Most national commentators describe the battle for the soul of the Republican Party as being between traditionalists and reformers. The social conservatives and libertarians would disagree with that. We think the battle is between us. I resolve to look more closely at that traditionalist/reformer divide, to keep myself from either-or thinking on the matter. I imagine there is some overlap between the necessarily artificial distinctions.
But for the moment, let’s stay with that socon/libertarian dichotomy. The libertarians all seem to have friends who would be more sympathetic to the Republicans if it weren’t for the socons. We scare them. That word scare keeps coming up. Well, the libertarians scare a lot of middle America, I counter. Legalizing drugs, gay marriage, isolationism – these make people nervous. And of course the “unregulated free market” scares some folks as well, which is a problem that both the libertarians and the socons will have to solve for future elections.
It’s all about being scared, apparently.
What is it we are frightened of? Everything and nothing. Proponents of gay marriage often challenge the rest of society, How are you harmed, exactly? How does this measurably affect you? If you don’t like it, don’t look. Similar arguments are launched in the opposite direction about, oh, Christmas nativity scenes. How are you harmed, exactly? How does this measurably affect you? If you don’t like it, don’t look. While there often are some small measurables attached to these things, they are clearly not what everyone is getting exercised about. There is a sense that the entire society is being affected at some deep, if subtle level. A creche on public property makes some vague statement that Christianity is not just allowed, but essentially okay. A gay wedding makes some vague statement that homosexuality is not just allowed, but is okay. What is allowed to be visible (or audible) is a statement of a society’s values – and we want them to be our values.
We care very deeply about these expressions of who we are as a society, locally or nationally. Some people don’t want to see strip malls. Some don’t want to see litter. Some don’t want to see sexual advocacy in the children’s section of the public library. Zoning, historical districts, wilderness areas, nude beaches, prayers before football games, public smoking, girlie magazines at the convenience store, transvestites, mosques, loud music next door, ORV’s, communications towers, homeless people, Wal-marts…We don’t want to see it! Or we do. It says something bad/good about us as a people. We want to feel that the place is ours, that it expresses us. I don’t want to live in a society that…
People from the cities like to see variety. People from the towns want to be with the like-minded. If you don’t like it, move. No, you move. Me? But I live here. So do I. Some of us like to be as accommodating as possible to the sensibilities of others. Some of us like to be in other’s faces, because it’s good for them, dammit.
There are some few issues where there is a measurable effect on a few individuals. Those will be a distraction at the moment. Let’s stick with what we’ve got here – the place you live as an expression of you, and how that is the subterranean driving force behind all political argument.