What Should Social Conservatives Ask of a Candidate?

A few months before the Supreme Court is likely to rule on gay marriage, the incidents causing concern about what gay marriage will mean for dissenters (especially traditional Christians, Orthodox Jews, and Muslims) multiply:

Gordon College students are banned from tutoring public-school students, because of the college’s embrace of standard orthodox Christian rules (no sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman); the request of its college president for a religious exemption from President Obama has now triggered a possible threat to its accreditation.

Meanwhile, Marquette University (a Jesuit institution) is attempting to strip Professor Scott McAdams of his tenure and his job because he blogged critically about the way a college instructor (and grad student) treated an anti-gay-marriage student.

Kelvin Cochran, whose rags-to-riches rise from Shreveport poverty to police chief of Atlanta is as inspiring as any, was fired for self-publishing for his Bible-study class a book that contains two paragraphs exhorting his fellow Christians to live by Biblical sexual values.

In Lafayette, Calif., parents of 14-year-old public-school students are suing because their children were asked in English class whether their parents would embrace them if they were gay — and then these Christian students were publicly shamed and humiliated when they supported their parents’ values.

A Ford Motor Company worker (contractor) was invited to comment on pro-gay-rights material circulated by the company — and then fired for leaving an anti-sodomy comment on the blog.

Note the similar strategies here: invite or force public comment and then discipline those who say the “wrong” thing.

[...] If the GOP would like to leave a legacy that makes a difference, I would argue for generous anti-discrimination protections for those who favor or oppose gay marriage (unless they work for an organization whose substantial purpose is to favor or oppose gay marriage).

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The Triumph of Mark Burnett

A few days ago, I shook Mark Burnett’s hand.

That would be me and about 50 or so other adoring fans who were gathered at the Motion Picture Association of America with Comcast-NBC Universal executive David Cohen to get a first peek at the new NBC television drama A.D., which will air this Easter Sunday.

“Burnett basically invented the reality-show genre,” Cohen said. “He has 112 Emmys and eleven shows currently on the air.” Including my favorite: the groundbreaking pro-entrepreneur, investment show Shark Tank.

I became a fan the first time I watched the original Apprentice. I had no idea Burnett was a Christian or any kind of political conservative. What I noticed was the reason I found the show so profoundly and oddly compelling, despite my anti-reality-show snobbery: It tapped into a deep dramatic narrative that I almost never saw on TV or in the movie theater, the drama that once launched a series of Horatio Alger best sellers, the drama of “making it” in business. In Hollywood, the businessman was usually the villain, not the protagonist of a moral drama. This kind of story was invisible, despite being the story of so many young people’s lives.

[...] Burnett’s first venture in broadcasting. The Bible, in 2013, gained 100 million viewers and became the most-watched miniseries of the year. In introducing A.D., Burnett proudly pointed to the Academy award–winning team he is able to assemble (“This is not some crappy little Christian programming”) and called the show “The Bible meets Game of Thrones meets House of Cards.”

I should not be surprised a man of this intense creative genius knows the story he is telling. “With two shows I now have on television, A.D. and Shark Tank, we are telling the story of America: Free enterprise and the Bible!” Burnett said.

Read the Full Article Here

The Walker Boomlet -Scott Walker isn’t addressing the principal issue in the 2016 election. – NRO

It’s been a good week for Governor Scott Walker.  He received rave media reviews for his speech at Steve King’s Iowa Freedom Fest.

An unnamed “Republican Party observer” informed the Washington Times that Walker was a smash in Iowa, proving his appeal to all parts of the conservative coalition.

Slate columnist Jamelle Bouie even speculated that the Kochs’ $889 billion network might act as a counter-establishment to the Bush and Romney machines, and “give Walker better ground to stand on. He can run an insurgent campaign, and unlike Mike Huckabee in the 2008 race, he won’t run out of cash. Suddenly, there’s a real alternative to the original consensus candidate . . . ”

Marco Rubio, it turns out, won the informal straw poll of Koch-networked donors at the Ritz-Carlton in Rancho Mirage, Calif., according to Politico, but, no matter, the Walker Boomlet was on.

