An interesting article in The Daily Beast points out what should be obvious to everyone by now — the GOP may pay lip service to social conservatives, but they haven’t actually done much of anything for them. The interesting part is why — you can’t solve a cultural problem with a political solution. Or stated another way, you can’t legislate morality.
Prohibition demonstrated that a long time ago, but somehow that didn’t stop us from trying a “war on drugs”. So what made anyone think that making homosexuality a crime would eliminate it? Or think that making abortion illegal would do anything other than cause the deaths of desperate women.
In large part the GOP gained power in the last 40 years because they expanded their base beyond the rich, moneyed elites who have always controlled the party by adding (mainly religious) social conservatives. For the rich, this was a marriage of convenience, and for them it was very convenient. As the article puts it:
Now, let’s see who has won, and who has lost, in the ensuing 34 years.
It’s clear that the rich—call them the 1 percent if you like, but I prefer to think of them as the moneylenders whom Jesus threw out of the Temple—have prospered enormously. In 1983, the wealthiest 1 percent were 131 times richer than the average American. In 2009, they were 225 times richer. In 2012, the top 20 percent made $13.5 trillion in income; the entire bottom 80% made $1 trillion.
These are disparities not seen since before the Great Depression. Whether for better or for worse, the ultra-rich have done extremely well in the 30 years you’ve allied with them.
How have you done, in the same period? Not well at all. Not only is gay marriage now the law for over two-thirds of Americans while the value of marriage in general has been declining for decades; not only are television, film, music, and video games more vulgar than we could have imagined in 1980; but more Americans are declaring themselves “Nones,” that is, people of no religious affiliation, than ever before in our history. Sure, some churches are expanding, but overall, your way of life is in steep decline. In short, you are losing horribly.
Ironically, social conservatives should learn from the gay movement, which initially tried a political solution (laws and lawsuits), but saw that the more they tried to force their beliefs on others, the stronger the backlash. They realized that to solve a cultural problem (discrimination against gays) they had to use a cultural solution.
And gays did, with TV shows like Ellen and “Will & Grace” and by breaking down cultural stereotypes in hundreds of other ways. They showed that gays are people with the same hopes and aspirations as everyone else. And it worked. Even gay friends of mine were surprised by how quickly they won the right to marry. And with little or no backlash.
In trying for a political solution, social conservatives have created such a backlash. The face of social conservatism has become shrill politicians and wingnuts like Michele Bachmann and Fred Phelps. No wonder young people are running away from religion. But most Christians are not bigots or homophobes.
Social conservatives are in an abusive relationship with the Republican party. Maybe it is time to break up.
There is a good reason why our founding fathers insisted on a wall of separation between church and state. It was meant to protect religion as much as to protect the state.