One of the more annoying themes to begin in earnest during the rise of Rick Santorum has been the idea that cultural or religious conservatives should shut up and go hide in the big tent’s closet. For those of who think of themselves as moderates, and may look with disdain on cultural conservatives, I have a message from the back, and moderates just might want to pay attention: The Republicans did not win in 2008 without cultural conservatives, and if you want to know who stayed home, making it more critical than ever that McCain capture more moderates and independents, let me give you just a hint: It was the cultural conservatives who moderates don’t like, but without them, Republicans cannot win the Presidency. More than just pat them on their heads, and placating them before banishing them to the periphery of the so-called “big tent,” moderates had better learn to speak to their issues, and show that they mean it. These cultural conservatives won’t always know the nuances of every piece of regulation ever written, but they know who’s who when it comes to their issues, so before dismissing them, moderates might wish to think again, because cultural conservatives are losing patience.
It’s not that they’re what moderates tell themselves are a bunch of back-woods Bible-thumpers, but then again, the centrist wing of the party doesn’t understand them mostly because they refuse to engage them. Some moderates may be suffering from a problem of narrow-mindedness that is almost as severe as some liberals. You see, cultural conservatives are people who believe that one’s actions, and one’s life should be consistent with one’s beliefs. This does not mean they’re holier-than-thou, but it does mean that by conscious choice, they try very hard to be devout. They are not infallible, and they know none are, but at the same time, they recognize that one cannot lead a virtuous life without choosing to follow through on their ideas about what is virtue. In short, they work very hard at living their lives in a manner consistent with their firmly-held beliefs.
I’d like to put this in context for some moderates who don’t quite see it this way, and who don’t understand how anybody can get so anxious over cultural issues like abortion. The best way to do this is to create an analog that permits one to see it as through their eyes, and to do this will necessarily require that we propose something as shockingly depraved to moderates as the issue of legalized abortion is to cultural conservatives. Let us imagine that a movement arose to repeal the prohibition on slavery, now enshrined in the Thirteenth Amendment. You wouldn’t stand by for that, and you’d rightly raise Hell over it.
For many cultural conservatives, each day that abortion is permitted under law is a day of life in Hell on Earth, writ large by the silence in which it takes place. When they see a woman walking toward that clinic, they see a crime against humanity every bit as severe and morally depraved. Understand that I’m not trying to change your mind about the issue, but instead, I’m merely suggesting that you consider the impact. How would you feel as you watched your country return to slavery? To people of faith, who believe each human life has unique, inherent value, what legal abortion permits is every bit as obnoxious to liberty and justice, and the rights of people.
It has been stated that strong cultural conservatives cannot win the election, but let me state to the knowing of the world: This is a dastardly lie. Ronald Reagan was unabashedly pro-life. Both George the elder and the younger claimed to be pro-life. It is fair to say that without this position, there is a fair chance that the younger would have lost in Florida, and thus the election of 2000. Moderates can pretend to themselves that the cause for a significant vote against Republicans originate with cultural issues, but none of the available evidence really supports that. Yes, there are a few at the margins of the moderate middle who can be swayed a little either way, but in most elections, this is not the driving issue, and you must understand that for any competent candidate, this will not be the most important set of issues in 2012.
Cultural conservatives don’t expect moderates to lead with cultural issues as their standard, but they do expect that when a Republican president arrives in office, at each opportunity to replace a federal judge, it will be one who views such matters in the context of a strict constructionist. As I see it, it’s not too much to ask, and if you happen to be a particular fan of that ludicrous ruling in the case of Roe v. Wade, you have other issues, because even if you believe abortion should be legal, Roe v. Wade was the most convoluted, concocted and moronic ruling to issue forth from the court in the 20th century, with only the Kelo decision challenging its blatant idiocy in the 21st.
Moderates who favor abortion have another choice, but they’re playing a game. The game is that they support it, but are unwilling to go through the constitutional amendment process. Why? For the same reason people fear to ever run the New Deal and Great Society programs through a similar constitutional process: They wouldn’t pass. The feminists know it, based on the Equal Rights Amendment, that was eventually doomed by its failure to pass muster before its expiration.
My intention here was not to get into the weeds on any particular issue, and I have discussed abortion particularly since that is the cultural issue most reference. What it is my intention to point out is that moderates who are so consistently uncomfortable with cultural conservatives had better get over it, because the conservatives have been putting up with the moderates patiently in election after election, for the most part, but if the moderates hope to overcome the voters who now begin to outnumber them as beneficiaries of the welfare state, they had better grasp that now more than ever, they need a working coalition with cultural conservatives, and the same old pat on the head may well not be enough any longer.