When I analyze speeches by would-be presidents I am looking for two things: Is the candidate in touch with American voters’ principal economic pain?  Does he or she understand that the big problem the middle class faces is the declining standard of living, caused by the one-two punch of wage stagnation and mild but persistent inflation?

Before you can provide a plausible answer, you have to get the diagnosis right.  At this stage it is for me the first and most important sign of potential political success against the Democrats.

For me, in other words, this issue functions as a girl’s beauty did for Lorelei Lee: “It isn’t everything. But my goodness it certainly helps!”

Read the Full Article at the National Review Online

The Failure of the Monetarist Creed -National Review Online

In the late 1980s, I attended a speech by my friend, the brilliant George Gilder, in which he said: “When I was a single man, all I thought about was sex, and all I wrote about was sex. Now that I’m a married man, all I think about is money, and all I write about is money.”

Marriage doesn’t quite have the same effect on women, apparently, or on me at any rate, because I have been very slow to spend much time thinking about money, either before or after marriage, but it appears to me now that Republicans ought to.

debate took place last week between Paul Krugman and Robert Samuelson on whether Reagan’s supply-side economics had anything to do with the economic boom let loose in the 1980s. Krugman argued that the credit belongs solely to Paul Volcker for squeezing inflation out of the economy. Samuelson agreed that monetary policy was the key, but said that Reagan deserved credit for supporting Volcker while he did the necessary painful work. Both agreed, however, that monetary policy is the key to growth.

Nowadays inflation is not the issue. “Secular stagnation” — meaning widespread stagnation that might well be permanent — and deflation are what the central bankers are worried about.

Consider for example what Larry Summers said this week at Davos: The great danger is that Europe is poised to become Japan and will thus experience a decade or more of economic stagnation. In this context, Summers supports the newly announced European quantitative easing, on the theory that doing something about “secular stagnation” is better than doing nothing. But he warned us not to expect much from it. “I come back to the central importance of demand,” he said. “The focus has to be on providing adequate economic energy, adequate demand, so we avoid these liquidity traps and avoid the problem of secular stagnation. What is striking in Europe today is how much it looks like Japan, seven years in after the bubble. I think Europe is on its way to being the new Japan unless there is a substantial departure.”

Read the Full Article Here

Why Stick With Marriage?

Dear Friends,

My latest column on National Review is a response to two recent books by major family scholars Andrew Cherlin, and Isabel Sawhill–both of whom suggest we should give up on promoting marriage per se and promote stable committed relationships:

I explain why that is not a practical suggestion:

“In Generation Unbound, the Brookings Institution’s Isabel Sawhill regretfully says she no longer believes reviving marriage is possible for the less-educated two-thirds of America. The old marriage norm should be replaced with a new social script: It is wrong to have children that are unplanned. “The old norm was ‘don’t have a child outside of marriage.’ The new norm should be ‘don’t have a child before you want one and are ready to parent.’” How would a young adult know whether he or she is “ready”? Like Cherlin, Sawhill retreats to the idea of “commitment”: “For most people it means completing their education, having a steady job, and having a committed partner.”

Here’s my problem with this nice-sounding new script: I think the majority of young people who have children outside marriage are already doing that, to the best of their limited youthful abilities.

Sixty percent of births to unwed mothers, as Sawhill notes, are to cohabiting women. Most of the recent increase in single motherhood has come from increasing births to women who are cohabiting, not solo moms.

The problem with retreating from marriage as a bright line is that, in practical terms, young women in love are not very good at figuring out whether or not they are in a committed relationship.

A 2008 study by Kathryn Kost and colleagues, found that . . . .cohabitation is one of the most serious risk factors for contraceptive “failure.” In 2002, one out of five cohabiting women reported contraceptive “failure,” double the risk for married women. Compared with never-married or divorced single women, only cohabiting women had a significantly higher risk of contraceptive failure than married women.”

