There are two easy ways to get a Republican to roll over and put his paws up in the air: The first is to write him a check, which is the political version of scratching his belly, and the second is to call him a bigot. In both cases, it helps if you have a great deal of money behind you.
Tim Cook, who in his role as chief executive of the world’s most valuable company personifies precisely the sort of oppression to which gay people in America are subjected, led the hunting party when Indiana’s governor Mike Pence signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, while Walmart, a company that cannot present its hindquarters enthusiastically enough to the progressives who hate it and everything for which it stands, dispatched its CEO, C. Douglas McMillon, to head off a similar effort in Arkansas, where Governor Asa Hutchison rolled over immediately.
An excellent illustration of this dynamic is on display in the recent pronouncements of columnist and gay-rights activist Dan Savage, who, in what seems to be an effort to resurrect every lame stereotype about the shrill, hysterical, theatrical gay man, declaimed that the efforts of those who do not wish to see butchers and bakers and wedding-bouquet makers forced by their government at gunpoint to violate their religious scruples is — you probably have guessed already — nothing less than the consecration of Jim Crow Junior. “Anti-black bigots, racist bigots, during Jim Crow and segregation made the exact same arguments that you’re hearing people make now,” Savage said. Given the dramatic difference in the social and political position of blacks in the time of Bull Connor and gays in the time of Ellen DeGeneres, this is strictly Hitler-was-a-vegetarian stuff, the elevation of trivial formal similarities over dramatic substantial differences. The choices for explaining this are a.) moral illiteracy; b.) intellectual dishonesty; c.) both a and b.
Barack Obama can run for office as an anti-gay-marriage candidate — which he did, more than once — and that is a ho-hum business, because nobody believed him to be sincere. Brendan Eich was driven out of the company he helped found for holding a substantially identical view sincerely — and that sincerity is an unforgivable sin in a society in thrall to the teapot-totalitarian temptation. When there is no private property — the great legal fiction of “public accommodation” saw to its effective abolition — then everything is subject to brute-force politics, and there can be no live-and-let-live ethic, which is why a nation facing financial ruination and the emergence of a bloodthirsty Islamic caliphate is suffering paroxysms over the question of whether we can clap confectioners into prison for declining to bake a cake for a wedding in which there is no bride.
The people who have hijacked the name “liberal” — the étatists — always win when social questions are decided by the state rather than in private life, because the expansion of the state, and the consequent diminution of private life, is their principal objective. The self-styled progressive sets himself in rhetorical opposition to Big Business, but the corporate manager often suffers from the same fatal conceit as the economic étatist — an unthinking, inhumane preference for uniformity, consistency, regimentation, and conformity. It is no surprise to see Apple and Walmart joining forces here against the private mind. There is a reason that the atmosphere and protocols of the corporate human-resources office are a great deal like those of the junior-high vice-principal’s office: All reeducation facilities have a little something in common.
“I expect to die in bed,” Francis Eugene Cardinal George famously remarked. “My successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.” Perhaps it will not come to that. But we already are on the precipice of sending men with guns to the homes and businesses of bakers to enforce compliance with dictates undreamt-of the day before yesterday.
Yes, render unto Caesar, and all that. But render only what is Caesar’s — and not one mite more.
— Kevin D. Williamson is roving correspondent for National Review.