As progressives know President Obama wasn’t the only one who won on Election Night: from same-sex marriage wins to marijuana legalization to Minnesota’s defeating its proposed marriage amendment, progressive causes seemed to be winning nationwide. And while Democrats didn’t flip the balance of power in Congress, defeats of Massachusetts’ Scott Brown, Missouri’s Todd Akin and Indiana’s Richard Mourdock meant victories for women’s rights and a resounding “no” to forcing motherhood on rape victims. Social conservatives were sent off to ask why and to regroup for 2016.
But as many have noted (and warned against) Tuesday night wasn’t just a victory for the liberal agenda, it was a defeat of the social conservative one. It wasn’t just a vote to continue the liberal program begun in 2008, it was a vote not to switch to a drastically different one. And for its part, the GOP did not “fail to properly frame the conversation”, or to communicate a “vision“, or to “fully communicate their ideas” – voters were awash in hundreds of millions in advertising for months. Rather, the GOP has a fundamental issue with the American public:
The social conservative agenda is a hard sell, and no one wants it. It’s not that social conservatives are backward people, or that they’re irrelevant, old, and white (á la Newsweek).
It’s because we, the American public — we’re human. We have empathy.
Anti-gay bullying, a very real phenomenon, usually involves one (usually bigger) student (or group of students) picking on one student, singling them out for being different, ostracizing them, and often, telling them they are evil. Social conservatives tell the public to side with the bully, and to defend his “religious freedom” to scream “you’re evil” in any way they see fit. They champion the freedom of “ex-gay therapists” to practice toxic quackery to their hearts’ content, and defend parents who subject their children to them.
If a teacher is involved in an anti-LGBT issue, embarrassing a student for wearing a T-shirt or daring to bring their partner to a school dance, social conservatives defend the teacher over the crying student, rallying behind their job and decrying the “liberal agenda in the classroom”.
A rape victim, crying in a hospital, receiving her rape kit, is told the heart-wrenching news that on top of her assault, she is pregnant. Social conservatives like Todd Akin tell the public to consider the needs of the fetus to trump those of the distraught victim, and tell us to elevate the potential of a zygote over the palpable reality of a crushed human being in front of our eyes. They tell us that it is okay, a good thing, for a person to be deprived of sovereignty over their own bodies twice in a row: first by an assailant who put a sperm cell in, then by a government who won’t let her take the embryo out.
A poor mother in the social conservative conversation struggling with 50-hour work weeks is told that she is too lazy if she applies for government benefits, and dreads being called a “welfare queen” if she dares give birth while receiving them. Social conservatives tell us to side with armed ICE officers over crying Mexican children, and then ridicule those who bring up those children for humanizing the issue.
Combined with attacks on social programs, that’s a pretty hard sell in a diverse America.
This is a hard pill to swallow, and transcends any multicultural outreach the GOP wants to do. The social conservative agenda either has to be expunged from the GOP platform – allowing pro-marriage equality libertarians and moderates like Colin Powell to shine – or this will not be the last victory of humanity over impersonal, draconian social protocol at the ballot box.