The Decline of Social Conservatism: What Happened

Richard Hanania describes social conservatism as hopeless and says that “secularization and cultural liberalism are inevitable.”

The crux of his argument is that social conservatism is rejected by a lot of people, and thus it needs to be imposed by force. “Still, the regime is extremely unpopular, at least with the urban elite that forms the economic and cultural base of any modern society and whose buy-in is required for social peace.”

Another issue is the subversive nature of technology:

I thought about developments in Iran while reading an article titled “Why Conservatism Failed” by Jon Askonas. The author argues that traditions and morality are shaped by economic progress and technology. You can’t expect to maintain the values of a rural community in a country where no one farms anymore. Conservatism has failed to recognize this, and so of course lost the culture war. While all of this makes sense, Askonas then goes on to close with a call to arms for a new kind of traditionalist movement.

But that’s not to say social issues have been abandoned completely, or that the right always loses. The overturn of Roe v. Wade was a huge deal that infused conservatives on social media with a jolt of enthusiasm of the likes not seen since after Trump was elected.

It’s easy to underestimate how big of a deal the Christian Right was in the early 2000s. After four years of bland Bush 41 and then eight years of the Clintons, the excitement for George W. Bush, who shed the boring intellectual patina of his father, was unlike any other Republican before or even after, possibly surpassing the enthusiasm for Trump. Bush played into the ‘NASCAR demographic’, unlike his dad, who was more reticent and seemed to abhor popularity. There was even a mini-Jan 6th of sorts, the long-forgotten Brooks Brothers riots, which sought to end the Florida recount. Same for the Southern Baptist Convention, which lived up to its name as being like a literal convention, but membership has fallen, at just 13 million today compared to a peak of 18-19 million two decades ago.

But then for reasons that are still unclear, it became lower status to be too endeared to one’s beliefs. Politics, especially online on the right, is probably more of a status game than an issue-driven one. As discussed in Reversals between the ‘left’ and the ‘right’:

I think it is more low status to moralize about pornography or drugs than to consume it. Being high status is about not being triggered or easily offended by certain content or behavior, not excessively moralizing. I think this is explains to some extent why the right defected on gay marriage and drug legalization, as well as the fall and decline of relevance of the ‘moral majority’; opposing those things, or at least opposing them too strongly, became low-status.

I think the old school traditional conservatives overplayed their hand. They had a lot of successes in the ’80s, ’90s, and early 2000s and then became seen as overbearing. The rise of The_Donald was a departure from this, led by economic nationalists and a younger and more secular demographic that departed from the moralistic nature of the conservatism that preceded it. Immigration and economics took precedent over such ’90s issues as fighting the ‘gay agenda’, flag burning, or secularism in public schools.

The left and the ‘old right’ have the opposite problem, being that they tend to moralize issues and take their politics too seriously. The trend nowadays for conservatives is to convey a sort of cool detachment from the issues as epitomized by the viral Ben Shapiro tweet, “Facts don’t care about your feelings,” which as of 2016 has accrued almost half a million likes:

You’re supposed to oppose abortion on principle, but not be too emotionally invested in the issue either way, unlike the left, which takes its politics too seriously, as shown by ‘blue check’ Twitter going into crisis mode after Roe was overturned. Or unlike the ‘old school’ Christian Right, who sought to impose their values during the ’80s and ’90s when televangelists such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell still had significant cultural clout and used their influence to boycott or admonish entertainment they deemed as covertly promoting homosexuality or un-Christian, which is not unlike cancel culture today. The operative word is ‘impose’. The combination of trying to impose one’s values on others, but also taking one’s politics too seriously, are both uncool.

Moreover, this sometimes leads to a sort of relativism where it’s like, “I think Christianity and its teachings are applicable and beneficial at an individual and societal level, but I also respect or at least tolerate those who actions and behaviors are antithetical to Christianity. It does not matter.” Offline and online, conservatism is arguably more diverse than ever, such as DeSantis’ growing popularity among Latinos, despite begin more anti-woke than ever, too. It’s sorta like the left’s pro-choice, woke diverse coalition vs. the GOP’s anti-woke, anti-abortion diverse coalition.

1 comment

  1. “Offline and online, conservatism is arguably more diverse than ever, such as DeSantis’ growing popularity among Latinos, despite begin more anti-woke than ever, too. It’s sorta like the left’s pro-choice, woke diverse coalition vs. the GOP’s anti-woke, anti-abortion diverse coalition.”

    Contrary to common perception. The Right-Wing as in Social Conservatism is actually Multi-Racial all along. Morality is timeless for those who fail don’t stand the test of time.

    The liberal left is quite dominated by white people.

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