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When people fill out a ballot, or make any other choice, the decision-making occurs in the frontal lobe of their brain, in a process pri­marily informed by moral judge­ments.

I learned that this summer from Arthur Brooks, pres­ident of a leading think tank, the American Enter­prise Institute. He said that the case for con­ser­vatism cannot be made with precise eco­nomic flow charts and moun­tains of data. Rather, people are moved by their value judg­ments, and that is where political per­suasion must occur. To simply make an eco­nomic argument for con­ser­vatism is to divorce the moral com­ponent of law, and to deny that the law serves to instill dis­tinc­tions between right and wrong in society.

Gov. Mitt Romney failed to res­onate with voters because he focused on numbers when everyone else was talking values.

Repub­licans, and social con­ser­v­a­tives in par­ticular, have pro­moted con­sis­tently the values held by a majority of Amer­icans: the sanctity of life and mar­riage, the preser­vation of reli­gious liberty, and the proper limits of gov­ernment. The role of gov­ernment is to protect life and liberty. If we declare social con­ser­vatism dead, we cede the issues of life and mar­riage to those on the left waging a social engi­neering crusade with a rel­a­tivistic and often even nihilistic moral code.

We didn’t lose this election because of our pro-life and pro-mar­riage platform, we lost because we failed to artic­ulate the deeper values behind those policy posi­tions, and let democrats control the terms of dis­cussion. After his con­tro­versial rape com­ments, Indiana Repub­lican Senate can­didate Richard Mourdock lost to a pro-life democrat. The American people haven’t stopped caring about life issues.

We cer­tainly didn’t lose because social con­ser­v­a­tives failed to vote. They turned out in record numbers. According to a post-election survey by the Faith and Freedom Coalition, the evan­gelical vote made up 27 percent of the elec­torate, “the highest share of the vote in modern political history.” Imagine the dis­as­trous outcome if repub­licans aban­doned social issues.

A winning strategy that democrats rec­ognize is to appeal to voter values. Rather than dis­re­garding the moral issues, as some repub­licans would like to do now by throwing social con­ser­v­a­tives out of the party, the democrats place value appeals at the fore­front. They just high­light dif­ferent values such as com­passion, equality, and sin­cerity.

Democrats are winning the gay mar­riage debate through changing public opinion because they’ve made it a values argument and con­vinced a growing number of Amer­icans that mar­riage is a question of liberty. No one wants to be asso­ciated with those who opposed the Civil Rights movement, so social con­ser­v­a­tives should shut up, and the GOP should endorse same-sex mar­riage.

This con­clusion hinges on the flawed assumption that a gay’s right to liberty is being vio­lated. Such logic is like my demanding, as a college student, AARP mem­bership because I identify with and love old people, and then declaring that my liberty has been vio­lated when I am refused. Just as I have every right to become an AARP member when I meet the qual­i­fi­ca­tions, so too do gays have the same right to mar­riage as their fellow cit­izens. Con­ser­v­a­tives need to call “malarkey” on this con­torted view of liberty and emerge as the defenders of reli­gious liberty — the true value com­pro­mised by re-defining mar­riage.

Losing an election does not signify the death of an entire movement, but losing your values is a sure recipe for death to your soul. If the Repub­lican Party abandons the moral foun­dation upon which an entire coalition of con­ser­v­a­tives is built, we will have lost more than just an election. We will have lost our eternal prin­ciples as well.