Some politicians say conservatives should back away from hot-button social issues, but Thursday night Mike Huckabee made a case that social issues are central to successful conservatism.
At a town hall event, and in an interview, he stressed that culture was vital for the success of a democracy. He noted that his new book is about culture, not politics, and that is why.
The former Arkansas governor put it this way: If everyone followed the Golden Rule, we wouldn’t need much government. If everyone treated others as they themselves wish to be treated, no one would steal, or abuse others, or even be unkind. We wouldn’t need police or most government agencies.
But when others rob or cheat us, or even play their stereos too loud at night or don’t mow their lawns, the rest of us naturally want the civic authority to step in. That’s how government grows.
That’s at the heart of his critique of the coarsening of American culture. He’s not just being the old guy lamenting it’s not the old days. He’s saying that when our culture is strong and healthy, we don’t need government as much.
But as our culture frays, our public life grows worse and we grow worse. We hurt others, and we are no longer able to take care of ourselves. Our society needs more government help and we demand it. As culture decays, government expands.
That’s why conservatives are concerned about culture. Freedom depends on people being able to monitor their own behavior.
Or look at abortion. Huckabee said that abortion undermines equality because it says that one class of human beings, the unborn, has no rights. And why not? Because the unborn would burden others? What about others who burden us – the elderly, the disabled or others? Do they have no rights? The logic of abortion leads to a crucial undermining of our founding doctrine that all men are created equal, and are created with unalienable rights.
Some Republicans say abortion is a distraction. Huckabee’s position, if I understand it, is that the abortion issue is a key element of the equality that underlies our democracy.
In any case, the key point is that in this view, all these social issues are not sideshows, but are essential to a successful, fair and equal democracy.