Retreating from marriage to “stable relationships” doesn’t work because cohabiting women believe they are in stable loving relationships, that is one reason they aren’t that motivated to prevent birth. I end with a modest proposal:

“[T]he truth is we simply haven’t tried to do very much to encourage marital childbearing in this country. Before we give up completely, may I suggest one idea that would cost virtually no money at all and would involve no new government program?”

Read the rest of the story here.

NRO: I am Not Charlie Hebdo

The people of Paris and the civilized world, looking for a way to express solidarity after the heinous murders of twelve editors and illustrators, have leapt upon the phrase “I am Charlie Hebdo,” or sometimes,“Nous sommes Charlie!”

The instinct was and is understandable — noble, even — but, alas, it is one I cannot share.

I am not Charlie Hebdo because, well, while I can admire it, I cannot personally imagine dying for the cause of printing juvenile and occasionally borderline pornographic cartoons that mock religion (all religions, he and his colleagues insisted). I could die for my faith, I hope, and my family, certainly, but not for naked cartoons.

I am not Charlie Hebdo because I cannot agree with David Harsanyi that Islam is “not mocked enough” and the answer is to mock more. Respect for the idea of the sacred, and the way people attempt to find God, forbids that pathway to me.

Read the Full Article Here

Daily Beast Quotes Maggie on “Inevitability”, Shift to 2016 Elections

The Daily Beast interviewed Maggie Gallagher on the state of the marriage debate in America.  Asked whether she thinks gay marriage is “inevitable” Maggie responded:

“Nothing is inevitable. ‘Inevitability’ is the progressive substitute for the idea of Divine Providence,” Gallagher, the former president of the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage, told The Daily Beast. “Either God is in charge, or the future hasn’t yet happened and is freely determined. Or God leaves us free.”

Ultimately, 2015 might be the year American anti-LGBT advocates wish they could skip. Asked about potential victories this year for those who oppose gay marriage, Gallagher replied, “I suspect the focus is going to be on 2016[‘s presidential race,] and that social conservatives are going to struggle between choosing a champion and choosing a conventional ‘winner.’”

The full article can be found here.

 

The Catholic Weakness

Last week I wrote about one piece of data that jumped out from the Austin Institute’s fascinating new study, Relationships in America: the Mormon advantage in transmitting traditional Christian practice and views on many things, from life after death to sex and marriage.

Judging from the comments, many people have a hard time separating a sociological analysis from a theological one. Even many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints understandably believe that their particular strain of theology is the key to their relative success. Maybe so. Certainly there is an obvious reciprocal relationship between orthopraxy and orthodoxy (right action and right belief).

But until quite recently, historically speaking, theologically diverse Christian denominations successfully transmitted a marriage culture to their next generations. And other groups in America, with quite different theological views than those of Mormons (for example Modern Orthodox Jews) are also relatively successful at sustaining a distinctive child-rich marriage culture. (The Austin Institute study did not break down Jews into subcategories because the sample size was not large enough to do so.)

Speaking as a Roman Catholic and as an intellectual observer, I want this week to point to another large and important insight that leaps out from the new study data: the relative Catholic weakness. In some sense this is not, of course, news. New York is merging and shutting down parishes to cope with population losses. Progressives are blaming “culture warrior” Cardinal George for a similar loss in the Catholic population of Chicago. Without an influx of Latino immigrants, the shrinking of the Catholic Church in America would be even starker.

The Catholic Church, unlike many other Christian communities, faced a postmodern sexual revolution while in the middle of absorbing massive new changes in church practices, as well as what a fair observer would call equally large disruption in authority structures, after Vatican II. Many Catholic institutions began to lose their distinctively Catholic identity markers: Nuns threw off their habits; Catholic colleges aspired to compete with and resemble their increasingly progressive secular counterparts; partnered gay men became Catholic-school teachers and principals. Cafeteria Catholicism was born and it flourished.

