Yesterday I launched into a rather lengthy analysis of how the #BlackLivesMatter movement may be getting to the point of overreach and turning off some of the more moderately liberal voters who would otherwise support them. Unfortunately, my discussion was limited to that one, specific segment of the larger progressive population. As it turns out, those excesses may just be one symptom of a larger problem for liberals as they seek to capitalize on recent gains and force a social readjustment on the entire nation to a degree which people are simply not going to accept. At National Review, David French takes a look at a similar backlash which may (finally) be coming in terms of the gay marriage fight, abortion and other touchstones of the culture wars.
I woke up yesterday morning deeply confused. If there is one thing that I thought I’d learned over the past few weeks, it’s that history has a “side,” and I don’t happen to be on it. My views — pro-life, pro-traditional-marriage — were yesterday’s news. The rainbow White House, rainbow Facebook, and — most important — the rainbow Supreme Court all told me so. The culture war was over. All that was left was the mop-up operation. I should hightail it back to my “house of worship” — which the Left would leave alone (for now) — while it purged the academy and the marketplace of the last vestiges of bigotry and backward thinking. It was time to bankrupt the Christian bakers.
All of this was so crystal clear that imagine my confusion when I discovered that since the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision, three separate polls showed that support for same-sex marriage had declined. Not only that, but almost six in ten Americans now support the right of religious business owners to decline to participate in same-sex weddings — a sharp increase. At the same time, Planned Parenthood — the world’s largest abortion provider and the social-justice Left’s favorite organization — was reeling from revelations that its senior leaders appear to just love to talk about selling baby parts. After all, there are Lamborghinis to buy.
And why would the polls be showing such a sudden shift to “the wrong side of history” in the middle of a revolutionary, victorious era for the left? Because, as French points out, people don’t like a bully.
What’s happened? The Social Justice Warriors forgot that most Americans just don’t like mean people. And in one two-week span of American life, millions of SJWs helpfully and unmistakably labeled themselves with their rainbow profile pictures, then proceeded to act like hectoring, condescending, arrogant scolds — loudly and publicly — day after day. They were mean. They mocked Christians, celebrated the plight of a Christian baker’s family as it faced financial ruin for refusing to facilitate a gay wedding, and kept pointing at the Supreme Court and White House as if they represented some sort of cosmic scoreboard — as if the only conservative response was to take their ball, slink away, and go home.
While I always admire David’s no-nonsense approach to such subjects, there’s a bit more nuance to this story. I don’t think Americans tend to flatly reject a bit of tough talk and aggressive fighting for a cause which someone believes in. We’ve seen examples of that dating from Teddy Roosevelt to Donald Trump. And if the cause is judged to have some merit, most of us are willing to tolerate a reasonable amount of end zone dancing when a victory is achieved.
But what French seems to be getting at – and it’s a point I completely agree on – is that when a group which claims to be bullied or oppressed realizes a victory, Americans traditionally are not going to get behind the idea of that same group turning around and using that as an excuse to bully or oppress someone else. There’s wide approval of the gay rights movement winning the marriage argument at the Supreme Court. But when they turn around and use that victory as a cudgel to beat down Christian bakers, photographers and others, you see their fans heading for the exits quickly, and the recent polls David highlights are probably the first, growing proof of that trend.
The same goes for other areas of social debate. You can no doubt find many sympathetic ears when you talk about minorities facing perceived abuse at the hands of rogue police officers. But when you finish making that point and follow it up by having some of your members marching in the streets calling for dead cops, you become the enemy instead of the hero. And no matter how much you may find yourself supporting abortion when it’s framed as a medical choice for individual mothers, the ghoulish images of Planned Parenthood directors talking about “less crunchy” ways of chopping up unborn babies for organ recovery is still going to be turning a lot of stomachs.
No matter the topic in our various social conversations in America, you can always go too far. (This applies to conservative causes as well, so let this be a lesson to all.) Nobody likes mean people unless they’re in the movies or on television, and even then they need some sliver of redeeming value. When you turn a political victory into an excuse for the oppressed to become the oppressor, you’re going to wind up losing in the end.