Will Social Conservativism Win the Day?

Over at The Wall Street Journal, James Taranto argues that regardless of the outcome of the GOP’s presidential nomination, Rick-Santorum style social conservatism will grow in size and importance:

Even if Rick Santorum is not the next president, and even if Barack Obama crushes him in the general election (the latter, though not the former, is a big if), social conservatism will continue to grow in size and importance over the next couple of decades. That is to say, if Santorum loses, it will be in part because he is ahead of his time.

The social dislocation caused by feminism and the sexual revolution demands a political response, and so far the left has nothing to offer apart from bankrupting the country with more entitlements. It’s encouraging to see a youngish left-wing feminist like Rosin have an inkling that there’s a problem, but until the left starts thinking creatively about solutions, which will require a reconsideration of orthodoxies that date back to the 1960s and ’70s, the social right will be the only game in town.

Taranto’s argument is not only provocative but also contrarian. Many socially conservative intellectuals say their movement is ebbing because of demographic trends: the ranks of secular Americans are growing while those of the highly religious are declining. How can social conservatives expect, to use a Newt neologism, to win the future? After all, demography is destiny.

Taranto does not acknowledge the demographic argument, and he should have done so. But this does not invalidate his argument. His argument is political in nature: The left’s response to the sexual revolution is so dismissive, tin-eared, and politically unviable, the right will win the day. Demography is not destiny. Politics is important too.

I think Taranto’s argument is more sophisticated and accurate than that of Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam. Any social movement can win politically if its opponents don’t play the game well.



  • Alex

    I hope for Catholicism’s sake that social conservatism does not win out. The day that we start legislating morality is the day that we become what we have been fighting against for so long. There is no biblical, moral, divine, natural, or constitutional authority that demands us to force others to act morally, which is the goal of social conservatism. Everyone will be judged after they die; we do not need to punish people for doing things that do not harm anybody or anything but their own immortal selves. If social conservatism becomes mainstream, it will only create more of a backlash against religion and moral people and ideas. We need to fight for our right to practice our religion as we see fit, and then work on educating the rest of the nation. We will not achieve a moral and righteous society through force and coercion; only through education and leading by example.

  • Andy Kirchoff

    for my part, I’d like to see some greater outreach to Latinos (the demographic future of this country). I would suggest that an openness to immigration reform would be a good way to begin the conversation.

  • Marshall Fightlin

    The demographics may or may not be going in the wrong direction at the moment. But we are the ones more much likely to be having children. We are raising them in intact families to be prolife.

    Time is definitely on our side.

  • true believer

    So you are depending on Democrats not playing the game well? And victory will essentially just fall into your laps? Sounds altogether like Marxism stood on it’s head to me. If the demographic is going the other way, towards secularism, how do you expect religious arguments to hold sway? Ahh, miracles! And God is on your side. So just sit back, pray, and reap the rewards of destiny.

    • Kfam6

      God IS on our side. Elections are won or lost, tyrants come and go, good people sometimes have much to suffer, but God is the victor in the end. Mocking those who trust and pray and hope in God in the face of evil is just sad.



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