Social Conservatives in politics – a new wind blows

What do bathroom bills in the states, Jordan Peterson, Jason Kenney and Brad Trost all have in common? They embrace, or are at least open to, socially conservative views. And they are expressing those views. Publicly.

And they are being slammed for it by liberals, the media and social media. And they don’t care. And they won’t back down.

Intriguing..

All of which is quite telling and, in my more optimistic moments, a sign that things are finally changing in the public square. Socially conservative views are once again being allowed a voice. Or, more correctly, we are once again using the voice we always had, but were afraid to use.

Let me clarify something. In one sense nothing has changed. The usual routine is still being followed to a TEE:

  1. Politician expresses socially conservative views
  2. Media seeks, and reports, sensationalist reactions
  3. Socially progressive politicians (especially those who like to see their name in print and/or their face on TV) faithfully provide sensationalist reaction for media
  4. Social media (or certain corners of it anyway) create an even greater uproar than the media and the progressive politicians combined

All the same ingredients are there. All the same movements of the chess pieces. After Brad Trost’s public comments the Liberal party of Canada sent out a fundraising letter. An NDP politician said Trost should crawl back under the rock from whence he came. No surprises there. There was (can you believe this) “immediate online backlash.”

Really… You don’t say!

And, despite that backlash, his campaign manager told folks not to bother expecting an apology. That’s telling!

Kenney’s comments “caused backlash on social media.”

Again… You don’t say!

The routine is predictable, but the fact that socially conservative views are being publicly articulated despite the predictable routine tells us a few very interesting things, in my opinion.

  1. Social media uproars / backlash / fury just doesn’t persuade anybody anymore. There was a time when social media used to carry some clout, but it seems more and more people are recognizing that social media is the ultimate technology of isolation that simply produces disconnected echo chambers of people who cannot fathom any perspective but whatever they and their extremely carefully vetted “friends” and “followers” embrace.
  2. Media grilling doesn’t persuade the public anymore. If the Trump victory has taught us anything, it’s that the media has outlived its “best before” date as a force that shapes the perspectives of the public. Like social media, when mainstream media sensationalizes a story the general public just shrugs its shoulders and changes channels.
  3. Political parties are extremely effective at preaching to the choir, but extremely ineffective at persuading the passer-by. That the Liberal party would use this issue to generate some fundraising isn’t a huge surprise; what would be surprising would be if the Liberal party actually persuaded socially conservative members of the general public to change their views. That almost never happens.

All of which means; the times, they are a-changing. Social conservatives are obviously less concerned these days with being lambasted by the media. They are less concerned with celebrity disapproval (OMG; Lady Gaga doesn’t agree with me!?!?). They are less concerned with social media backlash. They are less concerned with “winning votes.”

A new day is dawning. Once again, principles can be articulated. Principles can be defended. I predict we are entering a new era where the moral indignation that used to permeate these conversations will increasingly be shrugged off as nothing but the shrill voices of fringe fanatics (which is well-described as “meta-bigotry“) informed almost exclusively by their online tribe and their narrow range of news sources; all of which was carefully vetted and hand-picked through the latest in digital selection bias.

To be clear, these problems of selection bias exist in both the conservative and progressive camps. This is a human problem. But for every captive of digital selection bias – regardless of their politics – there are many others who are far more open-minded. Some of those open-minded folks lean conservative and others lean progressive. Their currently-held views are less important than the fact that they can talk to each other. And they are willing to listen. And they can be reasoned with.

And if current trends continue, those of a socially conservative stripe will talk. We will express ourselves. We will not be shamed. We will not back down in the face of “online backlash”. We don’t care if some B-rate actor doesn’t approve because we realize that their disapproval will only confirm the views of those who pledge allegiance to that particular tribe, and will do nothing to alter the views of those guided by persuasion, evidence and reason. The opinions of others does not “validate our existence”.

Truth is not a popularity contest. That grew old in about grade 8.

There will always be some who are die-hard devotees to progressive perspectives. Reason will not persuade them. And there are some who are die-hard devotees to conservative perspectives; reason will not persuade them either. But there are many in the middle. Some are “centrist” (a polite word for “lacking conviction”) and others who lean one way or the other, but can be persuaded. They can be reasoned with. They will consider the evidence.

And it is this crowd – the open-minded – who truly steer society. Those who refuse to consider anything but progressive views are likely counterbalanced by those who refuse to consider anything but conservative views. They are the fringe on both sides of the spectrum; the sharp, tiny and lightweight points at the ends of the bell curve. They often make the most noise, but I believe their volume is vastly out of proportion to their numbers.

They do not swing elections. They do not sway the “general consensus.” They believe what they believe and, for all practical purposes, that is the end of that. The longer we play by their rules the longer we miss a real opportunity; those who can be persuaded.

Social conservatives are waking up to this reality. We will be opposed, of course, but those who might listen to us don’t give credence to the protests of those who oppose us out of instinct. They will ignore the shrill screaming, and so should we. Consider the source, shrug it off, and move on.

More and more leaders, some of whom are in politics and academia, are leading the way. The tide is changing. The tables are turning. Freedom of speech is on the upswing. Reason is beginning to displace rhetoric.

That’s only a bad thing if your views cannot stand the weight of careful scrutiny.

It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself. – Thomas Jefferson

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