Some Conservatives Losing Touch with Social Values
Published: Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 20:09
There is no doubt about it: Georgetown has drifted a long way from its Catholic roots. Students, faculty members and even Jesuits, while embracing the Church’s concern for the poor, tend to condemn or ignore the Church’s teachings regarding abortion, gay marriage and the like.
This trend naturally reflects the politically liberal leanings of our campus, but surprisingly, it seems increasingly characteristic of conservative students as well. Many of our best and brightest College Republicans have mistakenly come to deny the relationship between fiscal and social conservatism, viewing the latter as a receding cause.
Hannah Miller (COL ’13) recently wrote a piece, titled “Time to Rethink Guns, Gays, Gestation” (THE HOYA, Online, Sept. 11, 2012), acknowledging that following the “inevitable trajectory” of society away from traditional social values is crucial to the GOP’s future viability. She decried both the religious basis of social conservatism and its alleged contradiction with the libertarianism that free-market, small-government conservatives hold dear.
I don’t see any contradiction between libertarianism and social conservatism. Because an unborn child is a distinct human entity, the choice to kill it is not a personal choice. Similarly, the fight for gay marriage — with emphasis on the term “marriage” — has less to do with personal liberty than with mandating official societal acceptance of an alternative lifestyle. More important than what I believe, however, is what Republican voters believe, and Republican voters are not enticed by the “bread alone” of a smaller tax burden.
The lifeblood of the Republican Party is a church-goin’, gun-totin’ folk. They are rare among the urban professionals and privileged ivory-tower types I’ve met at Georgetown, but they’re pretty common in my hometown, a place inhabited by hardy, independent Midwesterners who believe that a living is earned, not given. Privately, they are generous about helping neighbors in a tight spot, but they believe in personal responsibility, and this philosophy extends to their refusal to accept abortion as an escape route from an unwanted pregnancy. Their support is one reason the pro-life cause has not receded — in fact, it has gained adherents — since Roe v. Wade. They are also only slowly becoming more supportive of alternative lifestyles, so while polls show that gay marriage is becoming more popular in society as a whole, the issue is a long way from winning approval within the GOP. To surrender on these social issues would be to betray the front lines of most of the states that Republicans win, in a futile appeal to the fiscal vestiges of conservatism, which are left in liberal bastions like D.C.
I fear that Georgetown Republicans are becoming members of a distant, defensive and ideologically compromised elite, unable to understand and appeal to the voters they may someday represent.
Passionate voters require a sense of moral purpose, and whatever the broader economic rationale, Republicans aren’t going to get that out of stripping dollars from a school lunch program. Democrats certainly manage to draw inspiration from religion — I’ve observed that this campus is drowning in liberal rhetoric framing the “pro-poor” welfare state in terms of Catholic social justice — and for Republicans to subsume their social conservatism to the liberal discourse on separation of church and state is politically dangerous, as well as stupid. Voters get to vote based on their own values, regardless of their source.
Mary Siebenaler is senior in the School of Foreign Service.