Ross Douthat posts this addendum to his column on the Kavanaugh pick:
I’m more confident than some that Kavanaugh and Roberts are real anti-Casey votes. But I *might* be overrating social conservatism’s capacity for hellraising/rebellion if they aren’t.
— Ross Douthat (@DouthatNYT) July 10, 2018
To which Terry Teachout adds:
What I think you may be getting wrong is that Trump’s socially conservative base isn’t only interested in abortion—and may not even be primarily interested in it. For them, THE top issue is what they think of as religious freedom.
— Terry Teachout (@terryteachout) July 10, 2018
To put it another way: yours is a Catholic perspective, theirs a hard-shell Protestant one.
— Terry Teachout (@terryteachout) July 10, 2018
I wasn’t a Trump voter, but as a social and religious conservative, what Teachout says is certainly true for me. Though I too was hoping for an Amy Coney Barrett selection, Trump’s SCOTUS picks — as well as the ascent of the Social Justice Warriors on the left — have made it more likely that I will vote Trump in 2020. I’m pro-life, and want to see Roe end, but I believe that preserving religious liberty is a more pressing issue in this de-Christianizing country. Contra Teachout, I don’t know that this is a Catholic or a Protestant perspective; I think it’s rather a prudential political judgment.
For people like me, preserving religious liberty and ending abortion are both good things. We are seeing the abortion numbers decline. Last year, abortion rates sank to their lowest level since the 1973 Roe decision. This is a great victory! A subsequent Washington Post story points out that while abortions have declined 25 percent in that period, it is still the case that one in four women will have an abortion before age 45 — a shocking number. So there is still work to do. At the state level, various abortion restrictions that have been found to be permissible under Roe may be having an effect.
If Roe is overturned, though, all that does is move the debate on abortion rights back to the states. That’s still a huge deal, but it won’t outlaw abortion. It is interesting to observe that America has become more pro-life even as it has become more secular. This vindicates what pro-lifers have said for many years: that the case for life does not strictly depend on religious belief.
The future of religious liberty is much, much less clear. We know that America is de-Christianizing. It’s not only de-Christianizing, but it is becoming much more secular. The fact that religious belief exists disproportionately within older populations makes these trends harder to see right now. It will be difficult to muster support for religious liberty among a population that is not religious. In particular, when religious liberty claims conflict with gay rights claims, you don’t need to be a soothsayer to know what’s likely to happen.
This is why it is imperative now to get judges on the bench who have a robust sense of the importance of religious liberty. We religious conservatives should expect that the culture will become more and more hostile to us. The best we can realistically hope for is that the law permits us to run our own institutions in fidelity to our convictions, for as long as we can, despite the contempt of the outside world.
To the question of whether or not organized social conservatism is capable of hellraising rebellion if the GOP sells it out, I don’t think it is, not at this point. It needs to get to that place, though. Given the contempt the Democratic Party has for social conservatives, we really don’t have anywhere else to go. We could stay home, though — and given how closely divided the country is, neither party can afford to take any of its constituents for granted. I don’t know how you’d poll this, but the sense of futility many older pro-life conservatives would have if a Roberts court upheld Roe would be immense. It would mean that all their political efforts over the decades came to naught. It will all have been a lie to have believed that things would change at the Court.
On the other hand, given the state of religious liberty, those same religious conservatives may not be able to indulge themselves in anger and depression over Roe.
Here’s another thing: immigration is also an issue that Americans whose conservatism is primarily social care about. It may be more viscerally important to the base than either abortion or religious liberty. But there is division there. Russell Moore is a social and religious conservative, but he’s not on the same side of the immigration issue as other social and religious conservatives.
On the hellraising point, one last thing: in 2013, several hundred thousand protesters filled the streets of Paris to march against gay marriage. Here is a link to the core of the “Manif Pour Tous” (Protest For All) movement’s viewpoint. They did not win the argument in France, which now has gay marriage, but they showed themselves willing to take to the streets of the capital to defend traditional marriage and family.
We had nothing like this in the US. Nothing. We are supposedly more conservative and more religious, but we stayed docile. Why? I’m genuinely curious. I have not been able to answer this question satisfactorily for myself.