It’s been a quarter century since Pat Buchanan took the stage at the 1992 Republican National Convention and introduced the phrase “culture war” into our nation’s lexicon.
“There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America,” Buchanan said. “It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself.”
The fire and brimstone tone of his speech embarrassed moderates within the party, but the truth of the matter is that Buchanan was, and remains, correct. We are certainly in a cultural war. One side faithfully adheres to the traditions that have made our nation great while the other wants to trade them for unproven fads.
We’ve long told ourselves that, like the Roman Empire before us, the only way America could be defeated is from within. What else is “within” a country if not its culture, and what within a culture is more telling than what it considers virtuous?
We’ve known this from our Founding.
“While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued,” wrote Sam Adams in a 1779 letter to a fellow Massachusetts patriot. “But when once they lose their virtue they will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader.”
So if we are in a cultural war for the virtue of our nation – and indeed we are – we must, like every good battlefield commander, take a brutally honest assessment of the campaign by identifying and analyzing key indicators.
What is working? What isn’t? Where are we winning, and where are we losing?
We cannot afford to lie to ourselves by pointing to the fact that Republicans have dominated local and state elections, and now hold both chambers of Congress and the White House. Unfortunately, the past few months have reminded us that there’s a big difference between party and principle.
Republicans keep winning elections, but conservatives keep losing the issues.
We’ve already seen a survey released this year saying that Americans now favor a larger government providing more services over a smaller government providing fewer. So much for limited government.
How goes it on the cultural front?
Well, fellow conservatives, Gallup just provided us with a situation report based upon the moral acceptability of certain actions, and the news is bad.
When asked about an issue, the following percentages of Americans said it was morally acceptable:
- Divorce: 73-percent, which is an all-time high.
- Sex between an unmarried man and woman: 73-percent, another high.
- Gambling: 69-percent.
- Gay or lesbian relations: 63-percent. High, again.
- Having a baby outside of marriage: 62-percent. A high.
- Human embryo stem cell research: 61-percent.
- Doctor-assisted suicide: 57-percent. Another high.
- Abortion: 43-percent.
- Sex between teenagers: 36-percent.
- Pornography: 36-percent, an all-time high.
- Suicide: 18-percent.
- Polygamy: 17-percent, another high.
Conservatives are clearly losing the cultural war.
So who’s to blame for these awful numbers? The left’s unrelenting attack on our traditions, for one, but also the right for giving ground so easily. Many of our politicians, and most of us, to be honest, are simply sick of being called racists or sexists or bigots … so we give in and move on.
But for those who aren’t ready to retreat, one must ask: what should we do? To stick with the war analogy, commanders know that they must place their limited resources where they can have the most significant impact toward reaching the goal.
A quick scan of the above list reveals one immoral behavior that is both growing in acceptance and destructive impact: having a baby outside of marriage.
There’s no other indicator of poverty and childhood poverty, along with a host of other behavioral and health-related consequences, than to be a single mother raising children.
It’s a hard topic to discuss because it provokes such anger. People want to defend the single mothers out there who are working desperately hard for themselves and their children. And rightly so. They all deserve medals.
But you know what they, and their children, deserve more?
A husband and a father.
Unless and until we get that basic building block of the family correct, conservatives will continue losing the culture war.