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A Deal For Social Conservatives?

Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley with Judge Brett Kavanaugh. (U.S. Senate)

Elizabeth Dias of the NYT writes today about the political future of social and religious conservatives, after the recent elections. This part jumped out at me:

In a divided Congress, social conservatives have little hope of advancing their legislative priorities, like ending Planned Parenthood funding or banning abortion after 20 weeks. But many are instead emphasizing their success at the judicial level and seem only minimally interested in adjusting their focus.

“If you ask social conservative voters, would you be willing to accept Nancy Pelosi as speaker for two more Supreme Court justices, I suspect they would make that trade,” said Dan Schnur, a former longtime Republican strategist who is now an Independent. “A short-term congressional loss for social conservatives is almost certainly offset by a long-term judicial gain.”

Fellow religious and social conservatives, what do you think about that? It makes sense to me. This country is becoming more secular, and more socially liberal. As you know — see The Benedict Option—  I don’t believe that it is possible to turn the country around (in a direction we think is good) via politics. At best we can hold the line on religious liberty, to give us and our institutions the space within which to work.

Protecting religious liberty is the most important political goal for us, in large part because it is so threatened. Unfairly, the media and the political left have associated “religious liberty” with hatred of gays and lesbians. The truth is, religious liberty, rightly understood, would give progressive religious congregations maximal (though not absolute) rights to observe their religious beliefs, even if the cultural and political consensus were to be against them. That’s what 1993’s bipartisan Religious Freedom Restoration Act was all about: protecting religious minorities from the majority.

The First Amendment guarantees of free speech, assembly, and religious liberty don’t mean anything when their exercise is not challenged by the majority. They only really matter when they protect unpopular minorities. I deeply wish that the left understood this, but I don’t think that’s likely to happen within our emotivist popular culture, where crushing “hate” is considered to be self-justifying. To them, Baronnelle Stutzman, a gentle little old Baptist lady florist, is Triple Hitler. I don’t see that changing soon.

That said, the best shot we have at preserving our constitutional rights over the coming decades will be through the courts, especially the Supreme Court. I would take Dan Schnur’s deal. Would you?

I have a lot of problems with the Republican Party, on a number of fronts. On one of them, I wish it were more aggressive on advancing and protecting religious liberty. In a secularizing country, it’s going to be even harder to expect this out of them. (I would love to be surprised!) We can say this much: at least the GOP’s Congressional representatives don’t despise people who believe as I do, and seek to harm us legislatively. If the day should come when there is little meaningful difference on religious liberty between Republicans and Democrats, then I will probably vote Democratic more often, because my economic and foreign policy views tend to align more with the Democrats than the Republicans.

Anyway, if you are a social and/or religious conservative, would you take Dan Schnur’s deal? Explain your reasoning. By the way, I’m going to police this thread to keep liberal potshots from crowding out meaningful conservative conversation.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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