“I think that the Republican Party, in order to get bigger, will have to agree to disagree on social issues,” likely 2016 presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul said in a recent interview. “The Republican Party is not going to give up on having quite a few people who do believe in traditional marriage. But the Republican Party also has to find a place for young people and others who don’t want to be festooned by those issues.”
The Left, on the other hand, has absolutely no problem festooning people, young and old, with all sorts of social issues. Democrats don’t have much else to run on these days. They certainly aren’t going to win any races in the 2014 midterm election by boasting of their job-creating skills, wise fiscal policies, or brilliant management of American health care.
If there’s a call to disarm in the culture wars, it’s entirely one-sided. Newt Gingrich ran into trouble, early in his 2012 presidential run, by remarking that he wanted to avoid “right-wing social engineering.” The left wing loudly and proudly engages in social engineering every single day. One of the rare bursts of crystal clear honesty in Obama’s 2008 campaign came when he announced a desire to “transform” America. Everything from the growth of Food Stamp Nation, to ObamaCare, to amnesty for illegal aliens is designed to remodel the electorate into something that suits the Left’s tastes.
There’s a much deeper understanding on the Left about the way government power changes society. People just aren’t the same after decades of dependency. The unspoken premise behind expansions of the central State is that we cannot trust one another – we must be forced to provide the correct answers in a growing list of social questions. As we accept more political control over every element of our lives, we are transformed by our rising comfort level with the proposition that wise and just central planners should dictate our attitudes, and dissent from their judgment is intolerable.
When the government grows to its current size, everything is a social issue. There is little our central State could do at this point that would not change the cultural understanding of millions of Americans. Look at the Left’s big crusade against “income inequality” – a purely social construct that no one can define within exact parameters. We’re told it’s just plain wrong for there to be so much inequality, but that “wrongness” has no legal or mathematical definitions. Vast amounts of compulsive force will be brought to bear against people who are not accused of committing any crimes.
The Left profits from these hard-sell social issues, even when they’ve demonstrably made the problems they complain about worse. By any objective measurement, “income inequality” has grown substantially worse in the Age of Obama… but he still gets to posture as a crusader against it.
The new “Ban Bossy” feminist campaign to ban use of the word “bossy” against little girls in school is another example. The liberals complaining about the alleged damage to girls’ self-esteem have enjoyed absolute, total, iron-clad control over the education system for decades. And as anyone familiar with what actually goes on in classrooms could tell you, it’s boys who are having trouble adapting to modern academic culture.
But no matter – the Left is never held responsible for what it does to society. All of their social crusades are set up with can’t-lose rules that make it impossible to judge their efforts a failure. There will be no effort made to measure whether something like the “Ban Bossy” campaign actually helps girls in school, or even whether use of the word “bossy” declines. Credit is demanded for good intentions, but never refunded when the results are poor, or even horrifying.
We’re not even permitted to remember what things were like before they took over. Point out that black families were doing far better before the Great Society went to work on them, and you’ll be accused of wanting a return to segregation. Every social issue win for the Left is supposed to be eternal; “progress” only flows in their direction. Only they are permitted to invoke “wedge issues” or pass moral judgment against their political opponents.
Republicans will roll into the 2016 election season with the usual admonition for social conservatives to shut up and sit in the back of the party bus – or more accurately, get behind it and push, while fiscal conservatives try to win the day. But those fiscal-con appeals have a way of becoming dry tinder against the raging emotional wildfires of liberal social crusades.
Conservatives should be wary about accepting rules of engagement that forbid them from fighting fire with fire. It’s tough to fully engage the electorate without using the language of social issues, because that is the language of everyday life, touching upon the passions, fears, and moral sensibilities of voters. No amount of intricate accounting spreadsheets or think tank white papers can entirely replace passion and morality.
That’s why the Left works so hard to make potent Republican social issues toxic. Rep. Paul Ryan is back in the news again, because he made some cogent, well-researched points about the failure of the War on Poverty… and liberals responded by painting him as a heartless monster who wants poor people to starve.
Conservatives are the stewards of priceless cultural wisdom, conservators of ideals that produced a nation of giants and wondrous achievement. Even in the case of same-sex marriage, the ostensibly lost cause Rand Paul mentioned, there is still much to be gained by forthrightly explaining why traditional marriage is essential to society… and much to be lost, if we are intimidated away from discussing the subject with young people. Marriage and the traditional family have profound fiscal implications for America, in addition to the obvious social relevance. A tax base filled with intact families, providing enormous benefits to their children and accumulating inter-generational wealth, can support a very different future than one in which such families are scarce.
There are plenty of other examples to demonstrate that treating fiscal and social issues as entirely separate is a mistake, especially in the era of Really Freaking Huge Government. It’s a mistake only conservatives are encouraged to make.