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.