Culture

And Here We Thought We’d Lost the War

(Andrew Harrer/Getty)
Public opinion is swinging back, thanks to progressives’ excesses.

I woke up yesterday morning deeply confused. If there is one thing that I thought I’d learned over the past few weeks, it’s that history has a “side,” and I don’t happen to be on it. My views — pro-life, pro-traditional-marriage — were yesterday’s news. The rainbow White House, rainbow Facebook, and — most important — the rainbow Supreme Court all told me so. The culture war was over. All that was left was the mop-up operation. I should hightail it back to my “house of worship” — which the Left would leave alone (for now), while it purged the academy and the marketplace of the last vestiges of bigotry and backward thinking. It was time to bankrupt the Christian bakers.

All of this was so crystal clear that imagine my confusion when I discovered that since the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision, three separate polls showed that support for same-sex marriage had declined. Not only that, but almost six in ten Americans now support the right of religious business owners to decline to participate in same-sex weddings — a sharp increase. At the same time, Planned Parenthood — the world’s largest abortion provider and the social-justice Left’s favorite organization — was reeling from revelations that its senior leaders appear to just love to talk about selling baby parts. After all, there are Lamborghinis to buy.

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What’s happened? The Social Justice Warriors forgot that most Americans just don’t like mean people. And in one two-week span of American life, millions of SJWs helpfully and unmistakably labeled themselves with their rainbow profile pictures, then proceeded to act like hectoring, condescending, arrogant scolds — loudly and publicly, day after day. They were mean. They mocked Christians, celebrated the plight of a Christian baker’s family as it faced financial ruin for refusing to facilitate a gay wedding, and kept pointing at the Supreme Court and the White House as if they represented some sort of cosmic scoreboard — as if the only response for conservatives was to take their ball, slink away, and go home.

The mere act of engaging the Social Justice Warriors is a win. Your words have the chance to persuade, and their overreaction has a chance to repel.

I’m reminded of the way that the first great wave of political correctness was brushed back. A generation ago, colleges were passing speech codes and proudly calling them speech codes. This was the time when the term “politically correct” was considered a compliment — when the hostility to conservative speech was so profound that conservatives were shouted down in class, sometimes even by the professors themselves. For a while, the angry Left was ascendant. Many students believed — at least for a time — that extreme measures were necessary for the sake of the marginalized and historically oppressed. But then, people just kept being mean. Over time, moderates — including more moderate liberals — rejected the extremes, and by the late 1990s colleges became almost unrecognizably civil. Even today, with a new wave of repression surging across campuses, they still haven’t reached the depths of the Bad Old Days.

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A generation ago, the social-justice Left tried its best to silence the pro-life movement — to treat the very utterance of pro-life sentiment as an affront against women. They failed, utterly. Pro-life speech is still of course constitutionally protected, and the pro-life movement is arguably stronger than it’s ever been. Indeed, it’s just received an incalculable boost through videos that show Planned Parenthood being Planned Parenthood. Unable to learn, the social-justice Left is going back to the old, failed playbook of the 1990s — trying its best to silence cultural conservatives on marriage – and in so doing they are once again showing their totalitarian colors. Once again, they’re being mean. Americans don’t like mean.

The mere act of engaging the Social Justice Warriors is a win. Your words have the chance to persuade, and their overreaction has a chance to repel. So speak merrily, conservative friends, and reap the benefits of liberal rage.

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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