A very interesting debate (at least for me) has broken out in Lydia's last post concerning the means by which social conservatives can advance their ideas in the public square. This is also relevant to the political moment, as there are some voices within the broader conservative movement who are calling for the Republican party to essentially ditch socially conservative ideas (or radically downplay them) so that today's young, or single women, or minorities (the infamous RNC report suggests Republicans need to pass "comprehensive immigration reform" or Hispanics won't listen to the party -- but they provide no evidence that this is true) will find the party welcoming. For example, Charles Murray (who admitedly has always been more of a libertarian thinker) recently said the following:
“Unless the G.O.P. drops what he called its ‘litmus tests’ for candidates on these divisive social issues, Murray warned that conservatives were likely to alienate a large swath of the voting public, including his children, who might otherwise be attracted to the Party.”
Now, as someone who is broadly sympathetic to Lydia's worldview and opinions, I nevertheless find myself in agreement with our commenter "Crude" who asks of us social conservatives to stop just being opposed to every foolish scheme and piece of legislation proposed by liberals and propose some positive alternative in its stead. Specifically, in the context of anti-bullying legislation he says the following:
Social conservatives need to stop being so overwhelmingly reactive. It is not enough to simply be against everything liberals are for. We have to be for things too. I know, I know, it's been said before. I believe it. And 'being for things' doesn't mean, or largely mean, being for new government intrusion, etc. But when push comes to shove and a law's coming anyway, our attack on the bad law should come with a proposal of our own law with it. Look at the NRA: they've had considerable success recently, in part because they weren't simply responding with 'No to gun laws'. They made up what they had to know was a scapegoat (violent media) and demanded ACTION there. Result? No one says the NRA is sitting on its hands when it comes to gun violence. Banning guns is not seen as the ONLY solution to violent problems by some people.
We should emulate winners in terms of approach and tactic.
Follwing this comment there was quite a bit of discussion in the comboxes, back and forth, around the wisdom of this basic idea. I think the first thing that needs to be said is that Crude's idea is too Machiavellian -- there is no reason we can't be aggresive conservatives who stand on principle AND keep our integrity when we propose legislation to solve real problems (i.e. nothing designed to be a "scapegoat") OR when we propose that no legislation is needed to solve a problem because it is not the proper role and responsibility of the government to be solving a particular problem.
Crude thinks this last idea is hopeless when opposed by "well-meaning" liberals who are always selling the public some goofy idea to solve some "problem". Here I think both Crude and Lydia are right in a certain sense -- Lydia is right that the solution is not to give in to liberals all the time and offer some nonsense "conservative" piece of legislation; but Crude seems to be right that we can't just say "no" to the liberals -- we need to make a better case for ourselves. This is when I started thinking about a recent post from my favorite blogger Steve Sailer about the Israelis shamless push to free Jonathan Pollard. Here is a key passage from Steve:
"...it appears likely that Pollard gave American secrets on the ultimate line of defense in case of nuclear apocalypse, boomers -- ICBM submarines -- to the Israelis, who traded them to the Soviets. That's really, really bad.
I suppose you could argue: "Well, World War III never got around to happening, so ... no harm, no foul!" But that's not a sound argument.
Therefore, you might think that the Israeli attitude toward the Pollard Affair would be: "We shall never speak of this again." In terms of the manners and morals that your mother taught you, what Israeli society is doing in rubbing America's nose in Israel's crime against America sounds like lunacy.
But, that's naive. The best defense, it turns out, is a good offense. Stay offensive and take offense. Intimidate skeptics with your sheer brass."
The best defense is a good offense -- maybe the real problem for conservatives is that we are always playing defense to the latest liberal outrage and we don't do enough to aggressively promote our ideas and denounce liberals. To a certain extent, this is what folks like Andrew Brietbart were trying to do on the Right (and maybe, despite his kookiness, Glen Beck). I suspect we need more of this, but from our smarter and more polished intellectual wing -- the folks who are typically inclined to respond to the latest outrage, not plan and execute an assult on some liberal nonsense.
I do think that although the poll numbers are bad at the moment concerning marriage, the battle is not lost and our young leaders are starting to get more aggressive and develop a more robost defense of marriage (similar to what is happening in France -- which I think is a good model for us).
I also think that although we have a long way to go, the pro-life movement is another example that has learned these lessons (about offense versus defense) and has continued to make progress at the state level in passing more and more restrictive abortion laws while winning over young hearts and minds with their arguments. The Left, I think, senses they are starting to lose ground which is why they are getting more aggresive themselves and increasingly turning to the "rape argument" to distract the public from the gains the pro-life movement is making. Last year's whole "war on women" media-fueled argument was more evidence of this and all the more reason we can't get complacent and stay on defense. For example, if the liberal media wants to talk about rape -- don't let them! Change the subject to unregulated abortion mills and the horrors going on there. I don't know if this is exactly what Crude had in mind, but this is kind of what I think Sailer means by the Israeli example -- answer liberals with firm stands on principle but with chutzpah and guile at the the same time. Keep them off their feet and reeling from all the counter-punches you throw their way -- they don't hesitate to throw those same punches so we might as well make it a fair fight!