Politics & Policy

Social Conservatives’ Big Problem: We Lack Power (and How to Fix It)

(Helder Almeida/Dreamstime)

Ellen DeGeneres is very unhappy.

New York’s Andrew Cuomo, and the governors of four other states, are banning official travel to Mississippi.

Charles Barkley is asking the NBA to take the All-Star Game away from North Carolina. PayPal is cancelling plans to expand there. And more than 100 corporations are attacking North Carolina over a bill protecting women from having to share bathrooms with transgender biological males.

Meanwhile the president’s administration has unilaterally redefined the gender-discrimination provisions of Title IX so that its rules forbidding gender discrimination now forbid “LGBT discrimination.” Meaning: Your daughter must shower with transgender biological males or else her school district will lose all federal funding.

All this is in response to fairly minor efforts to prevent courts and administrative agencies from taking away the rights of gay-marriage dissenters — or, in the case of North Carolina, protecting the privacy rights of women — and just a few short months after Houston’s liberal Democratic voters told elites just how unpopular such a measure was at the ballot box.

RELATED: The Left’s Dishonest Freakout over Mississippi’s Religious-Freedom Bill

What does this show us?

This is not about having the best arguments: There is no good argument for forcing little girls to undress in front of strangers with penises. The Human Rights Campaign only has to call it vile or “hateful” or anti-gay and it’s enough to unleash an explosion — and enough to get many GOP governors like Georgia’s Nathan Deal to fold.

It doesn’t matter if those accusations are true or not. As social conservatives, our problem is not that we lack arguments. Yes, the best scientific evidence suggest transgenderism is a real phenomenon, a form of mental misattribution not unlike others (which is why for some men it seems as natural to decide it feels better to identify as a dragon woman), but that doesn’t mean we should allow biological males to use the women’s locker room. We know ordinary people do not support this stuff. That is not our problem.

#share#Our problem is a problem of power: Where does it come from and can we get some?

Let us face up to exactly where we are today: Call it “Maggie’s Five Big Truths about Why Social Conservatives Lose.”

Maggie’s first Big Truth:

1) The Left controls the narrative, and they do not care about truth or fairness to dissenters — only “social justice.”

Social justice means, to the Left, the expansive use of government power to expand their own. We see this in other contexts (such as Ferguson). But it is particularly true when it comes to what the Left defines as a gay right, which has made the sensibility of the gay-male elite the moral arbiter of what is right and wrong in America.

RELATED: Georgia’s Religious Liberty Fight Reveals Christian Right’s Weakened Influence

We first learned this when Arizona tried to pass a minor clarification to its state Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), one that would not actually protect the bakers or the florists, or, indeed, do anything manifestly new. But the storm directed Arizona’s way convinced low-information voters that something mean was being done to gay people. Mitt Romney and John McCain leaped in to legitimate the Left’s view. And Arizona’s Republican governor, Jan Brewer, folded and vetoed the bill.

It’s not that our arguments lack force, it’s that under current conditions of power, our arguments do not get heard, which brings us to Maggie’s second Big Truth.

2) Crony capitalism is fueling sexual liberalism.

Many of the 100 corporations speaking out about the issue — an issue that does not affect most of their core business interests — are, no doubt, expressing their own values. But it is striking that these firms do not mind running roughshod over so many of their customers’ values. Why? Why are corporations, historically averse to public controversy, wading directly into the culture wars? Part of the reason is that by engaging on this issue, they can cheaply please the regulators in Washington (and the Obama administration). The massive expansion of vague regulations under the Obama administration means that virtually every major corporation in America has some interest in keeping Washington off of their backs: Trouncing gay-marriage dissenters is a cheap strategy to curry favor.

RELATED: American Jacobins: Sexual Revolutionaries Prepare the Battlespace for a De-Christianized America

The very first corporation that I saw get involved in fighting the voters who dissent from gay marriage was Indiana’s Cummins, Inc. — primarily an engine manufacturer. Cummins has no problem moving factories to India, which does not have gay marriage, but it threatened Indiana’s voters back in 2013 when they tried to pass a marriage amendment through the legislature. In 2015, Cummins received a $24 million defense contract — “one bid was solicited and one was received.”

But why was this move cost-free? Aren’t there two parties in Washington that corporations need to be concerned about keeping happy? Thus we get to the next of Maggie’s Big Truths:

3) No corporation is afraid of what the Republican party might do to it.

The GOP has demonstrated it will not take a stand for its voters against any business’s perception of its own interests. I don’t know if it is better to be feared than loved when it comes to the human soul, but if a political party hopes to accomplish anything while in power, it is certainly better to be respected than disrespected.

Why aren’t corporations more concerned about disrespecting roughly half the American people? Because of the fourth of Maggie’s Big Truths about Why Social Conservatives Lose:

4) Social conservatives aren’t doing politics.

Before I explain what I mean, let me ask you to answer a simple question: What is the national organization that fights for religious-liberty protections by spending money in federal elections? Currently, there is none. There are many good nonprofits who issue voter guides or get pastors together. There are public-interest law firms galore. These are all good things to have — but there is a hole in the center of our movement.

Social conservatives can’t get much out of politics because we aren’t in politics.

How big is the hole? For my own amusement, I tried to figure out how much money social conservatives (excluding pro-life groups) spent in national elections in 2014 compared to what they spend on 501(c)3 and other nonprofit strategies. I looked for every organization I could find that has marriage or religious liberty in its mission statement and then compared it with election expenditures by either c(4)s or political-action committees (PACs). Then I asked around to major social-conservative donors I know to see if I had overlooked any major organization.

How big is the hole in the center of our movement?

In 2014 pro-family social conservatives invested $251,633,730 in tax-deductible 501(c)3 efforts (excluding pro-life efforts).

How much was spent on direct political engagement, counting both state and federal organizations? $2,484,359.

That 100-to-one ratio of doing politics by indirect versus direct means explains a lot about the relative powerlessness of social conservatism.

Social conservatives can’t get much out of politics because we aren’t in politics. We just talk like we are on television, when the Left allows us to get on television. Meanwhile, we don’t build political institutions that matter.

Social conservatives need to think like a minority and organize politically to protect our interests. Which leads me to Maggie’s fifth Big Truth of social-conservative politics:

5) The most important thing social conservatives could do in the 2016 cycle is to demonstrate to Democrats that extremism in pushing unisex showers on public schools or oppressing gay-marriage dissenters will cost them the White House.

In theory, this shouldn’t be hard to do: A July 2015 Associated Press–GFK poll showed that 59 percent of independents and 32 percent of Democrats agree that when gay rights and religious liberty conflict, religious liberty should have priority. Social conservatives should use the issue on offense — not just to gin up “the base,” but to persuade soft Democrats to abandon the party of anti-religious aggression. If intensive messaging to Democratic voters in a key swing state could move just 10 percent of them to switch their votes, the whole political dynamic of this issue would change.

#related#But proving that would require raising a significant amount of money — say at least $2 million — and demonstrating in a key swing state, such as Ohio or Pennsylvania or Florida, that the Democrats’ anti-religion intolerance against gay-marriage dissenters could cost them something they care about: The White House. Power.

I see no signs yet that any such thing is happening among social conservatives.

But it could.

We should fill the hole in the center of the social-conservative movement by getting into politics for the first time in 50 years. It could happen.


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