CPAC, homosexuality, and the crack-up of conservatism
The conservative coalition has always been unstable. And homosexuality may be the issue on which it shatters.
Several groups have announced that they will boycott next month’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) because of its decision to invite the pro-homosexual activist group GOProud to participate.
Dissenting groups include the Family Research Council, Concerned Women of America, The American Principles Project, American Values, the Center for Military Readiness, Liberty Counsel, and the National Organization for Marriage.
Not all conservatives support the boycott. At Hot Air, Ed Morrissey opines that by pulling out, social conservatives create the perception “that they don’t even want to debate their position on homosexuality.”
At Commentary, Peter Wehner says that these groups could give the impression “that they do not have the arguments needed to win on the merits.”
Unfortunately, too many Americans already have that impression — especially younger voters. A 2009 Pew study found that 58 percent of young adults 18 to 29 years old support same-sex “marriage,” compared to 39 percent of the population nationwide.
By voting with their feet, however, social conservatives are not giving up, they are taking a public stand — which creates a forum to make their case more effectively. They should take this opportunity to argue that the practice of homosexuality has a negative impact not just on the family but also on individuals — that it expresses a profound disrespect for a person’s biological identity.
Biologically, physiologically, males and females are clearly counterparts to one another. The male sexual and reproductive anatomy is obviously designed for a relationship with a female, and vice versa.
Homosexual practice thus requires individuals to contradict their own biology. It disconnects a person’s sexuality from his or her biological identity as male or female — which exerts a self-alienating and fragmenting effect on the human personality.
And the logic of alienation will not stop there. Already the acceptance of same-sex relationships is metastasizing into a postmodern notion of sexuality as fluid and changing over time.
For example, an article in the Utne Reader highlights individuals who came out of the closet as homosexual, but were later attracted to heterosexual relationships again. The article quotes psychotherapist Bret Johnson explaining that people today “don’t want to fit into any boxes — not gay, straight, lesbian, or bisexual ones.” Instead “they want to be free to change their minds.”
What we’re seeing, Johnson concludes, is “a challenge to the old, modernist way of thinking ‘This is who I am, period’ and a movement toward a postmodern version, ‘This is who I am right now.’”
In other words, yesterday I was straight, today I may be homosexual, and tomorrow I could be bisexual. One’s psychosexual identity is said to be in constant flux.
In the past, homosexuals employed the defense that they were born that way. But now they are beginning to embrace the postmodern idea that you can be anything you want to be along a sexual continuum.
This contradicts conservatism at its philosophical core. Conservatism bases human rights on the recognition that there are certain non-negotiable givens in human nature, prior to the state, which the state is obligated to respect.
As political scientist Philippe Beneton explains, in conservatism, equality “is grounded in the recognition of what is human.” By contrast, in liberalism, equality “is founded on the claim that nothing is specifically human” — that human nature itself is a social construction, something we make up as we go along, including our psychosexual identity.
In that case, however, there is nothing in the individual that is given, which the state is therefore obligated to respect. Liberalism undermines the basis for inalienable human rights.
The CPAC walkout is a chance to highlight what is at stake. Jesse Hathaway at NewsReal Blog defends CPAC, saying “I’m a bit fuzzy on why it matters what a person does in the privacy of his or her bedroom, as long as it doesn’t affect me.”
But it does affect him — and everyone else. Every social practice is the expression of fundamental assumptions about what it means to be human. When a society accepts and approves the practice, it implicitly commits itself to the worldview that supports it — all the more so if the practice is enshrined in law.
If America accepts practices such as same-sex “marriage,” in the process it will absorb the accompanying worldview — the redefinition of human personhood as a purely social construction — which opens the door to unlimited statism, because there is no human nature that an oppressive state could possibly offend.
Those who resist will be compelled by the state to go along, or face penalties for “discrimination.”
Margaret Thatcher used to say, “First you win the argument, then you win the vote.” Instead of caving on this issue, the leaders of CPAC should be vigorously advancing the core arguments of conservatism. Not just to win the vote but to preserve the foundation of the American republic.
NOTE: An earlier version of this article stated that the Capital Research Center is boycotting CPAC 2011. In fact, the Capital Research Center is cosponsoring CPAC 2011.
Nancy Pearcey is the best-selling author of the just-published Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, & Meaning. Described in The Economist as “America’s pre-eminent evangelical Protestant female intellectual,” she has appeared on NPR, C-SPAN and “Fox & Friends.” Pearcey is also author of Total Truth, a columnist with Human Events, and editor at large of The Pearcey Report.