I’ve met a lot of social conservatives over the years. It should come as no surprise; after all I’m one too. For some people, the desire to promote all, or a specific, issue(s) in the social conservative agenda is their modus operandi, his or her specific driving force in politics. It could be: abortion, school prayer, gay marriage, obscenity, or a host of other issues relating to social or religious norms. We believe despite the general liberalization of laws and society that we speak in favor of the “silent majority” of citizens who agree with our positions but do not exercise their political voices. In addition, most social conservatives support legislation, as an extension of their religious beliefs, to shape the world in a manner, which they believe, would be pleasing to God.
The problem comes when social conservatives look to the federal government to promote their agenda. By doing so, they put themselves in conflict with both the fiscal conservatives and limited government conservatives. Under a strict interpretation of the Constitution, the federal government has been severely restricted in its powers and involvement in societal issues. The 10th Amendment is, without a doubt, the most neglected amendment and yet, so much of our freedoms and liberties rest with this amendment.
Relying on the federal government is a two-fold problem. First, it grants the government authority that the Constitution doesn’t allow. For example, suppose we pass a pro-prayer in schools law. Once we allow the federal government the power to act on social or economic issues, what happens when the liberals get into power and enact legislation that is contrary to our own? Perhaps they pass a law not allowing prayer in schools or a law, which is favorable to some religion other than our own. What can we do? What is our defense? We can no longer claim the government has no authority to act in such a way, because we just used the might of law to enact our own social legislation when we were in power. And so the federal government continues to grow, at the expense of the rights of the states and the individuals. I ask you consider also the track record of federal government in social issues. Do things get better or worse? Let’s take abortion. Since the federal government claimed jurisdiction over the issue in 1973, have the number of abortions inn this country increased or decreased? A silly question I know. Did it not overturn a number of state laws, including the laws of Virginia, to allow for a far greater number of abortions? We must strip this power from the federal government and allow the states to decide. Will abortion still continue? Yes…I’m certain that a number of states will allow this practice to continue, but at least we can eradicate or vastly reduce this plague in Virginia.
There are a number of otherwise well-meaning social conservatives that will throw the other strains of conservatism aside in order to achieve their social agenda. Although seemingly well meaning, this line of thinking is dangerous to both the social conservative movement and to freedom and liberty as a whole. We all have some sort of grand vision for society, but using the might of the federal government to enforce a worldview leads to trouble. I’d like to see society transformed where violence and profanity are drastically curtailed in the media and the rest of life. A world without abortion…a world where the family is protected…a world where everyone acts morally and honor God. A nice vision I think. But if I use the heavy hand of government to enact such a goal, do I not destroy freedom and create a fascist state? Some might retort, “Who cares?” However, what happens when we enact a fascist theocratic state where some faction is in charge? What happens to the protected rights of those people not in power? Could the Catholics persecute the Protestants? Or the Protestants persecute the Catholics? Or how about the Muslims, Jews, or non-believers? The next thing you know the enemies of the state are quarantined or are even executed in the search for order, uniformity, and stability. Is this the kind of society you desire? Alas, as a result of neo-conservatives, both the nation and the conservative movement have been sliding in this direction. Conservatism can succeed, but, with so many other problems in life, the federal government is the problem, not the solution.
I know the temptation to seek help from the all-powerful federal government, but as citizens in a supposedly free society, we must reject these tactics. Although we may achieve success via these means, such success will only be temporary. We will end up yoking ourselves to this totalitarian state and end up begging our masters to promote some sort social order. Our liberty will be lost and we will have only ourselves to blame.