If you’re not with us, you’re against us. President Bush popularized this expression after 9/11 to describe his foreign-policy doctrine: Countries couldn’t support or indulge terrorists and be our friends at the same time. But his detractors quickly turned it into a fairly paranoid vision of domestic political life, as if Bush had been talking about domestic opponents and dissenters.
The irony is that few worldviews better describe the general liberal orientation to public policy and the culture war. The Left often complains about the culture war as if it’s a war they don’t want to fight. They insist they just want to follow “sound science” or “what works” when it comes to public policy, but those crazy knuckle-dragging right-wingers constantly want to talk about gays and abortion and other hot-button issues.
It’s all a farce. Liberals are the aggressors in the culture war (and not always for the worse, as the civil-rights movement demonstrates). What they object to isn’t so much the government imposing its values on people — heck, they love that. They see nothing wrong with imposing their views about diet, exercise, sex, race, and the environment on Americans. What outrages them is resistance or even non-compliance with their agenda. “Why are you making such a scene?” progressives complain. “Just do what we want, and there will be no fuss.”
Consider President Obama’s decision to require most religious institutions — including Catholic hospitals, schools, etc. — to pay for contraception, sterilizations, and the “morning after” pill. When “Obamacare” was still being debated, the White House had all but promised Catholic leaders that it would find a compromise to spare the Church from the untenable position of paying for services that directly violate their faith. Now that Obamacare is the law, the administration says the Church, like everyone else, must fall in line.
Or consider the still-raging controversy over the Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s entirely reasonable — albeit very poorly handled — decision to withdraw its funding of Planned Parenthood, America’s largest abortion provider. The Komen foundation is singularly dedicated to raising research money for, and awareness about, breast cancer. It’s the folks with those pink ribbons. The organization decided to withdraw its comparatively meager funding in part because Planned Parenthood doesn’t offer mammograms. (Planned Parenthood’s president, Cecile Richards, was caught misleading people on this very point last spring.)
Other factors included the fact that Planned Parenthood is under investigation by Congress and the obvious but unstated fact that the organization is wildly controversial. It’s this last point that infuriates the Left. Pro-choice activists and their allies believe that Planned Parenthood should not be controversial, nor should abortion be up for discussion, either. If you have a problem with either, it is because you are an ideologue, an extremist, or a zealot opposed to the interests of womankind. And any attempt to suggest that abortion should offend the consciences of mainstream Americans, never mind such a revered organization as Komen, is simply unacceptable.
It’s clearly not about the money. Komen’s $600,000 in donations amount to less than .01 percent of Planned Parenthood’s budget (as opposed to the nearly half that comes from taxpayers). It’s about making it very clear: Resistance is not just futile, but dangerous.
That was evident almost immediately. Komen’s website was hacked, its Wikipedia page filled with smears. Various allegedly objective news outlets rallied to Planned Parenthood’s defense as if the behemoth abortion provider was a victim of the tiny little breast-cancer foundation.
Komen apologized and seemed to offer a reversal of its policy. This “just goes to show you, when women speak out, women win,” responded House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
This, of course, is ridiculous propaganda. Women are not a monolithic political bloc and were not unanimously opposed to Komen’s decision. Indeed, roughly half of women are pro-life and, you can be sure, Komen will lose donations from women and men who do not want to see their donations going to abortion providers. But for a certain type of upper-class liberal woman, it simply must be asserted, if not believed, that there is only one acceptable definition of a woman’s perspective when it comes to issues such as abortion.
You can understand why Komen wants to get out of the culture-war crossfire. It just wants to spend its finite resources on the race for a cure. But that’s not good enough. The real motive behind this backlash is to make it very clear: You must choose a side — ours. And once you choose our side, you can never change your mind without severe consequences. And what is true of liberal politics is also true of liberal public policy. As the Obama administration has made clear to the Catholic Church, there is no neutrality, no safe harbor from liberalism’s moral vision. You’re either with us, or against us — which means we shall be against you.
— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. You can write to him by e-mail at JonahsColumn@aol.com, or via Twitter @JonahNRO. © 2012 Tribune Media Services, Inc.