The New Litmus Test

For almost all of my political life, abortion has been the litmus test for conservatives in the United States. Not anymore.

Some pro-life leaders are worried about “fetus fatigue” (a term coined by Douglas Groothuis in 2008), where it appears that many young evangelicals have given up on making sigificant progress in reeling back from Roe v. Wade. I think Groothuis is correct in part. However, I also think that conservatives, evangelical Christian and otherwise, can only handle one Big Issue at a time. Move over, Abortion – Immigration is here.

All of my friends (and yes, I have a few) who used to go on and on about abortion now go on and on about immigration. The level of perjorative that used to be reserved for those favouring abortion rights or, at worst, abortion providers, are now reserved for those favouring leniency toward undocumented immigrants. In fact, if anything, it is worse. In reading around the conservative blogosphere and even in talking to individuals face-to-face (because people tend to be much less restrained in the pseudonyminous detachment of the internet), opposing views are treated with anger, aggression, and a remarkable lack of civility.

In one sense, the anti-immigration crowd have become the new liberals. I say this only with regard to manners and decorum. I used to occasionally read liberal blogs – mostly if said bloggers strayed over to this or predecessor blogs and left a link with their comment.  The venom and vitriol spewed at virtually anyone in the Republican Party was astonishing. I’ve been around for a long time and met a lot of people of various backgrounds carrying a variety of baggage, but I had never seen anything like it. Now it has become increasingly the common behaviour of those who comment in conservative blogs to do the same thing.

A recent troll commented on another post I wrote about immigration: “You seem to consider yourself a Christian. I don’t think you’re a especially good one, but perhaps you’ve be better off dropping the ‘conservative’ label entirely and just using the Christian one.” If it comes down to it, that would be my choice. I still consider myself a conservative and I believe that my political views – including my views on immigration – reflect true conservative values. I believe in small government and a free market. I believe in the sanctity of life and of the family as created by God. However, if I’m only allowed one, I’ll take the label that has eternal value.

11 Responses to “The New Litmus Test”

  1. Johnny Long Says:

    I am not really sure if I understand your point. I guess I haven’t payed much attention to the political blogoshpere although I am familiar with some blogospheres.

    I am somewhat familiar the Texas State Convention. I have just attended my 11th all of which I was a delegate or a seated alternate.

    Although the core Christians in the Republican Party have always been multi-faceted when it came to Laws they where portrayed as single minded because they believed that human life was the first & foremost unalienable right which is self evident. This is rarely debated in Republican circles any more so they are focusing on other injustices. Like illegal aliens being given the same status as those naturalized often through great heroism and service to this country. Maybe even greater than Rehab at Jericho. Definitely with greater periods of time of sacrifice.

    The Party platform still shows a diversity of legal concerns. It is not like many of those same Christians haven’t played an intricate role.

    I am not saying that there are not some wolves in sheep’s clothing but then that isn’t new either. Neither are slanderers or false prophets new to the Republican party. Our senatorial district had to censor a delegate who was being considered for the position of vice chair of the state party for his use of words around the pages which where minors. He had been asked by the chair of the caucus not to do that, he refused the option of letting the pages leave the room under the guise he wouldn’t continue, and he turned right around and continued. But just as essential I felt he was slandering one of our government officials and not producing evidence to back up his claim.

  2. Steve Says:

    The first time I came across the idea that being in favour of abortion was “liberal” I was shocked. I wrote in my diary (4 Feb 1966) “I woke up relatively early, and while eating breakfast discussed with Eric an article in yesterday’s “Sun” on the subject of abortion. The thing that struck me was that they spoke of the “liberal and enlightened practice of legal abortion” and “a human approach unaffected by moral attitudes” which sounded completely nonsensical. As they put it the whole thing sounded to me like fascist piggery based fundamentally on the idea that if the
    existence of another person causes me inconvenience or discomfort then I am morally justified in trying to get rid of the other person. And here the fact that many of the people involved (in abortion) were married women who already had children would seem to indicate a certain amount of selfishness. And once having established the practice that it is all right to get rid of inconvenient individuals in some circumctances, then the way is open for doing it on others. …”

    And concluded by writing “Political deviates would be the next on the list. Why, we’ll be back to the good old days when Jews were liquidated in the gas chambers. Of course the good doctor in Aberdeen might say that in a liberal and enlightened country things couldn’t escalate like that
    — but do we live in a liberal and enlightened society? And of
    course a humane approach must not be affected by moral attitudes. How lovely for Mr Vorster, I am sure. We can embark at once on a humane and enlightened programme for all Bantu women who become pregnant. Humane, because most of them have starving children already , and another mouth to feed when there is not enough food
    as it is could cause them worry, and damage their mental and physical health and well-being. And the world will have cause to be grateful, because we are solving the problem of overpopulation by a liberal and enlightend practice of genocide. The foregoing, of course, is an extensive exaggeration of what the article actually said. But such escalation would really be perilously easy. Perhaps there is something in human rights after all; if it were enshrined
    in law the illiberal, unenlightened and inhumane idea that every human being from the moment of conception, had “an inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.”

