Polling shows the American people are shifting substantially on the issue. That’s reality, and many of those shifting people are conservatives. Most young people, including most conservative young people, favor it. Hell, Dick Cheney supports it. There is no coming majority that will someday reverse course, and there are no states that will ever undo gay marriage after creating it. It ain’t happening.
There are several reasons. One is the inherent kindness, independence and practicality of Americans – traits conservatives rightly celebrate. Americans dislike harshness, and it is tough to look at good people and tell them “No, you cannot have this thing we feel is central to a happy life.” Americans also – correctly – tend to adopt a “live and let live” attitude. They don’t feel compelled to regulate whether you can guzzle Big Gulps, pack an M4, or marry another dude as long as you leave them alone.
There’s also the practical effect of what Americans have observed firsthand. The argument that gay marriage will destroy traditional marriage is very tough to make when Americans have seen gays getting married for a while and…nothing happened. The military experienced a microcosm of that phenomenon with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” It got repealed and … pretty much nothing happened. Moreover, it’s obvious that gays would have to work overtime to compete with heterosexuals at screwing up the institution of marriage.
By the way, South Carolina GOP voters, if you voted for Appalachian hiker and future MSM “The GOP Are Weirdoes and Hypocrites” poster child Mark Sanford in the recent primary, you’re not allowed to ever again speak about the sanctity of marriage.
Just as critically, popular culture has normalized gay Americans through movies and television; this, in turn, has led more gay people to come out in everyday life as friends, family and co-workers. That’s huge.
When Rob Portman announced his change of heart based on his son’s coming out, my friend and fellow Townhall and Breitbart writer Ben Shapiro, later joined by the great Dennis Prager, correctly observed that was a terrible intellectual argument. They were right – it’s intellectually incoherent. Wrong doesn’t become right just because your friend does it.
But I am a trial lawyer, and it’s the greatest jury argument ever. It may not be logical or rational, but personal experience is damned effective at changing minds – even conservative ones.
So, regardless of whether people like it or not, the die is cast. It’s happening. So we need to decide as conservatives, whether we like it, loathe it or are just exhausted by it, what we do next.
Let’s assess the situation. Let’s see what we can do with the new reality. Let’s look for opportunities.
Same sex marriage going off the table eliminates an artificial barrier to millennials who might otherwise accept key tenets of conservatism. There is a growing, as yet untapped, groundswell against the kind of government overreach exemplified by Obamacare, drones, gun grabbing, intellectual property thuggery and general nanny statism that conservatives share with young, tech-savvy voters. Like it or not, as long as gay marriage remains unsettled, many will not even look at conservatism even though they are remarkably supportive of many of our positions.
The liberals want gay marriage as a wedge issue to drive conservatives apart and to marginalize them from the rest of America. Without it to beat conservatives with, they have to focus on other issues – and there aren’t many issues where they look good. Remember how the GOP busted Democrat chops on crime in the 1960s right up until Bill Clinton got the liberals to stop excusing criminality in the 1990s? Losing the crime issue was a huge blow to the GOP; losing gay marriage will be one to the liberals.
What’s key is not to whine, to not give up, not to be like the pouty libertarians who refused to show up last November and ensured four more years of the least libertarian guy to ever occupy the Oval office. When Mike Huckabee spouted off about evangelicals ditching the GOP if it lost the fight on gay marriage, Obama and his crew probably clinked champagne flutes. Social conservatives, do you really want the liberals unrestrained and unchecked because they retook the House in 2014? Don’t imagine they’ll ever leave you alone, unmolested and free.
You don’t win every battle. Sometimes you get hammered and it hurts. Then you come back. In February 1943, Americans got their behinds kicked by the Nazis at Kasserine Pass. In December 1944, the Allies gutted the remainder of the German war machine in the West during the Battle of the Bulge. Lose today, but learn from it and win tomorrow.
Social conservatives and the more libertarian Constitutional conservatives must stick together or they will lose it all. Libertarian-oriented conservatives, this is the time to reach out to social conservatives. They are invaluable allies and their views deserve respect even if yours differ somewhat. They especially need support in the battle for ensuring religious liberty and freedom of conscience in the wake of the dramatic changes the culture is undergoing. That’s something we all can and must defend – and if we do, we’ll win.
This is when steadfastness matters. This is when we can’t allow ourselves to be demoralized. The fight for this country is more than just one battle that didn’t end the way many people hoped.
Here’s my advice as a lawyer and a conservative. Think about what Obama and his liberal pals would want you to do right now. Then do the opposite.