Robert P. George, one of my favorite conservative thinkers, has a wonderful piece detailing the way forward for social conservatives in this week’s National Review. Here’s a notable excerpt:
Our task should be to understand the moral truth and speak it in season and out of season. We will be told by the pure pragmatists that the public is too far gone in moral relativism or even moral delinquency to be reached by moral argument. We will be advised to make the moral arguments to the social-conservative “base” but to frame those arguments in coded language so as not to scare off the soccer moms or whoever is playing their role in the next election cycle. All of this must be resisted. We must, to be sure, practice the much-neglected and badly underrated virtue of prudence. But we must have faith that truth is luminously powerful: so that if we bear witness to the truth about, say, marriage and the sanctity of human life—lovingly, civilly, but with passion and determination—and if we honor the truth in advancing our positions, then even many of our fellow citizens who now find themselves on the other side of these issues will—some sooner, some later—come around.
Two things jump out at me here. First, George urges social conservatives to avoid the urge to compromise on or marginalize life issues. I think we’re seeing the early signs of this temptation with the emergence of a pro-choice Republican as a viable presidential candidate. It seems so easy: Take abortion out of the equation and appeal to the American people with a new brand of social liberalism coupled with support for a strong national defense. Who knows, that might be the ticket to winning elections today or 20 years from now. But I trust that electoral pragmatism, though important in the right context, is not the ultimate goal for those committed to defending the sanctity of life. Instead, we should seek to speak the truth, as George advocates, “in season and out of season” and trust that in due time the right candidates will emerge to defend and publicly articulate our positions. As more and more pro-lifers are beginning to realize, we have such a candidate in this election cycle.
Second, George writes about the importance of pro-life conversions, stating that our hope should be that “many of our fellow citizens who now find themselves on the other side of these issues will–some sooner, some later–come around.” I found George’s distinction between those who come sooner and those who come later important. I’m a huge fan of those who “come around” soon, and was reminded of that when I saw so many young, energetic souls descend on Washington for the March for Life last month. But I can’t help but look around at our culture, at least among young people, and wonder if they are the exception and not the rule. If that is the case, we need to pray and work so that many will come around later. And when those folks do come around–and then confirm their newfound convictions with actions, as Governor Romney has–we should support them and hold them up as models for the change of heart and mind we desire for every American.