    In other words, the practice of unsrestricted abortion seemd to me to be anything but “liberal”.

    But it then occorred to me that they could be using “liberal” in a somewhat different sense, meaning unfettered and unrestricted. In that sense, “liberal abortion laws” and “liberal gun laws” are much the same thing. In that sense, American conservatives seem to me to be very liberal about the latter, but not so much about the former.

  3. sol Says:

    The word liberal does have a variety of meanings depending on when and where you are in the world and what the subject matter is.

    In most American contexts it is another word for left-wing. Steve,

    Most Americans are so tied into this context that the would assume “liberal gun laws” means the exact opposite of what it literally means. For Americans “liberal gun laws” would mean restrictive gun laws, as supported by most people who would call themselves liberals in the States. It does turn the word on its head a bit! Conservative Americans would be opposed to “liberal abortion laws”, not because it means abortion laws that are unfettered or unrestricted, but because it means abortion laws as supported by liberals. It’s just a coincidence that the two meanings of the word intersect at the same place.

    The thought expressed in your diary were prescient, both in how abortion would be used worldwide as a means of population control, as well as the slippery slope down which civilisation has slid since the liberalisation of abortion laws in the 1960s and 70s.

  4. sol Says:


    My main point it that anti-immigration (or anti-undocumented immigration, to be more precise as to the message, if not the motivation) is the new Big Issue for conservatives. My related point is that many conservatives, both blogging and not, have expressed their views about this in a markedly ungracious manner, behave in a way I am more used to seeing from people on the left of the political spectrum.

  5. Steve Says:

    For the way the immigration issue plays out in South Africa, see No bread, no matches, no candles — thanks to xenophobia | Khanya. As an immigrant in the UK you can probably see it from an immigrant’s point of view. Another post that does that is PamBG’s Blog: A Thought on Immigration, which you might find interesting.

    I think words like “liberal” and “conservative” have been well and truly skunked, and can mean anything, or nothing at all. As a liberal I am pro-life, and therefore I favour policies that seek to abolish, reduce or restrict things like abortion, war and capital punishment.

  6. PamBG Says:

    An interesting post. Although a US citizen, I’m still relatively “new” to 21st century culture in the US. I have to say that I hadn’t picked up that immigration had replaced the abortion issue as some kind of litmus test for political conservatives. I’ll keep an eye out for that (this area is fairly politically conservative in the US sense).

    I don’t know a lot about SA (I only visited once on a business trip in the late 1990s). I suspect, however, that other words like “free market” may have a different connotation in Africa, in the US and in Europe. I can’t imagine a US culture that is anything *but* a free market culture. But, in my mind, to be a “conservative free market person” in the US probably has connotations that I personally don’t want to own – more along the lines of both social and fiscal survival of the fittest.

  7. sol Says:

    Pam, I don’t think the US is operating as a free market, amongst other government control, because it seeks to control the labor market by severely controlling immigration.

  8. PamBG Says:

    OK, I see what you’re saying. I have a feeling that we could potentially talk about this until the cows come home and probably continue to disagree with each other.

    When I think of the US being a free-market system I mean that I believe that our culture is very bought-in to the idea that the purpose of individual and collective human life is to make money and that money is to be made by allowing supply and demand to determine prices. As you rightly point out, this doesn’t actually happen (and has rarely happened in the course of our history) but I think it does form the core of our values. We believe in capitalism and worship it more than we believe in Christ and worship him.

    I’d contrast this – just as an example – to post-War Europe where I believe that the central societal value was something more like pulling together to rebuild the “tools” (government, economy, social life) necessary for a civilized society. Of course, this is dying away as WWII becomes a dim memory and as individualism and consumerism become the order of the day.

    As a Christian, I’d support a free global market if it actually meant economic development for all peoples of the world. Unfortunately, the reality of human politics means that this will never be the case. Often, “international free markets” simply means a license for the dominant economies to exploit the developing ones.

    I don’t think that there are any easy answers in terms of economic policy. However, I do believe that as human beings we will never progress until we become serious about the idea that God commands us to take other people’s welfare as seriously as we take our own.

  9. flenser Says:

    “A recent troll commented on another post I wrote about immigration ..”

    Ah, there’s that “decorum” and absence of “pejoratives” which you prize so highly.

  10. sol Says:

    Yes, that was written the day after you helped me understand the various correct uses of the term “troll” after you called me that on another blog where I had given a carefully thought out and cordially presented view that contradicted the majority of commenters.

    I thought you would be honored that I used a term you used for me. I’m still trying to come up with a use for “moby sockpuppet” but I still have yet to figure out the “moby” bit (despite your incredulity), so I don’t know when I will be able to return the compliment.

  11. Steve Says:

    There’s to be a synchroblog on the immigration issue next month — you might like to enter this post for it, or write another if you are moved to do so. More at Notes from underground: Illegal aliens

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