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.