The coming political STRUGGLE OVER CORE VALUES

The coming political STRUGGLE OVER CORE VALUES

Analysis by

Jay B Gaskill

Also posted –


This may the single most important post-defeat analysis that conservatives, independents and disgruntled, recovering progressives could read in 2012:

Heed these three points above the rest:

(1) Conservatives and centrist Republicans have mistakenly bought into Marxism. I refer to the Marxist doctrine of economic determinism. This explains Governor Romney’s ill phrased but heartfelt 47% statement and even his post-election comments about Obama’s win and the various economic “gifts” that paved the way to the Democrat victory.  Here is the fallacy: If economic determinism were a law of nature, then the Islamist jihad would have collapsed long ago.  People are not inexorably motivated by economic advantage.  They actually are driven by values, a process that is occasionally distorted by temporary economic considerations. That is why corruption and bribes work.  But our values explain why so many of us are unwilling to sell off our children.

(2) Time honored values define a healthy society. No viable political or reform movement can flout them, marginalize them or attempt to redefine them away without a severe penalty.

(3) The conservatives of both parties still own the values issues.  For example, family values, public safety, and the right to earn and to retain the fruits of one’s earnings, all are strongly associated with the conservative brand, as in the older slogan, G-d, guns, family and country. These were the core values shared by Reagan Republicans and Reagan Democrats.

Even when all the integrity-failures by GOP politicians over the last 40 years are taken into account, one overriding political and cultural reality remains – and it is a thorn in the side of the progressive juggernaut:  The core traditions that contain our most cherished and durable values have been better tended to by the conservatives than by all of the modern and postmodern progressive liberals put together.

I’ve located two pull quotes that will help us understand the next major political conflict in our country.  They remind us that, while conservatives and their liberty-friendly allies need to adapt, they must only to do so without surrendering their standing as the keepers of our most cherished values.

Pull Quote One: From Values Voters Prevail Again by Christopher Caldwell { }:

This year Democrats’ arguments on values were heard. This was a “values” election as strident as the ones from culture wars past in which Christians marched against subsidies for Mapplethorpe, creationists vied for seats on Kansas school boards, and William Bennett demanded to know where the outrage was. What was different about this year’s culture war is that Republicans lost it. They ran a campaign without any of the abrasive stuff Frank disapproved of. Their presidential candidate lost himself in theories about what motivates “job creators.” Certain senatorial candidates did try to raise cultural issues. Those in Missouri and Indiana showed themselves out of practice.

The values were different, but structurally the outcome was the same one that we have seen decade after decade. Where two candidates argue over values, the public may prefer one to the other. But where only one candidate has values, he wins, whatever those values happen to be.

Pull Quote Two: From The Real Debate by Yuval Levin

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Simply put, to see our fundamental political divisions as a tug of war between the government and the individual is to accept the progressive premise that individuals and the state are all there is to society. The premise of conservatism has always been, on the contrary, that what matters most about society happens in the space between those two, and that creating, sustaining, and protecting that space is a prime purpose of government. The real debate forced upon us by the Obama years​—​the underlying disagreement to which the two parties are drawn despite themselves​—​is in fact about the nature of that intermediate space, and of the mediating institutions that occupy it: the family, civil society, and the private economy.

Progressives in America have always viewed those institutions with suspicion, seeing them as instruments of division, prejudice, and selfishness and seeking to empower the government to rationalize the life of our society by clearing away those vestiges of backwardness and putting in their place public programs and policies motivated by a single, cohesive understanding of the public interest.

Progressive social policy has sought to make the family less essential by providing for basic material needs, particularly for lower-income women with children. It has sought to make civil society less essential by assigning to the state many of the roles formerly played by religious congregations, civic associations, fraternal groups, and charities, especially in providing help to the poor. And progressive economic policy has sought to turn the private economy into an arm of government policy, consolidating key sectors and protecting from competition large corporations that are willing to act as public utilities or to advance policymakers’ priorities.



None of this analysis will amount much of anything without the intelligence to see distinctions, to separate the truly fundamental from the non-essential, and the wit to explain things without sounding like a soapbox preacher or a door-to-door solicitor.

Allow me to focus on just one category for renewed conservative thinking. Among the core values that conservatives have traditionally defended and honored,  is the family.

What, we may ask, might constitute a provisional family value?  Consider the formerly rigid prohibitions against divorce.  Families are damaged by divorce, to be sure, but a no-divorce firewall is not only unworkable, it is often unjust and inhumane. Marriages can die, but families live on. Focus on divorce is provisional.  Family is the bigger deal.

What would then constitute an attack on the family as a core value?  Just think of all the experiments in social engineering, whether well intentioned or otherwise, and the welfare programs that have had malign social consequences.

