Hillary Clinton’s nomination speech at the Democratic National Convention put a capstone on perhaps the worst political week for religious conservatives in living memory. It began a week ago at Republican convention, where one featured speaker mocked the “fake culture wars” and the thrice-married GOP nominee didn’t even deign to mention abortion and confined his support of religious liberty to the right of pastors to politic from the pulpit — hardly the most burning issue of our time.
The hits kept coming as the Libertarian party’s Gary Johnson foreclosed the possibility of a meaningful protest vote by breaking with decades of libertarian orthodoxy to declare that religious freedom “as a category” is a “black hole.” His extended remarks are, in fact, mind-boggling:
I mean under the guise of religious freedom, anybody can do anything. Back to Mormonism. Why shouldn’t somebody be able to shoot somebody else because their freedom of religion says that God has spoken to them and that they can shoot somebody dead?
There’s a word for this — idiotic. That’s the kind of reasoning one hears from freshman campus radicals, not from two-term former governors, and it betrays not only a complete history of centuries of religious-liberty jurisprudence but also a hostility to people of faith that’s simply breathtaking.
So, no, Gary Johnson isn’t a viable choice, religious conservatives.
Then, of course, came the Democratic Convention and Hillary Clinton. While Hillary certainly made a play for voters who are terrified of Donald Trump, her message to religious conservatives was clear — the culture war continues. She supports taxpayer-funded abortion on demand and will doubtless double down on the LGBT social revolution. The liberty and autonomy of churches, religious schools, and religious individuals is in grave peril.
In other words, when it comes to the culture war, the Democrats’ message is “charge!” The Republican message is “retreat!” And the Libertarian nominee quite simply seems to hate Christians.
A political movement built through decades of argument that faith, family, and respect for life are the cornerstones of our culture can’t throw away its political capital on the altar of a man who — best case — simply doesn’t care and — worst case — will wreck the Christian political witness by tying their support to a dangerous, race-baiting pathological liar.
There is an alternative. Christians can preserve their witness — and maintain their political capital — by voting only for those candidates who demonstrate sincere commitment to life and religious liberty. That means fighting to preserve conservative congressional majorities and using their platforms to elevate politicians of sincere conviction to prepare for the next campaign season. The message should be clear — if you’re not with us, you’re not winning.
We know the Democrats will continue to undermine people of faith regardless of conservative Christian votes. If even a man like Donald Trump can count on Evangelicals, then the GOP will feel free to pursue power without regard to constitutional principle, content in the knowledge that its faithful Christian puppies will eagerly follow — wagging their tails at even the thought of crumbs from the table.
The social-justice Left has such a stranglehold on the Democratic party that for decades the Democrats have staked out extreme positions on abortion and enforced absolute discipline on judicial picks. The Democratic culture warriors simply do not consent to compromise, much less surrender.On the right, meanwhile, you will actually see religious conservatives act indignant at people of faith who balk at supporting a man who declares that Planned Parenthood does “wonderful things” and attacked dissenters as “so-called conservatives.” They’re indignant at the notion that Christians would turn away from a man who demonstrates aggressive, persistent ignorance on economic and foreign policy because there’s a chance — just a chance — that he might nominate a decent Supreme Court justice. They’re indignant that faithful Christians who’ve long called for integrity in politics won’t support a man who’s demonstrated faithlessness to his family and indifference to the truth.
Honestly, it’s pitiful. Is the Christian conservative movement so weak and so insecure that it will throw away its vote so easily? A vote for Trump is a declaration of irrelevance, a declaration that Christian support is unconditional so long as one can argue that the other side is marginally worse. The cultural Left shows no such weakness. Not coincidentally, it is winning. The Christian Right would do well to learn from its opponents’ resolve.
— David French is an attorney, and a staff writer at National Review.