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The PJ Tatler

Bryan Preston


January 23, 2014 - 8:16 am

So, I have to respond to this. Gently.

My friend Roger Simon writes that social conservatives are the only thing that can “save liberalism.” Social conservatives should just accept the wisdom of coastal, unchurched 18 year olds and surrender our core beliefs. Surrender on marriage, and allow it to be redefined by people who harbor nothing but contempt for the institution. It’s a recurring theme among a certain set within the larger conservative-libertarian movement. Shut up and surrender, they explain.

Where do the surrenders end? Those who share the shut-up sentiment never say. They just tell social conservatives to shut up already and give up on the issues that for many are the very reason that they got into politics in the first place. So we surrender on marriage, then we give up on life, and pretty soon, they’ll be telling us to give up on the Second Amendment, then the First, then something else. Always retreat, ever surrender, because they say so, never offering a glimpse of what might be the end game.

The First Amendment is already under assault, by the way, via Obamacare. And it’s under threat in the marriage issue too. So surrendering on that issue threatens to gut our fundamental rights as Americans. Beware of ripple effects.

For what it’s worth, social conservatives aren’t actually pushing anything forward, at least not in the cultural arena. For many, Roe v. Wade was an assault that could not go unanswered, so they got involved in politics. For others, the left’s sustained assault on the family is the driving force. For others, it’s confiscatory tax policies or something else. Social conservatives are defending, not advancing, on social policy. Marriage was a settled issue — settled law, as the Democrats like to say when it suits them — until some folks came along and decided to redefine it. Mostly in court, because they kept losing in the democratic process, even in their coastal states.

The surrenders won’t end with same-sex marriage. Anyone who has observed the past few decades must see this, unless they’re willing themselves blind. There are never armistices in the culture wars. There is no redoubt to which strategic withdrawal is possible. There is no line the other side will not cross. Give the haters — not Roger, who is a friend and very much not a hater at all, but the core of the anti-family movement on the left — their redefinition of marriage and they will just move on to something else that expands state power at the expense of the individual. They always do. They’re already forcing business owners who object to same-sex marriage on religious grounds to serve them, or lose their livelihoods. Is this fair? Is there no space for what was even Barack Obama’s stated (insincerely) position just two years ago? At some point, a church somewhere will lose a lawsuit over gay marriage in an activist court, and then the state will feel free to crush what’s left of Christian faith in America under its boot. Go ahead and scoff. It’s coming. Which side do you think the alleged civil rights defenders at the ACLU will take? They’re the ones pulling down harmless monuments to our war dead, because those monuments acknowledge faith.

If social conservatives are to be muzzled — silenced — why will they remain engaged in politics? What’s the point? Roger and those who agree with him never answer that one either. If we can’t speak out on issues that are dear to us, why will we speak at all?

Let’s take but one issue that’s before the courts right now. Who is challenging Obamacare and on what grounds? Are the libertarians waging lawfare against it? Not effectively, but the Green family and the Catholic Church are. Who are they? Social conservatives. They’re fighting one of the most egregious assaults on personal liberty in a century, on religious freedom grounds. And they have the best standing chance of at least rolling back Obamacare’s attack on religious conscience — an attack, by the way, that libertarians mostly ignore. If they win, though, some measure of liberty will be restored — without the help of libertarians. Hm.

This month we honor the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King. Why do we honor him? What animated his quest for civil rights? From where did he draw the moral force that he had? From where did the abolitionist movement of the 19th century draw its moral force? What made abolitionist William Wilberforce tick?

They drew their power from their faith. They built their appeals to hearts and minds out of their faith. Look at today’s social justice movement. It has divorced itself from faith in anything but the very government that has been the instrument of oppression. That’s why it lacks credibility, and why Al Sharpton will always be unfit to carry Dr. King’s and Wilberforce’s Bibles.

While charlatan Sharpton pounds his angry fist and hops around town with his hot young thang, and some try to write people like me out of the conservative movement, let me tell you what I learned in my Southern Baptist church down in the Bible Belt: Racism is intolerable. Hatefulness is unacceptable and ungodly. We’re all sinners and children of God. We all want to and need to be loved. They will know we are Christians by our — what? By our love. Where do those ideas come from? If we write the source of those ideas out of our public life, and chase those who believe them away, what replaces it? Upon what do we base this idea of the dignity of humanity?

Big government, unchallenged by any moral rival, leads to madness.

If social conservatives get to have no say in the conservative movement, and if they leave the movement either in frustration or because they have learned from the futility that life is just too short to bother with all this, who will replace them? The coastal 18 year olds with the vague sense that government is bad, but who have not been equipped to know what lies at the foundation of our culture and why it is or isn’t worth defending?

