A very interesting article by the invaluable James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal about the viability of social conservatism, both today and in the future:
“If liberal baby boomers stubbornly refuse to see the damage that their idea of "progress" has wrought, what about younger generations, for whom the sexual revolution was an inheritance, not a choice, and therefore perhaps not an essential component of personal identity, even among those on the left? Suzanne Venker, niece and co-author of the great antifeminist Phyllis Schlafly, is pessimistic, based on her reading of recent articles by two 40ish feminists:
In the widely read November 2011 Atlantic cover story, entitled "All the Single Ladies," singleton Kate Bolick declares that "it's time to embrace new ideas about romance and family--and to acknowledge the end of traditional marriage as society's highest ideal." . . .
Bolick's "All the Single Ladies"--which has been "recommended" 51,000 times on Facebook--is being made into a television series. So now the young people of America will get this message crammed down their throats every week. That should make for some good partnerships down the road, don't you think?
Indeed, Bolick is in good company--not just with Hollywood but with like-minded pontificators such as Hanna Rosin, who wrote a similar article last year called "The End of Men"--also in The Atlantic, and also widely read. The online version of this article incorporates a video in which Rosin (and her daughter) conclude, while sitting at a table opposite her son and (very emasculated) husband, that "girls are better than boys."
We see it differently. Having read the two Atlantic pieces, we find reason for encouragement in both. It's true that Rosin's video is deeply disturbing...
Yet she does acknowledge that the unbalancing of relations between the sexes has produced social problems:
It is fabulous to see girls and young women poised for success in the coming years. But allowing generations of boys to grow up feeling rootless and obsolete is not a recipe for a peaceful future. Men have few natural support groups and little access to social welfare; the men's-rights groups that do exist in the U.S. are taking on an angry, antiwoman edge. Marriages fall apart or never happen at all, and children are raised with no fathers. Far from being celebrated, women's rising power is perceived as a threat.
If the middle three sentences of that paragraph are accurate, then so is the perception Rosin describes in the last sentence. It is a good sign that a left-wing feminist like Rosin can acknowledge the problem.
As for Bolick, her agenda seems to be therapeutic more than political. At age 29, she dumped a boyfriend--who was, in her telling, a perfectly decent, attractive guy--because "something was missing." A decade later, she realizes that her expectations were unrealistic and her prospects of marriage are slim.
Now she wants society to change in order to assist her in rationalizing away her regret. ... That's not politics, it's self-absorption.
Here is a prediction: 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.”
I think this is about right. These days, social conservativism is mostly a reaction to the Sexual Revolution, and the great damage to society that it caused: plummeting birth rates, the breakdown of the family structure and the rise of fatherless families. Social conservatives just want is a return of the stern Calvinist elders of New Rochelle, circa the Dick van Dyck Show.
But, in spite of these modest goals, so-cons have been politically inept to a comical degree. All they seem to do is repeat preach-the-choir arguments like “it’s against morality” and “it’s against my religion”. Swell. The problem is that for many voters, the sexual freedoms of the 60’s are not against their morality or religion. They are perfectly fine with that stuff, even if they don’t exercise those liberties. So what do you say to them? How do you convince these voters that you do not embody H. L. Mencken’s definition of a Puritan: “somebody with a brooding fear that somehow, somewhere there is somebody out there having fun.”
To win them over, social conservatives must first recognize that there is no going back. So-cons are often accused of wanting to go back to the 1950’s world of Ozzie and Harriet. Many will reply, so what’s wrong with that?
What’s wrong is that the 1950’s begat the 1960’s. And I don’t want to go back to that.
It has to be acknowledged is that the New Morality was partly a reaction to real social problems that then existed: the chief one being bored housewives. Historically, women were not bored. Traditional families worked together doing farm labour: mother, father and all children over 7. However, by the 50’s, the economy had advanced to the point where many women were underutilized; like Betty Draper in Mad Men, sitting around nervously smoking and popping tranquilizers while her husband is away all day taking on the world. Women needed to get into the workforce en mass, and to accomplish that, their political and social status needed to be raised considerably.
Nevertheless, a lot of the moral changes that accompanied feminism were wildly destructive. Dispassionate, analytical arguments detailing the societal destruction created by the flower child ethos exist, but you need to seek out the writings of people like Charles Murray, James Q Wilson and Theodore Dalrymple to find them. Obviously, the reliably left-wing MSM ignore this stuff as a matter of course, but to a large degree so do the spokesmen of social conservatism! They are too busy counting f-bombs on Howard Stern to make compelling arguments.
I think Taranto is right: if Santorum loses because of social conservatism, it is because he is ahead of his time; but I think he wouldn’t be ahead of his time if he spoke in terms understandable to the average secular American rather than via a religious devotion that those voters simply lack.