Sometimes you pick the man and the moment. Sometimes he — and it — pick you.
Social conservatives in American politics are facing a question this week: who represents the face of our movement?
Right now is the moment.
We have a few days or at most a week to either choose a leader, or to let history move without us. Doing the latter is a choice to be irrelevant as a force and a movement within the Republican Party, to let other people define us and our movement.
When it comes to standing down, indecisively demonstrating our irrelevance in presidential politics, social conservatives have done this before.
It’s one of the reasons we are not taken as seriously as our numbers deserve. With all our assets, with all the millions of voters who share our values and views, with truth and justice on ours side, we have not yet created political institutions or a political movement that can push the levers of power effectively, much less decisively.
What holds social conservatives back?<
Here’s one big part of the problem: Our fear of losing — especially losing the public perception of influence within the GOP coalition by having our candidates lose.
Leaders emerge from circumstance. You can spot the leaders because those are the guys who stand up, rather than stand down, who rush into the kitchen to take the heat when a media fire starts blazing.
We social conservatives tend to hesitate to back our own heroes, because we are afraid they may lose. Then we hop aboard the winners’ bandwagon (extracting certain pro forma concessions), for fear of appearing weak.
That’s why social conservatives are so often in the position of going on national television and threatening to stay home and let the other guy win unless we get our way.
For fear of appearing weak, by losing, we make ourselves as a movement weak and ineffective over and over again.
Let us pause for a moment to consider another model for political engagement: The Club for Growth. The Club for Growth exists to move the Republican party towards a low-tax, pro-growth economy. When they first set out to primary Republican “RINOs” who voted for tax increases, they lost most of the races they targeted, at first. But they quickly built a reputation as a force to be respected, because they were not afraid to lose on principle.
If you only enter races where you know you are going to win, you are not relevant. You aren’t important. People may love you but they do not respect you. You get a seat at the table and eat whatever humble pie the big boys serve you.
Now is the moment that has been given to us: the moment when social conservatives as a movement change that dynamic and pick a horse (or rather a man) in this election contest.
There are only a few days for us as a movement to decide: relevant or not relevant. Stand up or stand aside.
If we choose to stand up and be relevant, the question is: who?
We move from the moment to the man.
Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum or Ron Paul?
Many of you will be surprised, given the media narratives, to hear Ron Paul included as one of the potential options, but I think its time after Paul’s second place finish in New Hampshire, to take his campaign seriously…. Frankly, Ron Paul appeals to many evangelical Christians as a man of principle. They, like he, favor less government. Many see him as pro-life, even though the National Right to Life Committee opposes his record. He’s an “incorruptible” a politician of principle.
In New Hampshire, he got one out of five evangelical votes — in other words his fair share. He almost won Iowa. Only a last-minute intervention by the National Organization for Marriage and its effective anti-Paul ad prevented him from becoming the leader of the social conservative movement, crowned by an Iowa Caucuses win!
That would be a disaster for our movement, because Ron Paul is the candidate of the pro-gay marriage Republicans, who want to minimize social conservatism within the party. Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who endorsed not only a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) but also a radical bill to strip Catholic Charities of any adoption funding if they don’t do gay adoptions — but who is a strong prolife vote — is their model for the future of the GOP party.
Ron Paul has backed away from his vote for DOMA. He has played footsie with endorsing gay marriage. He has refused to criticize judges who impose gay marriage on the states and he has not come up with a plan to stop it.
His new marriage position — abolishing marriage as a legal status — was the radical feminist position in the 1970s. Can Ron Paul now become the social conservative retreat, an acceptable alternative to taking the heat by standing up for marriage?
That’s what a vote for Ron Paul means, in the larger strategic sense, for social conservatives. I say no. The emergence of Ron Paul as a force in the GOP coalition makes it more urgent we find a candidate, not less.
That leaves Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum.
I have written extensively elsewhere (in my syndicated column and through this action alert) about why social conservatives should rally for Rick Santorum.
Fundamentally it comes down to this: when the guy who has taken more heat for your issues, year in and year out, who has never backed down, and who has paid the price for his courage — even to the point of seeing his family name (which means literally “holiest of holies”) turned into an obscene word by a leading gay activist (who now has an show on MTV) fights his way into contention, we all face a choice.
What are those years of public service and courage to our cause worth to us?
Back in August we might have the luxury of picking and choosing among the pro-life, pro-marriage alternatives that in theory make the most sense electorally.
Now, the one guy who has shown, in an election by winning votes, that he is a contender for the nomination is Rick Santorum.
Can we rally behind Newt Gingrich who is now standing up for social conservative issues because he needs our votes but whose past — including his political past — gives us no assurance at all that he is doing so out of deep conviction.
Where was Newt Gingrich in the fight for the federal marriage amendment? I don’t recall seeing him say even as much as Mitt Romney on our behalf back then.
A man who demonstrates, even in his attack on Mitt Romney, that he’s willing to craft the argument that serves, at the moment, if it makes him a “world historical transformational figure”?
“Can we trust Mitt Romney?” Gingrich’s campaign ads now ask, but when I see that tag line I have to ask: “Can we trust Newt Gingrich?”
How can I trust the future of our country, or of our movement to man I would not trust to take care of my daughter?
To rally behind Newt Gingrich over the nation’s most prominent (and therefore most-hated) social conservative elected official — would be to commit suicide as a movement.
Sometimes you pick the man and the moment, and sometimes they pick you.
I cannot promise you that Rick Santorum can fight his way to victory for the GOP nomination. I can promise you, he is the best chance social conservatives have to demonstrate that we — and our issues — matter.
Thanks for listening to me.
I value so much your thoughts, your opinions and your prayers.
P.S. Can you pass this newsletter on to one friend who cares about life, marriage and religious liberty? Go to www.culturewarvictoryfund.org to thank Rick Santorum for standing up for life, marriage and religious liberty. Regardless of whom you support for president, ultimately, can we show that values voters matter?