Earlier this week Kentucky Senator Rand Paul made the remark that the GOP will have to “agree to disagree” about the many social issues that are part of the political discourse in the United States. Paul now joins many other Conservative pundits who have recently called for the GOP to completely abandon social issues as they are sure losers for the GOP when the environment points to sure victory. The examples most pointed to for making this case by these pundits are Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana. Pointing to these episodes as examples belies such claims because it was not gaffs about social issues that doomed these two senatorial candidates in 2012, and social issues will likely not be the reason for GOP defeats in the future. In fact going back to the last time the GOP won the presidency, 2004, it was social conservatives who gave a great boost to George W. Bush’s election and pushed him over 50 percent marking the first time that has happened for a candidate since his father in 1988.
Electoral politics aside, social issues–primarily abortion and homosexual marriage–are more about defining culture and society than they are about winning or losing elections. “Agreeing to disagree” means that conservatives would be comfortable allowing the Left to define the United States culturally and that Libertarians would be comfortable assuring the nation that this new definition would not harm the United States. History shows that a society which has a debauched culture does not last long as originally constituted. Does this mean, as many Libertarians argue, that the US is to be a Christian theocracy? No, it simply means that the US should maintain its fealty to the Anglo-Western civilization ethos of freedom to exercise ones religion in the public square, freedom to critique government based on the individual’s moral values, and decentralizing government such that the individual and the governing authority are localized. Abandoning social issues to the Left would completely destroy this concept.
First, examine the issue of abortion. Unlike homosexual marriage, views on abortion among the youth and women actually look good for conservatives. Recent polling data show that among these demographics there is more sympathy for incremental restrictions on abortion than for unrestricted abortion. It stands to reason that speaking about this issue is not an automatic killer for GOP candidates. But more importantly is means that there is a need for the defense of the unborn and many voters recognize this need as being important for a healthy culture and society. How is this, you might ask? What does it say to a generation of youth, who have experienced single parenthood or divorce, that it is also acceptable to discard unborn children for reasons ranging from fear of economic hardship to having come from rape? In China, after decades of state enforced one-child policies leading to coerced abortions, there is now a phenomenon of abandoning unwanted children and it is so pervasive that China had established something called “baby hatches.” It does not take long for one to examine cultural stories in the US to see that there is a major problem brewing in American society. This is a social issue that, if abandoned to the whims of the Left, will drastically change the US for the worse.
Perhaps the biggest issue that Libertarians point to when decrying Christian theocracy in the US is homosexual marriage. Libertarians have adopted the same language used by the Left, that when two people love each other, why should the government prevent them from being together. This has got to be one of the biggest rhetorical lie in the social issues debate. Not since the landmark Supreme Court decision Lawrence v Texas in 2003, has any government been permitted to prevent homosexuals from “being together” and in this particular case it was through the very difficult task of enforcing sodomy. The debate now hinges on how US society will define marriage, or so we are told by those on Left. The actual end goal by the Left is the complete relegation of Christian expression to a very narrow and private space, either in a church or in a home. What happens if the Left is successful in this task?
In the UK, Christian parents who seek to become foster parents are forced to either accept homosexuality as a normative feature of society or be denied the opportunity to care for a child in need. According to the state, “there may well be a conflict with the local authority’s duty to ‘safeguard and promote the welfare’ of looked-after children.” In the US, Christians are being sued into contractual agreements with people whom they have a religious dispute regarding lifestyle. And in New Jersey, a Church has lost tax exemption for not allowing a homosexual ceremony on the church’s property because it violated the human rights of the couple. Surely, Libertarians, if they were sincere in their philosophy, would object to these actions just as much as they would to preventing homosexual marriage? Sadly that is not the case.
Libertarians, particularly on the grassroots level, seem to be more interested in attacking Christians than in upholding the proclaimed ideals of individual liberty and limited government. They claim to be defenders of the notions of the Tenth Amendment, that states have decision making power regarding what is not specified in the federal Constitution. However, when it comes to social issues, which have been left to the states, Libertarians are among those who bemoan the results.
It cannot be said that Rand Paul holds the same sentiments that have been observed by grassroots Libertarians, but he certainly does not view these issues as something that should be part of the political debate between the Left and the Right. He claims that it is time to abandon these issues in the hopes of increasing the Republican Party, which is the same claim as those conservative pundits who also wish to abandon social issues. There is no doubt that the Left and Right have “agreed to disagree” on social issues, but that should not mean that conservatives accept the premise that these issues create losses for GOP candidates. Furthermore, there is much more at stake than the losing of elections. The loss of a sense of morality reflected in culture will lead to a loss of freedom for all.