Sorry, but I’m very skeptical. I spend quite a bit of time around teenagers too. They’re fun and they keep you young, but they’re a lot like I was at that age — they don’t know half of what they think they know and they haven’t lived long enough to be allowed to redefine the fundamental building block of our civilization. They have not earned that right.

Right, we don’t talk about earning things in this feelings-based culture anymore. Earning credibility is so last century. Now we’re smarter and elect a cipher president who brought zero experience to the White House. Who elected him, by the way? How’s that turning out?

I guess what I’m saying is, relevant life experiences and beliefs might matter. But social conservatives continue to be told, by members of our own alliance, that our experiences and beliefs don’t matter, are worse than useless, and might actually save the other side from itself.

I don’t buy it. And I’m tired of hearing it. I don’t while away the days attacking libertarians. I’m tired of some libertarians who can’t seem to stop having a go at social conservatives when we are not the enemy.

The fact is, telling us social cons to shut up is a recipe for demoralizing and destroying the GOP at its base. It would take the cornerstone of the Right out of the movement. Coastal libertarians are not the base of the Republican Party. They don’t man phone banks (sorry for being gender normative there), they don’t conduct block walks, they don’t even usually run for office. They can’t even build a viable movement in their own states. They tend to just tell the rest of us why we’re wrong, when we’re doing those organizational things that make the party tick and give it some power. The lectures are getting old. Tell me that California’s Republicans have a single useful thing to offer Texas’ Republicans. Go ahead.

You cannot beat something with nothing. You must have core beliefs that you are willing to defend, in the face of a hostile media and an unscrupulous opposition. The other side wins by marrying up the young and singles to the government and promising them the life of Julia, while it unfairly and dishonestly tags everyone who opposes them as haters. It over promises, under-delivers, is never held to account, and lies about everyone and everything that gets in its way. The other side is cruel in the way it treats life, and in the way it shackles millions to dependence on government. The other side benefits from weakened marriage and a weakened Christian community. Arguments against them must carry some moral force or they will not resonate. Where will that moral force come from — the coastal teens and their vague angst? I don’t think so.

I guess what vexes me in all this is that people in my own party, friends and allies, keep telling me to just shut my mouth on issues that animate me and millions like me. If these admonitions continue, then at some point I will disengage, and so will millions of my fellow evangelicals. In fact, many evangelicals have already given up. That’s one reason that the GOP is struggling. Elements within it keep telling its base that it does not want us. They keep acting like we’re an embarrassment.

A few million more of us take heed and disengage. Then what are the libertarians gonna do? If you think you can hold back the leftist tide without the bulwark of a strong social conservative movement animated by more than the ephemeral issues of the moment, if you think the coastal teens will save the day, you’re in for a very rude surprise. The Libertarian Party itself can’t decide if it’s an actual political party or a tool of the Left to divide the Right. I say this as a libertarian-leaning social conservative myself — libertarianism by definition will always be disdainful of organization and therefore weak as a political force. A viable libertarianism needs alliances with others who have more numbers and who share its disdain for big government, people who are willing and able to put boots on the ground and votes in final tallies. Libertarians will never get that from the Democrats, who claim they don’t care what anyone does, as long as their behavior complies with progressivism’s statist mandates.

Mark my words: Without the core organization, finances, manpower and ideological support that social conservatives provide to the broadly defined Right, support which the libertarians can never provide just because the numbers aren’t there, what’s left of the Right will end up as gravel embedded in the road to serfdom. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Bryan Preston has been a leading conservative blogger and opinionator since founding his first blog in 2001. Bryan is a military veteran, worked for NASA, was a founding blogger and producer at Hot Air, was producer of the Laura Ingraham Show and, most recently before joining PJM, was Communications Director of the Republican Party of Texas.

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Top Rated Comments   
I am a white, married, parent, heterosexual, Christian, male, former Army, educated at a first-class public university, middle-income, Tea Party donor, NRA life member, gun owner, hunter, rural Midwestern resident, non-union small businessman, and politically conservative. I belong to Sam’s Club and drive an SUV.

As “liberals” perceive me, and always will, the only way I could possibly be a more loathsome form of human existence would be if I fit the exact same descriptive terms and my skin color was black.

Leftists will always denigrate and be repulsed by folks like me no matter where we stand on any particular issue. So why give ground now on any issue that you hold dear? They will simply attempt to destroy you on the next.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This is why I enjoy this site. You've got one writer disagreeing with a post by the [former] CEO, both with well written and reasoned pieces, and both being respectful and charitable towards the character of the other.