For the Relationships in America study, the Austin Institute interviewed a nationally representative sample of 15,783 people between the ages of 18 and 60; the study separates Catholics by whether they consider themselves “traditional,” “moderate,” “liberal,” or some other kind of Catholic. It also looks at each subgroup’s views and practices by church attendance.

The first thing that leaps out is how divided the Catholic Church in America is, two generations after Vatican II. Traditional Catholic are 5.7 percent of the population; liberal Catholics are slightly more numerous, at 5.8 percent; the plurality of Catholics — 7.5 percent of Americans —  dub themselves “moderate,” while 3.2 percent of Americans choose the label “other” Catholics. The wording of the question may not perfectly map orthodoxy (“traditionalist” Catholics in my world are those who support the Latin Mass, for example, which many perfectly orthodox Catholics are not especially interested in attending).

But the labels are clearly capturing something real, because by every measure in this study (and unsurprisingly), traditional Catholics are more supportive of Catholic teaching and practice than are liberal Catholics, with moderate Catholics falling in between and “other” Catholics generally less actively involved than liberal Catholics. Traditional Catholics are three times as likely as liberal Catholics to attend mass in a given week, for instance (58 percent to 21 percent). They are ten percentage points more likely to say they believe in one of the most basic Christian teachings: life after death (85 percent to 75 percent). Each week in Mass, Catholics like me recite the Creed, which includes our faith in the “resurrection of the dead and life in the world to come.” Traditional Catholics are twice as likely as liberal Catholics to say they believe in the resurrection of the body (51 percent to 24 percent). Thirty-five percent of liberal Catholic men consumed porn in the last week, compared with 21 percent of traditional Catholic men, to pick just one measure of self-reported behavior.

Read the Full Article Here

The Mormon Advantage

With even New York Times columnists and distinguished social scientists like Andrew J. Cherlin reinforcing the core truth that the retreat from marriage is causing core inequalities in the opportunities of millions of American children, it is worth asking: Who is doing a better job at sustaining a marriage culture?

A fascinating data dump by the Austin Institute sheds unique new light on this question.

Research on the relationship between religion and family has been complicated by the fact that, today, religious affiliation tells you relatively little about what people believe or how they behave. Many people are cultural, not religious, when it comes to their religious affiliation, which makes it harder to see what impact attendance and the teaching that takes place in houses of worship has on marriage and family behavior.

But the scholars who produced the Austin Institute’s newly released Relationships in America interviewed 15,000 people, and by most measures of belief and practice, the winner is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS, or Mormons).

Read the Full Article Here

On the Middle Class, Schumer Was Right

Almost exactly one year ago, I and my colleagues at the American Principles Project released an election autopsy on the lessons of 2012. Countering the conventional wisdom that conservative social issues were distracting voters from the GOP’s winning economic message, we argued that social issues were neither hurting Republicans nor electing Democrats, and that the key problem was that both parties were failing to address the core concern of voters: declining standards of living brought on by prolonged wage stagnation combined with moderate inflation in the items that consume the bulk of middle-class families’ budgets.

Someone finally got the message. Who would have thought it would be New York’s Democratic senator Chuck Schumer?

“After passing the stimulus, Democrats should have continued to propose middle-class-oriented programs and built on the partial success of the stimulus, but unfortunately Democrats blew the opportunity the American people gave them,” Schumer said in a speech before the National Press Club. “We took their mandate and put all of our focus on the wrong problem: health-care reform.”

Democrats, energized by their power to pressure Republicans to back away from abortion, gay marriage, and religious liberty, drew the wrong lesson and tried to win reelection with a “war on woman” meme fundamentally disconnected from women’s core concerns.

In a striking Washington Post column on November 26, political scientists John McTague and Melissa Deckman make clear that being pro-abortion is not the ticket to Democratic victory. “It wasn’t clear even in 2012 that this rhetoric worked,” they write, citing a recent study by John Sides and Lynn Vavreck “that found no link between news coverage on contraception and abortion and women’s attitudes about either Obama or Mitt Romney during the 2012 campaign, and little evidence that attitudes about abortion were central to moving women voters to Obama.”

Read the Full Article Here