Any forthright discussion of the prime example has been censored by political correctness for two decades. Well-intentioned liberals almost destroyed the inner city black family with welfare rules that turned the subset unemployed fathers into detrimental surplus baggage in the family unit, because their presence disqualified the entire family for welfare.  As a result these fathers were forced by welfare mothers to drift away.  Several studies have described the lasting social damage to inner city black family integrity.  Sadly, most Republicans were asleep, or were cowed into a politically correct silence, during this period.

No excuses.  That kind of opportunity lost should never be repeated by conservatives.

Recall Yuri Levin’s earlier point about progressives. “Progressive social policy has sought to make the family less essential by providing for basic material needs, particularly for lower-income women with children. It has sought to make civil society less essential by assigning to the state many of the roles formerly played by religious congregations, civic associations, fraternal groups, and charities, especially in providing help to the poor.”

This is the progressive Achilles heel, or – if conservatives drop the ball – it is the beginning of catastrophic damage to family and community formation in the USA. The bottom line: Values matter. Families matter.

Now, consider as a thought experiment, the reexamination of the gay marriage issue through a different lens – by thinking of it as a. family formation issue.

A family can be defined as the traditional marriage/common parent-based human grouping, in which everyone is genetically and/or legally related. The common thread-that-binds is the classic family’s mutual obligations of loyalty, caring and support that typically survive the dissolution of common living arrangements. Breach of these obligations is condemned particularly as they adversely affect dependents, especially children.

The existence of dysfunctional, fractured families is not an alternative life style, but a failure in human relationships. As family ties break down, the social order is disturbed.

The core issue is the preservation and health of the family unit.  Some provisional issues concern the personal arrangements can make a sufficient claim to family stature and under what circumstances. Conservatives and old fashioned liberals can reasonably be expected to adapt to less conventional family arrangements but the bedrock features or loyalty and support need to be a constant.

Much of the tension over the gay marriage issue is fueled by the stereotypical images of rampant sexual infidelity among the gay male subgroup, and the accompanying health issues.  As “model gay marriages” are portrayed in the entertainment media, monogamous, caring couples raising adopted children, for example, popular acceptance of gay relationships has warmed.

In the values discussion, conservatives can and should insist on honoring the two-parent, mutual loyalty and support model, with obligations particularly to children that legally survive breakup. In this context modern conservatives can readily accept the legitimacy of same gender households with adopted children.

But the marriage question will necessarily be treated separately from the legal household-status issues, and conservatives and old fashioned liberals should be prepared to cheerfully agree-to-disagree.  Formal marriage is a sacramental matter for each religious institution to define, recognize or not, and each political jurisdiction to define in alignment with the popular will, honestly discerned.

My personal view is that same gender couples with adopted children need and therefore should have functionally the same legal benefits afforded to heterosexual married parents.  But the additional question – whether and under what circumstances the government should decree that the sanctified title, married, must be applied to all same-gender couples who want it – is so delicate that only local solutions will work. The man-woman marriage model is a very long standing tradition. The whole matter is too freighted with long-standing social and religious tradition for a mere government branch, agency or judicial officer to redefine marriage without the support of a clear popular consensus.  That consensus may or may not emerge everywhere or in any particular decade.  Conservatives and old fashioned liberals should apply a humane, but principled approach to this problem.  Same-gender centered families are entitled to all the legal protection afforded other families, leaving the formal marriage question to cultural evolution and local governments, acting in accordance with the popular consensus, not allowing unelected officials to force the issue.


Much recent post-defeat discussion among the GOP has centered on the so called “demographic problem”. No one seems to have considered this question: Among the various ethnic subgroups that populate large areas of the USA, which two have the strongest family traditions?

If you answered the Asians and the Hispanics, you’ve been paying attention.  That their votes have been temporarily captured by progressive liberals is more a result of conservative / GOP default than any natural “progressive” inclination within these subcultures. Conservatives and old fashioned liberals have more to offer these groups than welfare. Three key phrases come to mind, family values, upward mobility, and individual human dignity.  All are well embedded ingredients of the shared conservative tradition; and all three are threatened by the progressive bureaucracies and the shackles of political correctness.

A final observation: Values aren’t just about opinions; they are about real world connections and behaviors.  I invite you – as I did recently – to stop by the places where and when newly minted US citizens first emerge from their swearing-in ceremonies.  Pay close attention. Who is there to greet them?  Which groups continue to nurture connections and support relationships between political campaigns? Then rethink how you think conservative energies should be redirected over the coming years.  Your country’s future depends on it.


Copyright © 2012 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

As always, forwards, links and pull quotes with attribution are welcome and encouraged.  For everything else, please contact the author via email at

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