Quality editorials. You won't see any of this on another news site.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment

It isn't social conservatism that is saving Liberalism. It is the Faux Libertarianism that is doing the job by undermining unity in the conservative movement and Republican Party. Libertarians couldn't care less about political and economic liberty beyond what serves their personal social and physical needs. That is why they would rather have a Barak Obama in the White House than a Sarah Palin. Most of them are like Roger, 60's counterculture types that read a little Friedman, a lot of Ayn Rand and figured out that markets deliver better drugs, sex and rock 'n roll than socialism. The only reason that Roger is on "our side" is that he is smart enough to know that Progressives would sell out the Jews just like they did in 1939. If it weren't for 9-11 Roger would be all gung ho over Obama.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (156)
All Comments   (156)
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Republicans never won until they made social issues a part of the platform. Remember from 1932-1968, Ike was the only Republican in the WH & he had never voted prior to joining the party in 1952. Truman was actually trying to get him to run as a Democrat since Ike truly had no politics.

Also remember that Barry Goldwater, who was the perfect libertarian in that he was as contemptuous of social conservatives as the Left. He lost in the biggest landslide a Republican has lost in post 1900. Then in 1968, Nixon ran on "law and order", one of those dreaded social issues, he won. The GOP went on to win 7 out of 9 presidential elections. Then here comes McCain and Romney, who don't dare mention them, and of course they go down to defeat at the hands of the most anti-American president of all time. We win on social issues when we take the offense and articulate our position well. We've run a few candidates who can't defend those issues well, they lose, and the GOP seems to think it's time to give up those issues. Many of them never liked those issues to begin with and want this to be an excuse to surrender, since it's the only thing they're good at anyway.

If the GOP wants to continue to be a national party, they will have to embrace social conservatism and fiscal conservatism, which they also haven't been as good at following through on. If they let the Left win on so-called same-sex "marriage" and abortion, they will be backdoor ways to push socialism and end religious liberty in addition to the subversion of all our other liberties.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You know it's an election year when this stuff comes up again.
It comes down to this: yes, the social conservatives/Christianists* believe that Life Itself is more important than money, unlike Roger Simon, and we vote accordingly. We won't be convinced to join your petty cause because we have strong moral convictions on the sanctity of human life, and every time you argue this, we remember that you have very shallow ideas about what's important.

And yes, we recognize that homosexual behavior is physically injurious and that children raised in homes other than traditional marriage don't do as well so that traditional marriage ought to be promoted by a government that wants productive (aka taxpaying) citizens rather than consumers of government money (in the form of social services). So yes, it would be a good idea for the government to stop its envy-based tax policies (which is another Deadly Sin), so that more social services could be funded, but it would also be a good idea for the government to discourage activity which causes AIDS, antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea, "gay bowel syndrome" etc since that negatively affects the health of taxpayers. Since abortion has reduced the number of taxpayers (especially liberal ones, I'll grant that) and caused physical and emotional trauma to many women, the government does have a good reason to not fund abortions. It's funny how many pro-abortion advocates have no clue that Roe and Doe were exactly when the federal government stuck its big butt into the abortion question; before that, it was a state issue.

*many atheists want to be governed by people who think that all people's rights were endowed by a Creator and are therefore unalienable. I think of them as Christianist.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
> Where do the surrenders end? Those who share the shut-up sentiment never say. They just tell social conservatives to shut up already and give up on the issues that for many are the very reason that they got into politics in the first place.

That's half the message. The other half is, please keep voting Republican. We hate you, but we like your vote.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It would have helped this (otherwise excellent) article and his argument if Preston would have spent more of it explaining why it is that many coastal, young, independent, libertarian-minded conservatives believe that our side should focus more on the economy and less on social issues, at this point in our country's history.
While I strongly agree with Preston over Simon (as a politically-conservative Christian), I can understand the other side. I don't believe that many of them really think that life, marriage, etc., aren't important. Their insistence on focusing on the economy may just be an election strategy, and they may just, in this one isolated case, be right.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This is a ridiculous argument. I do love how libertarians always pretend that social conservatives want to force their views on everyone when they're entirely defensive. It's hilarious how social conservatives pretend that libertarians are all a bunch of warmed-over hippies and fiscal conservatives are the Marxist stereotype of capitalists.

I'm a social conservative, fiscal conservative, and libertarian. And I voted for Romney and the Republicans last election because they're the better alternative, perfect or not. I don't consider myself a dyed-in-the-wool Republican. I'm a Republican because all the Republicans voted AGAINST Obamacare...EVERY SINGLE ONE. They're not perfect, but they're better than the alternative.

I didn't care for Bush's 'compassionate conservatism' or the 'socialism lite' of the pre-Gingrich days in Congress. But I still voted for them, because if my choice is a fast walk to socialism or a slow walk, I'll take the slow walk. Anything, EVERYTHING, that delays the fascists is worthwhile. I voted for McCain, even though I hated doing it, I voted for Bush both times, even though I hated doing it, I voted for Dole, I voted for Bush Sr. Too young to vote for Reagan, but he's the only one of the lot I would've supported with a whole heart, even though I have disagreements with him too.

