This article is the first in a three-part series titled “Conservatives Under Siege”. Subscribe to Liberty Conservatives Magazine or follow Joel on Facebook or Twitter to be notified of subsequent articles.
From the explosion of outrage and hyperbole that violated my social media newsfeeds in the last two days, I gather that gender-confused individuals are now trying to use bathrooms to which they are not assigned.
I expect it to complicate some social norms, and potentially produce awkward situations. It may even force some businesses or public buildings to go back to the barbaric unisex individual bathrooms still used by most small businesses nationwide. Worse yet, government may declare public restrooms to be unisex and government workers and public schoolers will be forced to join the approximately 90% of the world that doesn’t give a crap where you, you know, give a crap.
Fond as I am of our distinguished American bathroom system, I also realize that the extent of this controversy is still…bathrooms.
As conservative blogger Matt Walsh recently pointed out, transgendered people have already been using the water closets of their choice for years, with remarkably little subsequent catastrophe:
Nobody has gone to jail.
Nobody has been bankrupted.
Nobody has been shot.
The national guard has not been called.
Bathroom sexual assaults have not become a nationwide epidemic.
There have been no transgendered folks lobbing Molotovs at Christian businesses (though opponents may soon start lobbing them at Target).
Bathroom policies have never, to my knowledge: started a war, destroyed an economy, threatened freedom of speech, diminished gun rights, raised tariffs, or otherwise harmed anyone’s life, liberty, or property.
None of that is to say that the issue doesn’t matter, or that someone might one day try to sue churches or businesses over it – there’s certainly precedent. Government has no right to tell churches, business, or homeowners who may and may not use their bathrooms.
Should things head that direction, you will not find a fiercer defender of religious liberty and private property rights than I.
But that’s not where we stand today, and it’s not somewhere that this whole controversy is likely to end up if we allow individuals, businesses, and local communities to handle this the way they handle everything else.
In short, both sides need to stop asking the government to intervene here.
While I won’t be using the restroom – or the cash registers – at Target anytime soon, I’m also thankful for headlines like “Target decides to desegregate its bathrooms” rather than “Target calls on US Government to force all businesses to desegregate bathrooms”.
They’re making an internal, market-driven decision, and betting on the fact that their share value will increase by getting on the left side of this political debate, while simultaneously broadcasting their hostility to conservatives and pretty much anyone who doesn’t want to have to play eenie-meenie-miney-moe before choosing a restroom.
Good for them – finally, we get some truth in advertising.
Consequently, spurned conservatives have now established a nationwide boycott of Target, including – at the time of this writing – over 700,000 people.
Good for us.
The battle for commercial restrooms is currently being fought where it should be – in the free market.
Likewise, federal, state, and local governments can do what they want with their facilities. If you don’t like the way your government bathrooms are being handled, elect people who will change that.
Actually, if the condition of the average interstate rest area is any indicator, this may be the next big campaign issue – “Make rest stops great again“.
You’re welcome, Donald.
Then again, if you like your bathrooms, you can keep your bathrooms.
The current cultural warzone is North Carolina, where a federal appeals court just struck down a law requiring transgendered persons to use the restroom associated with their biological sex, which – contrary to prevailing opinion – is a real thing.
Clearly, the implications of this decision extend beyond bathroom etiquette in a number of ways – mostly questions of jurisdiction.
Is the state of North Carolina acting within its proper authority in requiring individuals to use ANY restroom against their will?
Is the court acting within the bounds of the 10th Amendment in striking the law down?
Should government really be involved with any of this in the first place?
As meaningful as such questions are, I think there are other questions that should really be gnawing at traditional conservatives by now:
What have we gained from five decades of consistently battling the sexual liberation movement?
What strides have we made toward liberty and limited government by fighting to disallow gay ‘marriage’?
Have we not rather undermined our own position by running to state and federal government to enforce our preference, setting the precedent for our opponents to wield the club when their guy wins?
If insanity is, as Einstein surmised, doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, perhaps it’s time conservatives get a clue.
To find such a clue, we need look no further than the other primary moral struggle of our age: the pro-life cause.
For over forty years, conservatives have battled Roe v. Wade in every political and social theater and until recently, had little to show for it. But recently, the heart of the country – and younger Americans in particular – has softened toward the unborn. State-level restrictions and gruesome exposés have put abortion giant Planned Parenthood on the defensive, and are putting clinics all over the country out of business.
This developing advantage has not been the result of any convincing federal win with regard to abortion – Congress continues to fund providers and courts continue to strike down any effort to outlaw abortion. Rather, the positive trends have been a result of cultural change and scientific advancement, while the main barrier to protecting innocent life remains a rigid federal policy strictly in favor of abortion.
Representative government mirrors the population. If you want to change the federal government, you have to first set about changing the minds of the people. Of course there are slower ways (gay rights activism) and faster ways (the Civil War) to do that, but what’s important to note is that efforts to win policy battles without prior or concurrent efforts to win the culture, will always fail.
Look, as a Ron Paul guy, I understand the importance of message candidates, protest votes, etc. But at the same time, those things are, in and of themselves, ultimately ineffective. They are meant to be kindling to the brushfires of liberty, not to replace the long-burning coals of electoral and policy success.
Chinese master-strategist Sun Tzu said “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”
If this is true, then the Left is set to win as many LGBT battles as they can cue up.
National opinion is galloping away from traditional values, and an apparent inability to adapt to the changing ethical complexion of the rising generation has left culture warriors essentially shooting spitballs at an oncoming tank.
Social conservatives are marching to war, having already lost.
Meanwhile, the main targets for our opposition are areas in which the Right has measurable strength and enough popular support to win – if we could just manage the attention span to bring it to bear.
Civil rights, fiscal restraint, the pro-life cause, and gun rights are just a few of the issues that currently lean in our favor and are ripe for advance. But each doomed attempt to progress on the sexual liberation front bleeds the money, activism, and willpower of the conservative movement away from these areas, allowing the opposition to advance more freely on issues they should be losing.
And our failure to move the ball in those areas is costing us a lot more than our bathroom preferences.
I’m fully aware that as soon as this article is published, bathroom-policing zealots will line up to declare me a sellout and a surrender bot, and to boldly declare that the inalienable right to segregated restrooms is now the conservative Alamo.
You know, just like the Obergefell case.
And the Obamacare decision.
And Prop 8.
And electing Mitt Romney.
But I hope they will also begin to honestly examine the results of decades of poorly-conceived and clumsily-executed conservative activism and adjust their strategic priorities accordingly.
We can’t keep employing the same failed strategies over and over, and expect victorious results.