Which Will We Salvage?
This is likely to be a very uncomfortable topic — prone to personal hostilities. Still, if my assessment has some basis in truth, it can only be for the best to put it out there in the light, rather than to endure a multiyear campaign season in which it is unmentionable. As entry, here’s a comment from Jim, responding to my suggestion that a Republican president like Giuliani would be disastrous for the culture that makes the United States worth defending:
From a more pragmatic standpoint, if we don’t take the correct stance on the spread of Islamofascism, we won’t have the luxury of worrying about abortion, gay marriage, etc. …
I do not care for Rudy’s stand on gun control or abortion. But what he did in New York, and what I believe he will do to fight Islamofascism far outweigh those issues I don’t favor in him.
Those angling for everything in a candidate usually end up with nothing.
Whatever the truth of his closing assertion, it disregards a whole range of objections to Rudy Giuliani to suggest that conservatives who oppose him are angling for everything. During the primary season, agreement on national defense can, and should, be mixed with something somewhat less than complete disagreement on social and cultural matters. The main problem with Giuliani is that he wouldn’t represent a mere putting on hold of the conservative end of the culture war; at this juncture, he would represent a capitulation. Our bipartisan system would be repositioned as a choice between hawkish and dovish Democrats. It is this either/or sense between culture and defense that raises the uncomfortable, and likely contentious, question for conservatives: On which count is a temporary loss tolerable?
With respect to social issues, how likely is it that our society would emerge from an era of compromised morality, in an internal bargain to defeat Islamofascism, with a zest to recapture lost moral ground? I’d say not likely at all. For one thing, our moral decline has proceeded as a gradual slide down that proverbial slope. At no point is the view from our current position frighteningly precipitous enough to drive us back up the hill; each progressive step appears less threatening than it had but a moment ago, and the firm ground that we’ve relinquished looks more arduous to recapture. Having defeated the terroristic armies of a perversion of religious morality, those who would then return our attention toward our own culture’s imbalance in the other direction would face an even more daunting task than they do now.
With respect to national security issues, how likely is it that the liberal forces in our society will be able to keep their cover of American apathy in the face of further terrorist attacks? Again, not likely at all. The danger of this gamble is that it might take a horrific catalyst to disperse our daydreams about a vacation from history. We can be confident that Islamofascists will snap a branch that wakes Americans up before it is utterly too late, but the size and proximity of that branch may be terrifying to contemplate. We must also be wary of the world’s changing while we are allowing our doves rein enough to brush the electric fence at the border of sanity. The longer the delay in defeating Islamic radicals, the greater the chance that other players’ calculations will change, such that, when American society finally receives the shock that dispels the daydream, it may rise to discover that it is at war not just with terrorists, but with China or Russia or even Europe, too.
Yet, in compromising neither set of principles are we ensuring the other’s victory. We might take the hawkish moderates’ deal only to find that they are thwarted in their security conservatism and amplified in their social liberalism. On the other hand, we might back a social conservative — who, we oughtn’t forget, would also be strong on defense — only to find him incapable of capturing the White House or, if he does, unable to achieve any of his goals in the face of the even more greatly exaggerated antipathy that he would inspire in the other side.
It would be uncharitable (to say the least) to charge me with a willingness to risk the deaths of millions in order to prevent homosexuals from getting married. Much more stands to be lost on the social end than that implies, and the other side of the equation isn’t so certain. There must surely be social liberals who understand the evil that America is currently facing in the global arena, and if they were to make a similar assessment of social “progress” to mine, they would conclude that they can afford to put those issues on hold. The slope will remain for later sliding.
In the final analysis, I guess I’m just more sure that a Giuliani would defeat conservative principles than that Islamofascists will defeat America. Moreover, I’d suggest that Republicans have more to win than to lose by tying conservative social principles to their drive for national security. For one thing, it creates a more compelling whole to be fighting moral corruption — evil — in both its militaristic and libertine, amoral guises than it does to be fighting for our society’s right to be morally bankrupt. If, however, we prove to be unable to overcome the political hostilities that pervade our nation — that is, if a thoroughly conservative Republican Party is unable to increase its share of the national government — I suspect that, as the politics play out, an awakening to our need for self defense would also stir our drifting moral sense.
Many would like to deny it, and that is certainly an easy thing to do, but these distinct goals are united in some nearly inarticulable way. Weighing thoughts intuitive as well as rational, I can only conclude that God will preserve a nation in which He is preserved. In contrast, a culture with undue faith in the infallibility of its own desires will find a way to destroy itself, mangling countless lives in the process.