I think the point of union should be more than simple fiscal policy or whatever one part of the coalition deems the most important. What we need to do, above all other things, is devolve power away from centralization at every level. More Federal power needs to go to the States, more State power needs to go to the Counties and Cities. This is even an appeal that can work with a lot of people on the left--why trust your fate to a faceless bureaucrat far away when you can go in and argue with the city council? Actually show up and have a say! Instead of vaguely saying 'smaller government,' how about Federalist government, with the decision made as close to the pain point as possible. He (or she) who has the authority to make the decision should have to abide by the consequences. Freedom is knowledge, authority, and responsibility, and consequences are a subset of responsibility. Want responsible government? Diffuse the power through many layers and levels so that nobody has the ability to make a law like Obamacare and then exempt themselves from it.

Forget about fiscal conservative and social conservative and libertarian. If your city makes gay marriage legal and you oppose it, you can move. It's a lot harder to move to another country. I've lived in 6 states and 12 cities and 9 counties in my life, and I'm only halfway to the finish line. With the crush of Washington atop them all, there's not much difference. I'm opposed to gay marriage because I know that the purpose of gay marriage is to force my church to solemnize gay marriages in our temples (I'm a Mormon). They don't care about fairness, but only forcing us to do their will.

Diffusionist government won't allow that. No more one six fits all. If two cities sitting side by side have gay marriage allowed in one and not the other, with power devolved to the cities that would be fine; city a would recognize gay marriage in every way, and city b would not, nor would it be required to. It might be as messy as the Articles of Confederation, but so what? So long as the core concerns of the central government, namely treaties, tariffs and defense, are not infringed, what difference does it make if San Francisco is in terminal meltdown due to socialist policies and Houston is booming because of an actual economic system rather than a bunch of wishful thinking? Guess what, nobody had to built a wall to keep West Germans from running to East Germany. Let them have their socialist paradises and watch them squirm.

The fascists won't agree, you say? Of course not. But we don't need their support. Just the support of enough people, and enough elected officials, to get to work on it. The fascists are a tiny minority who live by stoking hatred, fanning resentment, and telling lies. Change the message to one they can't understand, and it changes the dynamic. They still think they're rebelling against Victorian gentlemen! They don't even know what century this is!

Enough with the petty squabbling. THAT is what hands victory over to the fascists. So long as we won't unite, they'll keep creeping us towards their fairy-land.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
What really annoys us libertarians is the way that you social conservatives wind up being right so often.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Since the 1970s there have been two factions within the Republican Party. That doesn't mean there are only two factions within conservatism, it just means only two have been allowed within the Republican Party.

The first is a collection of capitalists and their brown-nosers. All they really care about is low taxes and lots of government money for the rich and corporations (who are people according to Mitt Romney and the Supreme Court). They want an America like any Third-World nation with a tiny super-wealthy elite and a huge desperate working class. This faction has been running the GOP and they don't want anyone to interfere with them.

The other group is the social conservatives. They are concerned with traditional marriage, abortion, illegal immigration and other such issues. The rulers of the GOP constantly rile this group up to gain support for the party, but social conservatives are supposed to shut up and let the first group run things. This is why the social conservatives get nothing from the Republican Party.

Libertarians are requested to do more than shut up. They are supposed to hide except for writing checks and coming out to vote. the rulers of the GOP give libertarians less then they give social conservatives.

I understand how this works because I'm a leftist and the Democratic Party gives me less than the Republican Party gives libertarians. That's why I don't support the Democrats anymore.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Libertarians could organize and promote their views, except they are too lazy and disorganized to do more than whine that people already organized should fight for the Libertarian ideas. It's not an accident Prohibitionist and anti-Prohibitionist could run the whole legal/illegal/legal booze cycle in less time than it takes the LibTs to do what they have done with pot.

Libertarians are what the High School Math Club nerds theorize would run their club. They refuse to recognize the country isn't homogenous nerds with little ambition. They have no answer for society NOW, with makers and takers. Their prescription is how the hippy communes were supposed to work until the addiction, thievery, chaos drove them out of existence.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Bryan, you should try hanging out with some SoLib Young Republicans or college-age campaign volunteers and drop this "teenage coast-dweller" strawman.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I think the most important point is something stated above, SoCons arose because of continual assaults on them, not because thy want to tell others what to do. And those assaults came from those who want to bear no responsibility for their life decisions. What is abortion on demand, except the desire to be released from any responsibility for who, and when, you jump between the sheets with. AND they demand that the lifestyle and reasoning of the coastal elites, be forced down everyones throat.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Thanks for this reasonable argument Bryan.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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