A few weeks ago, I wrote about my frustration that libertarians are creeping into the GOP. Many of them feel that all they have to do is wait out the older members of the party, and once they die out, they can claim victory that social conservatism will die. I get a mixed response from people in my age range on social issues: most of the social conservatives I know are actually Democrats. Some are Republicans as well, but I don’t know as many of them. Many of them are against abortion and same-sex marriage, but they still vote Democrat.
The point of this is that social conservatism isn’t dead; when even Democrats won’t support same-sex marriage. Even though many young people are going along with what they think is “socially tolerant”, others do not. I strongly believe that social conservatism is every bit as important as economic conservatism. The two are linked and without one, you can’t have the other.
Another development that is giving me hope in regards to my generation concerning moral issues is the writings of sisters I follow on twitter, Gabriella and Anna Maria Hoffman. You should follow them at the above links if you are not already doing so. They are from California, the “Left Coast”, if you will. They are in their early 20’s and are both staunch conservatives. Both understand the significance of traditional moral values, being pro-life, defending marriage, and unlike most people of this generation, both are acutely aware of the evils of communism.
It helps that their parents fled Lithuania during the height of the Cold War. This informs their worldview and makes them the staunch defenders of not only economic liberty, but also the Judeo-Christian values that this nation was founded upon. You should also check out the site they both contribute to: http://www.counterculturedusa.com/ (a blog about social, political and cultural issues from the perspectives of young conservatives).
Another indication that all is not lost in this generation was Hugh Hewitt’s Monday broadcast from Hillsdale College during Libertyfest. He asked high school and college students to call in and explain why liberty was important to them, and then he had them explain it with a quote of their choosing. One of the great aspects of listening to young people call in and explain what liberty means to them was that God was continually being invoked. Those students, from Hillsdale and from elsewhere, understood that our liberty is a gift from God the Almighty. There were multiple mentions of virtue and morality as related to a free society.
Those virtues are relevant to not only the founding of the United States, it is also instrumental in the standing of Western Civilization. For more on the pertinence of social conservatism to American values and to the wider conservative movement, you should pick up a copy of The Case for Polarized Politics by former policy adviser to President Reagan, Jeffrey Bell. There is an attack on conservatism, but there is an even bigger attack on social conservatism, even from some on the right. It’s seen as “intolerant”, “backwards”, and “quaint”. It’s seen as something that is preventing “progress”. It’s seen as bigoted and hateful.We are accused of being Bible-thumpers.
But the fact is, without social conservatism, you don’t have conservatism. The young people at Hillsdale know that, even if those words were not invoked while talking to Hugh. Gabriella and Anna Maria know that and refer to it often. Young people are conscious of the importance of Judeo-Christian values to sustaining a free society and limited government. Strong families and strong communities make for a more free society and a limited government. When the family breaks down, when the community breaks down, then the government steps in and tries to make up for it. As so many of the young people who called Hugh on Monday night pointed out, individual liberty does not mean license to just do what you want without consequences.
Conservatism has three essential pillars: social conservatism (cultural and moral issues); economic conservatism (fiscal restraint); and national security conservatism (a strong defense). Without any one of these, the “big tent” so many people push for will collapse. So I hope that this is a wake-up call to my generation. We need to carry the banner of social conservatism in the same way we call for the carrying of the banner of economic conservatism. As Senator Jim DeMint said after the 2010 mid-term elections, “Well, you can’t be a fiscal conservative and not be a social conservative.” Social and economic conservatism is like love and marriage: you can’t have one without the other.