Keeping the Culture

Carol Platt Liebau
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Posted: Nov 18, 2008 11:58 AM
Writing in Newsweek, Karl Rove offers a blueprint for the GOP's return to power.  Not surprisingly, every point he makes is a valuable one.

#9 of his ten points deserves special mention.  He writes:

Culture matters. Suggestions that we abandon social conservatism, including our pro-life agenda, should be ignored. These values are often more popular than the GOP itself. The age of sonograms has made younger voters a more pro-life generation. And California and Florida approved marriage amendments while McCain lost both states. Republicans, in championing our values agenda, need to come across as morally serious rather than as judgmental.

And of course, he's absolutely right.  In the wake of the GOP's defeats, there will be plenty of people who will advise the GOP to embrace gay marriage as a way to appeal to the young.

What that advice overlooks is that there has been a serious dearth of thoughtful people who can explain the rationale for traditional marriage -- and sexual modesty, and many other seemingly old-fashioned but nevertheless important social values -- in a way that seems sensible and relevant to young people.

For too long, the cultural debate has been dominated by liberals on the one hand, and on the other, intelligent, well-educated and thoughtful people who nevertheless argue from religious authority.  For better or worse, culture debates have to be engaged in sophisticated secular terms (even though, as with all of morality, the underpinnings of the arguments are themselves religiously-based). 

The answer is not for the GOP to abandon the field when it comes to culture.  The answer is to find, cultivate and present people who can make the arguments in a down-to-earth, easily understood and accessible way, which avoids falling into the "judgmental" stereotypes eagerly propounded by social leftists.