The Corner

Politics & Policy

‘But They Are Worth Preserving All the Same’

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, our David Pryce-Jones wrote a book called “The War That Never Was.” That was the title in Britain. In America, the book was published as “The Strange Death of the Soviet Union.” For the past few years, I have been writing, on and off, about the strange death of social conservatism.

Social conservatism used to be a big force on the American right and in the Republican party. And then . . .

When I write about this issue, many people tell me, “Your social conservatism is a luxury we can’t afford anymore. We have a Left to crush. And when we do, maybe we can return to social conservatism. Your goody-goody Romney and all the rest.”

(I am quoting only the polite ones.)

Have you heard about Dennis Hof? He has just won the Republican nomination for a state legislative seat in Nevada. He beat the incumbent to get the nomination. According to Wikipedia, he is a brothel owner, a restaurateur, and the star of the HBO series Cathouse. He owns seven brothels. And he wrote a book called “The Art of the Pimp.”

Hof was a Ron Paul Libertarian. In fact, he ran as a Libertarian in 2016, coming up short. Then he switched to the Republicans. His campaign issued a press release in December 2016: “Hof said the election of Donald Trump, with the support of many social conservatives, made his decision to switch parties much easier.”

That is a significant statement.

Running this year, Hof campaigned with Roger Stone, the old Trump hand, and GOP hand. After winning the primary earlier this week, Hof told the Associated Press, “It’s all because Donald Trump was the Christopher Columbus for me. He found the way and I jumped on it.” Out on the trail, Hof called himself “The Trump of Pahrump” (Pahrump being an unincorporated town in Nye County, Nev.).

In the past, I have spoken of the “Howard Sternification” of the American Right and the Republican party. Alternatively, the “tabloidification.” Dennis Hof continues the trend (although I acknowledge the special nature of Nevada).

The Weekly Standard published an editorial on Hof and his meaning, and the following lines struck a chord with me:

The sacredness of the traditional family, the reality of fixed moral standards, the virtues of sincere religious observance, and the importance of personal character — these are what an earlier generation perhaps mawkishly called “family values.” But they are worth preserving all the same, and conservatives who hide them under a bushel to win a few elections will lose far more than they gain.

It has often been said that free-market conservatives find themselves a bit homeless these days. What if you blend free-market conservatism with social conservatism? This may make it doubly difficult to find a home. The Right has shape-shifted, but may shift again, as shapes do.

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