Can you stand one more addition to the discussion on the Ahmari-French debates?
The most positive assessment I can make of Sohrab Ahmari’s side of the argument is that many of us on the Right want to believe that we have a free and fair system for expressing our views and attempting to get the government to enact the policies we want, and under the law, we do. But in practice, the deck is stacked particularly high against conservative Christians, and some of our country’s most powerful institutions are less inclined to even give lip service to the concept of treating all citizens and viewpoints with respect or even permitting free expression.
The alliance and ideological monoculture of big media institutions, Big Tech, Hollywood, the rest of corporate America, and educational elites means that publicly arguing for the conservative Christian viewpoint can be not merely ineffective but economically dangerous. Brendan Eich gets tossed from a company he founded, the Little Sisters of the Poor get taken to court if they don’t offer birth control, and somehow YouTube has decided that Dennis Prager is the world’s most dangerous man. Our cultural debates are held with one side having regular access to powerful reinforcements. A drag queen who wants to set up readings in the children’s section of the local public library will usually get celebrated and defended, but the parent who objects will likely get publicly demonized and possibly fired from his job for “hatred” or “intolerance.”
Periodically you’ll see conservatives asking why their side hasn’t formed its own tech giants, its own online social networks, its own far-reaching television media (beyond Fox News), and its own powerful cultural establishments that would ensure that conservative Americans’ voices and beliefs always would have a safe harbor and institutional protections. (Er, maybe it’s partially because $127 million to $177 million of grassroots donors’ money was wasted on PACs that didn’t use it to help the candidates as promised!)
But as Rich observed about the “what and the how,” once you’re done objecting to the state of things, it’s not quite clear what the next step is, beyond various “fight harder!” slogans. Ahmari wants conservatives to “fight the culture war with the aim of defeating the enemy and enjoying the spoils in the form of a public square re-ordered to the common good and ultimately the Highest Good.” Okay, what does that mean in terms of policy proposals and tactics that the conservative movement isn’t doing already?
It’s worth keeping in mind, no matter how we do this, we’re going to get some fierce debates among conservatives about what constitutes the common good.
- If we want a more family friendly culture, what should be done about pop culture that’s full of sex and violence? Do we want the federal government to take a larger role in restricting access to programming deemed objectionable? Forget Game of Thrones and its audience of depraved degenerates like, er, David French; what about, the sleazy, lurid and vulgar tone of, say, professional wrestling? Could you imagine if we had a president who ever partook in all of that . . . er, never mind.
- We can prosecute sex traffickers and unite in disdain against prostitution, but has keeping it illegal in most places proven effective? There are reportedly more illicit massage parlors in the United States than Starbucks cafes.
- The issue of transgender rights seems to be a flashpoint for these debates. Just what do we want to do when some teenager declares that they’re transgender? (A lot of conservatives will prefer the answer, “nothing, because it’s none of my business; that’s an issue for that teen, his or her parents, and maybe the family doctor.”)
- We’re a country that’s founded on Judeo-Christian values that’s also pluralist, so how much say do religious minorities and atheists get in all this?
Mind you, if we’re living in an era of growing anti-Christian attitudes, it is simultaneously occurring as the abortion rate hits a record low, the divorce rate continues its multi-decade decline, and charitable donations to religious organizations continue to rise. We’re that weird kind of post-Christian country where 70.6 percent of Americans identify as Christian.
Finally . . . this is a really awkward moment to argue that American society’s sense of right and wrong, responsibility, accountability and ethics should be shaped by the Catholic Church.