An open letter to social conservatives

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I know you mean well. You care deeply about all of us, want us to have the best possible life and afterlife, and you feel the need to step in and make sure we don’t screw that up. You’re just trying to look out for your fellow citizens. I also know that you envision your political stance as supportive of small-government, pro-liberty ideals. You think that you’ve done nothing but support freedom for all, while the left does everything within its power to take it away. The problem is, that’s not really the case. In fact, social conservatives and their liberal opponents have a lot in common. You need to recognize that because, at the moment, you’re part of the problem.

Before you face the reality of your situation, you should know that we’re not polar opposites. In a lot of ways, you’re absolutely right on the issues. Social conservatives tend to be big on capitalism and have taken strong stands against the increasing socialization of the United States. You have a long record of promoting personal property rights, usually fight government intrusion into the free market and believe people should live self-sufficient lives. You understand the value of a life lived for your family, are overwhelmingly charitable to the less fortunate and thrive on the protection of our shared American history.

The values by which you live your lives and raise your children are not in question. The problem is that once you move past economic issues, and the outside walls of your own home, you start to force those ideals upon everyone else. Often, you sound an awful lot like the kind of big-government control freaks who you claim to despise.

We’re currently trying to defeat a president who has argued that the Constitution is this nation’s fatal flaw. He’s claimed that the free market system “has never worked.” He’s spent his first term attacking virtually the entire Bill of Rights via a series of bills that directly target the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Tenth Amendments. Along the way, he has decimated your economy, sponsored a government takeover of GM and Chrysler, engaged in an unconstitutional assault on Libya and thrown our global allies under the bus in order to curry favor with our enemies.

Yet, for some reason, your number one priority still seems to be finding a presidential candidate who will support a federal ban on gay marriage.

Without question, small-government conservatives were open to your opinion. We listened as you tried to make a cohesive argument in support of such a ban. Unfortunately, “because God doesn’t like it” is not a provable claim. Nor is it a tenable argument, since he doesn’t like killing people either, yet you (rightfully) have no problem with the death penalty or the killing of overseas terrorists. After spending years claiming that gay marriage would lead to “the dissolution of the American family,” you’ve offered absolutely no evidence to support this theory.

We watched as you applied the same M.O. to debates that have covered myriad issues, both big and small. You’re willing to trade freedom for safety in the War on Terror, are unwilling to admit that prohibition has always been a failing stance and are downright desperate to surrender your First Amendment rights if it means keeping “offensive” music and violent video games out of Wal-Mart. All of this, because despite a lack of evidence, you fear doing nothing will somehow damage your family.

Like those who champion Sharia law, Tenth Amendment be damned, you work toward a day when your morality is enforceable at the federal level — thrust upon the entire nation.

Many of us began the same way, fighting the same fights, trying to make sure that the way we were raised would be the way everyone was raised. The difference is, we’ve realized that if we’re really going to fight to limit the size and scope of the federal bureaucracy, it’s going to have to be done across the board.

Social conservatives, for all their strengths, have failed to recognize that their central political mantra boils down to “I want constitutional freedom and liberty for everyone, as long as I agree with the way they use it. If I don’t, well, we’ll need to clamp down on them.” Unfortunately, their numbers are sufficient to hijack the Republican presidential primaries, and it’s damaging those who would actually shrink our bloated government.

Currently, the morality-based ad campaigns of Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry serve as evidence that coddling the terminally uncomfortable has become more important than dealing with substantive constitutional issues.

If you don’t like a person, for whatever reason, that’s fine. That’s your right as an American. If you’re a Christian and you feel that it’s wrong to live a certain way, by all means, live by that creed and pass those morals on to your children. Just remember, your religion also features free will as a central truth. You’re not supposed to control your neighbor’s life, and it isn’t your job to judge everyone else. Your desire to do so has drawn the political spotlight away from provable issues and drawn attention to nebulous moral debates.

The bad news for the moral majority is that there’s a younger breed of conservative headed their way. It’s the future of the movement they claim to cherish, and it’s far, far less concerned with social issues than the old guard. If we’re going to maintain the United States as a constitutionally limited republic, and roll back the transgressions of past decades, social conservatives are going to have let go of a few sacred cows.

It’s time to make a choice: fight for a truly limited government or lose that battle in a failing attempt to present morality as government business.

Robert Laurie is a Michigan-based conservative columnist and freelance writer. He also runs a daily political commentary blog at RobertLaurie.net.

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