Kicking Abortion and Marriage to the Curb

The conservative editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal feature two articles arguing that the GOP needs to get over its hang-ups about abortion and marriage. These voices are shrill and uncivil, but we knew this was coming. The first one is from Sarah Westwood, a college Republican who says that the GOP is irrelevant to younger voters because of their positions on social issues. She writes:

As a member of this all-important demographic, I know that neither I nor (almost) anybody else coming of age today supports the Republican social agenda. That’s the way the country is moving—so just deal with it. Modernize and prioritize.

Though it may be painful, though it may be costly at the polls in the short run, Republicans don’t have a future unless they break up with the religious right and the gay-bashing, Bible-thumping fringe that gives the party such a bad rap with every young voter. By fighting to legally ban abortion, the party undercuts the potential to paint itself as a rebel against the governmental-control machine.

Embracing a more liberal social agenda doesn’t require anyone to abandon her own personal values; it’s possible to keep faith and the party too. But the evangelical set essentially hijacked the Republican Party in the 1970s; now we need to take it back.

The second Op-Ed comes from Bret Stephens,

Fellow conservatives, please stop obsessing about what other adults might be doing in their bedrooms, so long as it’s lawful and consensual and doesn’t impinge in some obvious way on you. This obsession is socially uncouth, politically counterproductive and, too often, unwittingly revealing.

Also, if gay people wish to lead conventionally bourgeois lives by getting married, that may be lunacy on their part but it’s a credit to our values. Channeling passions that cannot be repressed toward socially productive ends is the genius of the American way…

Also, please tone down the abortion extremism. Supporting so-called partial-birth abortions, as too many liberals do, is abortion extremism. But so is opposing abortion in cases of rape and incest, to say nothing of the life of the mother.

There so much to critique in these two pieces that it’s hard to know where to start. I will limit myself to two observations:

(1) Their fundamental naiveté about gay marriage consists in the underlying assumption that marriage is a private matter. Neither of these articles talks seriously about the pervasive public consequences of legalizing gay marriage. Theirs is argument by fiat. Young people don’t like our ancient sexual mores, so let’s toss them in favor of whatever sounds good to us today. This is not serious.

(2) Westwood and Stephens are actually wrong about the abortion issue. Polls reveal that Americans have become more pro-life over the last 20 years, not less. A majority of Americans favor at least some restrictions on abortion, a position that is fundamentally at odds with the regime of Roe v. Wade, the beloved bulwark of the culture of death. Notwithstanding a few clumsy Senate candidates, social conservatives are actually winning this debate. Yet Westwood and Stephens are ready to kick the issue to the curb just when it’s coming of age. This is not serious either.

I said last week that some partisans would be looking to kick pro-life and marriage to the curb. Well, this is what it looks like. We knew that this kind of critique was coming. Keep your seatbelts fastened because there’s likely going to be more where this came from.

18 Responses to Kicking Abortion and Marriage to the Curb

  1. jimmiedon November 13, 2012 at 12:16 am #

    We need some one or two significant persons who will be our Athanasius Contra Mundum, our Wilberforce whom John Wesley said, divine power has raised up to be to us as Athanasiius contra mundum. Such need to be completely dedicated to the end of these two great evils. Had we had a Wilberforce in America, the Civil War had never been….

  2. Joshua November 13, 2012 at 4:45 am #

    Thank you for this post. I read the Westwood piece and also thought, wow, they want us to just throw in the towel and be just like them. To think the youth and Dems of the day are more enlightened than God’s ways is some very small thinking. There’s little wisdom today.

  3. Andrew Orlovsky November 13, 2012 at 6:53 am #

    As I mentioned in a previous post, Obama did NOT win because Americans preferred his views on social issues. Obama won because most people in this country see Romney as “being for the Rich”. Yet I made the prediction that the media will constantly scapegoat abortion and gay marriage as the issues that decided the 2012 election and that the Republicans must flip-flop on them if they ever want to win again.

    • David Gleit November 13, 2012 at 11:16 am #

      An argument that God’s word will always trump the social values of young Americans and women at least makes sense from the hard-line religious point of view represented so well by Denny. But the argument that such a hard-line stand (a pregnancy from rape is a blessing from God, or gay marriage is evil) will be an electoral winner for the GOP is pure wishful thinking. Indiana and Missouri are both red states that Romney won handily, yet look what happens when candidates oppose the rape exception to abortion. As a liberal, I would welcome more candidates in the GOP taking hard line stances on social issues – the electoral map will only turn more blue as a result.

