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.