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.