campaign around such absurdities as free contraception (how about free cigars?) were made possible by this same perception.

Republicans have been losing the (majority) women’s vote for years and it is only going to get worse if we don’t take the social issues off the table and put them back where they belong — at home.

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.

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