  4. BDW November 13, 2012 at 12:16 pm #

    The data does not really support your claim about abortion. Yes, it is true that a growing number of people are preferring the “pro-life” label over “pro-choice.” But that change in self-identification has not translated into meaningful change with regard to the legality of abortion.

    Just look at Gallup’s different charts over the past decade. The data has remained rather steady.

    http://tinyurl.com/c7my5r3

  5. Nathan Cesal November 13, 2012 at 5:21 pm #

    Denny, what are the pervasive public consequences of legalizing gay marriage?

    • Nathan Cesal November 16, 2012 at 2:48 am #

      *crickets*

      • Caleb W November 20, 2012 at 5:15 pm #

        Denny is very selective when it comes to answering questions.

        • Denny Burk November 20, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

          What questions? I don’t read all of the comments.

  6. sean bloomer November 13, 2012 at 7:33 pm #

    Hey, Denny. Why don’t WE leave the GOP? In all seriousness, let’s begin a political coalition that truly tries to honor God. How do you think it would look different than the current Republican party?

    To me, our approach to the alien/stranger would have to be more compassionate than the GOP, as the Isrealites were reminded that they were once strangers.

    Our approach to the poor would be more complicated, as helping those truly ‘poor’ versus those who are simply ‘slothful.’ Tough distinction to make. Maybe impossible.

    What else do you think is ill-represented by the GOP? War is a tough one too.

    • Paul Abella November 14, 2012 at 2:21 am #

      Sean here has a point. Social conservatives, being just simply the biggest contingent of the big tent of the GOP, will lose their battles against the fiscal conservatives and the military hawks. And as the days go on, as I’ve predicted before, you’ll see far more Ayn Rand styled conservatives entering the party, and that will mean that the social agenda will be even more cast aside.

      Your best bet, in all honesty, as a student of politics, would be to invade the constitution party wholesale, and start winning elections at the local level and build up the party to national prominence. In a one on one battle with democrats, as long as the economy continues to make even modest gains, the Republicans will become more and more irrelevant if they hold onto their current agenda in a two party system. So, make a viable third party. After all, if evangelicals make up 30% of the population, with huge concentrations down south and in rural areas, a party of social conservatives could speak to huge swaths of the country in a way that rich guys that simply give the social agenda lip service can’t or won’t.

      Also, buy my CD.

    • Daryl Little November 14, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

      Now THAT would be a mistake. Huge.

      History has clearly demonstrated the inability of Christians to maintain power (as a bloc) and do it well.
      Which makes sense, given that our influence is not to be one of power but one of gospel influence.

      That’s not to say we shouldn’t be politically involved or members of a party, but as soon as a “Christian” party shows up and, God forbid, wins an election, we would become drunk with power, lose our minds, and immediately begin to compromise the gospel in order to keep the power we’ve gained.

      No.

      Be prophets. Speak to the culture. Confront all parties. Vote for someone you support.

      In other words…

      Keep calm, and carry on.

      • Greg Anderson November 15, 2012 at 5:31 pm #

        Well said Daryl, the last thing we need is an evangelical zealot following in the footsteps of Oliver Cromwell.

  7. dr. james willingham November 14, 2012 at 12:17 am #

    The alien/stranger in our midst is beginning to overwhelm our forms of government in one sense. They vote for benefits, etc., without any appreciation of the sacrifices such things require. Also note the denominational change taking place.

    • James Stanton November 15, 2012 at 12:52 am #

      Speak plainly. The aliens or others you speak of are probably Latinos. This othering of certain members in our society has occured for hundreds of years, nothing new there.

      These people are some of those most hard-working in our society. And yes, due to generally making less money they will vote for politicians that try to serve their economic well-being. I assume you consider access to affordable healthcare a benefit.

      Denominational change? They are mostly Catholic, a religious sect that is a vital cog in the social conservative alliance. Considering many here voted for a Mormon I’m not sure why this is relevant.

      Lastly, our social and economic ills are not the fault of am ethnic group that make up the majority of our recent immigrants. Again, it is a historical trend to blame such ills on a feared and hated other. It has happened in Europe and here.

      • James Stanton November 15, 2012 at 3:58 pm #

        I am no defender of the Catholic church. You touched on it a tad but I’d go further and say that the Baptists popularized the idea of a separation of church and state.

        What I meant is that the political aims of Catholics and Evangelicals and Mormons as well as other socially conservative sects have converged to allow a political alliance.

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