It was fun while it lasted, but like all battles in the culture war, conservatives threw in the towel. After great representives of the free market like Wal-Mart and NASCAR took the side of the LGBT community, Indiana and Arkansas backed away from their Religious Freedom Restoration Acts.
The GOP taking the side of big business against small businesses is nothing new, but the fact it was over an issue dear to the hearts of social conservatives is. It does signal the raw fact that the Republican Party cares far more about economic concerns than anything else, especially social conservativism.
Take Jeb Bush for example. It was only 11 years ago that his brother won a second term in the White House thanks, in large part, to Dubya’s relentlessly campaigning on the promise that he would enact a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Earlier this week, Jeb tried to capture his older brother’s appeal to evangelicals by “standing” with Indiana Governor Mike Pence and his state’s RFRA. Later this week, Jeb showed his resolve and reversed his RFRA support before Silicon Valley tycoons. You got to give the younger Bush brother credit: he always let’s America know where his priorities are.
Meanwhile, Pence himself called on his state legislature to bow to economic pressure and geld the legislation of any real purpose. His compatriot in Arkansas vetoed his state’s legislation and declared at a nationally-televised press conference that his state would not tolerate discrimination in any form.
Besides showing what spineless mediocrities these men are, it revealed what’s the desire of all conservatives—they just want to be left alone. If these laws cause undue stress and rocks the boat way too much for comfort, they’ll cave and acquiesce to the demands of their enemies—even if it violates their supposed values and throws an important constituency under the bus. As several liberals sneeringly asked, what do Republicans care more about: religion or money?
The RFRA “fight” probably answered that question.
Everything conservatives do is defined by the phrase “just leave me alone!” It’s why they lose. It’s why they won’t fight. It’s why they throw allies under the bus. It’s why they care about irrelevant issues. It’s why they're weak. It’s why they’ve let this country wither away, despite loving it so much. When you begin with the mindset that you’re the weaker party trying to fend off a stronger aggressor who won’t leave you alone, you’ve already conceded the higher ground to your opponent. Conservatives, in spite of their macho posturing and appeal to traditional folks, always portrays themselves as the aggressed—the victim of big government or some form of political correctness. But, unless it involves Israel or “fiscal” issues, conservatives won’t press the attack and will instead whine for relief.
In life—and in politics—playing weak and praying for the pity of your enemy is a piss-poor strategy for victory. In fact, it will only encourage your opponent to demand more and invite further attacks. Just look at how liberals are golf-clapping the Arkansan governor’s veto, yet are still demanding more and that his decision is simply not enough. When you give a foe on the brink of success an inch, they will take a mile.
And that’s what the Left is doing right now. Conservatives came out with legislation that they were not willing to fight for against rabid opponents who were willing to bring the wrath of God down upon any state that dared sign RFRA into law. Guess who won. The LGBT “civil rights” cause has moved the goalpost even further down following the humiliation of Indiana. It’s very likely that the Supreme Court will legalize gay marriage throughout the land, but now with this week’s events on record, LGBT advocates can demand full social acceptance of same-sex marriage and have the backing of every major corporation, every major celebrity, and every major newspaper. . .and it’s all thanks to the cravenly, sackless behavior of men like Governor Pence. If Pence and others had chosen to stand up and not cede the moral high ground to the anti-RFRA crowd, they might’ve had a fighting chance.
Instead, they spent all their time on the backfoot, desperately trying to claim RFRA wouldn’t open the door for discrimination against gays. They were losing at the start with that premise. It’s no wonder they gave up the fight entirely.
This is just another in a long list of examples of why conservatives are useless. If they can’t stand up for their own values, how can we expect them to stand up for our own? Especially when they’re arguing that businesses need to discriminate to prevent haters and Nazis from shopping at their stores. Conservatives merely want to preserve the status quo. . .whatever that may be. The new status quo states that there is no legitimate reason not to serve a gay wedding, and most conservatives will adjust to it. The ones who don’t get pushed further out into the realm of the unwanted and unwelcomed.
The RFRA battle isn’t the only case that demonstrated this pattern this year. In February, Alabama’s Chief Justice Roy Moore tried with all his might to halt a federal court order that imposed gay marriage upon his state. While Moore fought it, most of his right-of-center colleagues went along with it—in spite of 81% of the state voting to ban same-sex marriage a few years earlier. Most of the counties in the state refused to heed Moore’s declaration to halt issuing marriage licenses and the Republican governor supported following the federal court order.
Like in Indiana, the Republican leadership abandoned its constituency and went along with the demands of outsiders. However, unlike the RFRA fight, Alabama had a powerful conservative who was willing to fight (in vain) for his state’s law. In Indiana’s RFRA battle, the only public face for the other side is the lowly owners of a South Bend pizzeria who said they wouldn’t serve a gay wedding. The fact that anyone, gay or straight, would order pizza for their wedding is a severely overlooked fact, but the owners are more hapless victims than cultural warriors.
With that in mind, there’s many things to learn from the RFRA controversy.
The most obvious one is that the Republican Party will not stick up for their most basic principles. RFRA had it all: states’ rights, religious liberty, business rights, free association, and the interests of evangelical Christianity. And they surrendered after less than a week of pressure. The Republican Party officially told America it was cruising down the path towards irrelevance this week. It also shows a party slowly cutting off social conservativism as that is now too disruptive for the “business community” to preserve.
The more important thing to learn is that we can never win by demanding to be left alone. Our enemies don’t want to leave us alone—they want to eliminate us. As conservatives have demonstrated, fighting on your backfoot leaves you more prone to attacks and all but ensures that you will lose. You have to meet the Left with the same vigor, same passion, and same righteousness to have a fighting chance and you cannot, under any circumstance, cede the moral high-ground. The mainstream Right always manages to do just that—we shouldn’t follow in their footsteps.
Freedom of association is no longer a respected value in our society, especially with the Left. That’s why the “leave me alone” defense is no longer sufficient. Instead, we must articulate values that turn the orthodoxy on its head and have the conviction of knowing that we are on the right side of history. Only then can we hope for victory.