“Bringing facts to a culture war is like bringing a knife to a gun fight.”
-538 Elections Podcast
It has been easy for liberals to dismiss the culture war for the last eight years. Fights have lower stakes when you are winning. The side of progress has experienced tremendous gains under President Obama’s administration: same-sex marriage, accessible birth control, and the first African American President. Within the bubble inhabited by the progressive-minded, we’ve climbed hills, planted flags, and turned our gaze to the next mountain range. We’re moving forward and not stopping to wonder if anyone claimed ownership to the hills before we conquered them.
To social conservatives, the white rural population, and the alt-right, those hills belonged to them. These issues were a moral high ground. They’ve been looking backwards, watching the future advance upon them. They are told their hills never belonged to them, that claiming ownership of their morality makes them immoral people. They are called stupid for having beliefs they’ve associated with American values. They feel left behind, still standing on a hill they no longer own. Their status hasn’t changed, but the landscape has expanded. Pop culture echoes this assertion: they are in the minority. If their children go to college, they return home educated and changed.
As liberals, we can tell them they are wrong. That America was formed by deists. People are born gay and transgender. Everyone is of African descent. We can share statistics showing that black people are more likely to be physically assaulted by the police, that having a firearm in your home increases your likelihood of being killed by a gun. We can explain that the America they dream about never existed, that our nation’s lauded days of greatness were only good for the few, the white, the lucky. But, telling them these things is bringing facts to a culture war.
Liberals must fight fire with fire, which means bringing values onto the battlefield. Values are a tricky thing for us. We know we believe in equality, justice, and freedom, but lack a requisite framework. We respect the rights of others to come to the same conclusions from different perspectives. However, we cannot speak to reactionaries using our own language nor can we hold them to the same standards of our progressive communities.
First, we must determine what are our core values. As inclusive liberals, we want to gather all causes under our banner. A worthy goal, but not one that will win the battles we are about to face.
I propose only one tenant: Equal treatment of our fellow citizens, regardless of their race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, and religious values and recognition of the basic human rights for all people.
It’s narrow, it’s simple, it’s easy to understand. We ask for equality, not acceptance. Acceptance can come with later generations as long as all Americans have equal rights. We will not argue against their morality, their religion, their tradition. They will not infringe upon the rights of others.
We defend our value with the Declaration of Independence.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
If the conversation turns to Christian values, we respond in kind. Love thy neighbor. Turn the other cheek. Hate the sin, love the sinner. We explain that the extension of rights to all does not amount to their persecution.
We keep our arguments value-based, simple, and small, harboring hope that they will become conversations.