On Saturday, a group of Religious Right activists at the Values Voter Summit were pitched on the possibility and necessity of a stronger union between social conservatives and libertarians, a discussion that was heavily tinged with the rhetoric of anti-Christian persecution that dominated the weekened.
In a panel titled “Moral Decline Causes Big Government,” the American Principles Project’s Maggie Gallagher (formerly of the National Organization for Marriage), the director of Rand Paul’s PAC, Doug Stafford, and conservative pollster Kellyanne Conway made their best case for libertarians to adopt social conservative causes — or, given the makeup of the crowd, for social conservatives to be open to an alliance with libertarian conservatives.
Gallagher brought up the Religious Right’s fears about the persecution of conservative Christians by the LGBT rights movement, warning that with the current Supreme Court she was “not optimistic” about preventing marriage equality from becoming law in all 50 states, and that if that happens, there will be “more cases where people are being oppressed…for their views on marriage.”
Libertarians, Gallagher said, should share the concern of social conservatives about gay rights advocates “using the government to impose this new, strange sexual orthodoxy” and their fears of “the horrible things the left is going to do.” She warned that the window for a stronger alliance was narrow, because if LGBT rights advocates succeed, “there’s not a way to build a winning conservative coalition.”
She also made an ideological case for libertarians to join social conservatives, arguing that “the decline of marriage” caused the growth of “pretty much every part of government, besides the defense budget, in America.”
“When the family falls apart, the government grows to step in,” she said.
Conway told the crowd that “values voters and libertarians have a great deal in common” from opposition to “big government” and abortion rights to being “sick of lawyers in black robes making stuff up” to a refusal to “redefine” family to be “whatever feels cool.” She also saw an opening to win over libertarians with the Religious Right’s increasing reliance on persecution rhetoric, or what she called the “assault on religious liberty in so many parts of our culture.”
Stafford echoed Conway, explaining that many libertarians oppose abortion rights and putting in a plug for the two groups to work together and with liberals to end the drug war.
Whatever the few libertarians in the room might have thought of the panel’s appeals, however, the bulk of the social conservative crowd seemed deeply skeptical of any attempt to woo libertarians. The biggest round of applause at the event came when a man came to the microphone, introduced himself as a pastor and proceeded to deliver a soliloquy against such “sins” as homosexuality. In an apparent jab at Sen. Paul’s position that marriage equality legislation should be left to the states, the pastor said, “Don’t let the states decide on marriage. God has already decided!”
As the panel ended, after little discussion of the morality of same-sex marriage, the woman next to me turned to me and shook her head. The panelists, she said, “didn’t listen to a thing that pastor said.”