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What Happened To Social Conservatives In Politics?

Is culture everything? Are we losing sight of basic truths? Why has the left been effective in shutting down the conservative message? What are they doing that social conservatives are not? How has the Republican Party rendered themselves useless in the culture war? Senior fellow at the American Principles Project, Maggie Gallagher joins Dan and Amy to discuss.

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Dan Proft: Pleased to be joined by Maggie Gallagher, who is a Senior Fellow for the American Principles Project. And she's written an excellent piece in "First Things" that we referenced earlier in the week, about politics and culture, essentially arguing that those who suggest politics is downstream from culture don't have it quite right. So let's explore that with Maggie Gallagher, who joins us now. Thank you so much for being with us, appreciate it. Maggie Gallagher: Well, it's great to be with you, thank you, good morning. Proft: My perspective on this is that culture is everything, and so I concede your point that politics is a part of culture, which is what you write in your piece. But does the nature of politics being a part of culture mean that we aren't ultimately...or shouldn't ultimately be focused on...kind of...the proverbial "culture war"? Gallagher: No. It means right now, we're living in an America where everything is being de-normed, so that people who kind of believe in some simple basic truths like "we're born male and female", "we have a need for men and women to come together so they can raise the next generation together, that idea is called marriage", these things are now being de-normed as hateful. And it's obvious that the Republican Party is increasingly useless in terms of doing anything about this. And so the question is...what do we conclude from that? I would agree absolutely with the people who say culture is really important, and those of us who are people of faith have to figure out how to build creative subculture communities that transmit our own values and our own face to the next generation. The only thing I don't agree about is that we should somehow get out of politics. We took a really serious look...what I really believe is the reason that social conservatives are easily betrayed and not very politically influential...the most important reason, there's a lot of reasons...the most important reason is we're not really in politics. We just...we TALK like we're in politics. And people would go on television and say political things, but if you follow the money, what you find out is that we, unlike the Left and particularly the gay Left, have not built political institutions. So we looked at every organization in America that says it has some public policy goals around marriage or religious liberty. And we asked "Okay, how much of your money do you spend in politics, affecting who wins an election?" That's what politics is. It's not pastor organizing, or 501c3 voter guides...fundamentally, these are all fine things to do, but fundamentally they circle around...are you actually going to go into politics and elect your heroes, and un-elect your enemies? And the answer is, 97 cents of every dollar we spend to affect public policy is a non-profit, 501c3 apolitical strategy. And the Left doesn't do this, by the way, they don't do it at all! You just take the top three socially liberal organizations, Emily's List, Planned Parenthood, and Human Rights Campaign. And in the last election cycle, they spent $70 million just in *inaudible* money, and social conservatives spent less than $10 million. So you know, every single organization in this country...so I would say we should give politics a chance, before we conclude that it's useless. Right now, it's a problem for everyone, the grassroots and the donors have nowhere to go, because the organizations that claim to be political or are standing there and trying to be political aren't actually in politics. So you know, that's just a fundamental hole that has to be filled if we're not going to be persecuted in America as the ideology that our ideas are like racism and hatred unfolds. Proft: Just to give a concrete example of this, you do in your piece, but I want you to connect the dots for us, about...if you want to fight for this culture, if you want to fight for your value system, then you necessarily have to be involved politics, because the other side is aggressively pursuing it, and they're happy to roll right over you as we see being done. But the example you give about how the Left does it versus how conservatives don't do it effectively is a former Colorado Congresswoman, Marilyn Musgrave. Give the Marilyn Musgrave case study to us. Gallagher: Well that's just so...at one point in my life I was probably the major spokesman fighting gay marriage. So I watched a lot of this unfold. So one of the things I've watched unfold and I learned from...everything I know about politics, I say, I learned from watching how the gay Left actually countered me. So, Marilyn Musgrave was a Colorado Congressman, she was one of the original sponsors of the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have said marriage was one man and one woman, didn't say anything else, and would have prevented the Supreme Court from doing what it did to overturn our efforts in state. But, the Left targeted her for her opposition to gay marriage, but they didn't fight her on that in her district. They knew she was representing her voters. So instead they just raised a bunch of money, and they dumped it in negative ads on her, on all kinds of issues, including as she told me personally, she said "They even ran...they created fake pro-life organizations, to demonstrate, or to claim at least, that I wasn't pro-life enough." And they did it in one election cycle, and they knocked down her numbers so she barely hung on, and then they came back in the next election cycle and they defeated her. And everyone in Congress...although the voters even in her district probably don't know...they said the reason she lost is that she was a spokesman against gay marriage. And it's an extremely effective way of shutting down one party's issue. So the Democrats are all in, and they're pro-gay marriage, and equality and love wins all, and the Republican Party is kind of silent and shy. They can't quite be for gay marriage because they know their voters won't tolerate it, but they won't speak because they don't want to become targets for the Left. Jacobson: Well, how has the LGBT community tightened its hold on culture shaping? Gallagher: Well, they...one of the reasons why politics is more important for conservatives than it is for liberals is that liberals dominate most of the other means of culture creation. So one of the things I can tell you because I was there is that the problem wasn't really that our messages don't work, it's that they effectively shut down our ability to get our message out. So the more effective I was, or we were, we were working together in state, so once we won California and Prop 8 in the year 2008, suddenly I was unable to get on Fox News. Suddenly I was unable to get on conservative radio...you know, the major stations, the big boys with the big advertisers. And it took about another year before suddenly I wasn't able to get on CNN, and eventually I could only go on MSNBC, where they would openly treat me with contempt if I showed up. So, you know I'd like to give you the other examples of other people, but the capacity to control what you see through Hollywood or Madison Avenue...and the big new thing is corporations are now joining social liberal. So corporations that...the Chamber of Commerce is the most effective and most public component of conscience protection for traditional beliefs in the state. And people are afraid if they say things, that they'll lose their jobs. And that'll be the lesson. And of course I could talk about what's going on at colleges and the academies, if you look at it. So politics, so what I learned when I was very young and Ronald Reagan was elected president is that politics is the way that you can break through that messaging shut down, and learn that you're not alone, that other people have the same views and values as you do. And I think that is one reason why it's important to recognize this Ron Dreher, this Benedict Option, that we are facing new threats to Christianity, and to do a lot of things; build faithful communities who exemplify Christ, but one of the things we can't afford to do is retreat from politics. You have to learn how to do it better, how to do it real, how to do it as a subculture and a minority that really does need new protection, because the fact that President Trump is not aggressively pursuing the same strategies to use government to oppress us doesn't mean the next President won't do it if there's not legislative protection. And without a real political movement, the GOP is going to be useless, it's not going to act. Proft: She is Maggie Gallagher, she's a senior fellow at the American Principles Project. A piece that you should check out, that I tweeted, @DanProft, is "Culture is Downstream from politics", which you can also find at FirstThings.com. Maggie, thanks so much for joining us, appreciate your time. Gallagher: Thank you, buh bye.

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