Abraham Lincoln famously said of Ulysses S. Grant in the early days of the Civil War, “I can’t spare this man — he fights.” After playing defense on social issues — and doing it rather poorly for decades — conservatives are echoing a similar sentiment about politicians willing to take up the fight against illiberal ideologies.
At the forefront is Gov. Ron DeSantis in Florida, who defended the effort to pass House Bill 1557. Media and activists deceptively tagged the legislation the “don’t say gay bill,” but it simply empowers parents opposed to sexual indoctrination for kindergartneners through the third grade. Of course, there is no prohibition from saying the word “gay” or requiring students to be “outed” about their sexuality to parents. Teachers are not barred from mentioning spouses, despite dramatic outcries from activists. The bill bans school-led discussion on sexual issues and gender identity, making those issues more age-appropriate for Florida classrooms.
If one doubts the veracity of claims that social agendas have infiltrated the classrooms of younger and younger students, they only need to follow the “Libs of Tik Tok” account on Twitter. The site has posted a bevy of teachers and administrators admitting their social and political agendas in schools. A positive that emerged from pandemic lockdowns is that parents became much more aware of what was being taught in classrooms — and some of it had nothing to do with traditional education.
DeSantis is receiving praise because of his dust-up with The Walt Disney Corporation, which has been viewed with suspicion for decades for having an anti-family agenda. Predictably, Disney is a strong and vocal opponent of the law. Where other conservative governors folded relatively quickly to the likes of the NCAA, woke corporations, or LGBTQIA activists, DeSantis punched back by threatening to remove Disney’s special carve-outs and privileges for a company with assets exceeding $200 billion.
“I don’t care what corporate media outlets say,” declared DeSantis. “I don’t care what Hollywood says. I don’t care what big corporations say. Here I stand. I’m not backing down.”
According to NBC News, “Republican polling in the state indicates the law is popular — even among Democrats — when voters are asked if they support or oppose allowing young kids to be taught about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools.” A Republican state senator in Florida called the controversy “lose-lose for Disney, and win-win for DeSantis.”
The truth is that the left is overreaching on many social issues today. Transgender activism is not popular with most families, and many Americans recoil today at the rising lack of fairness in women’s sports. Most parents don’t want teachers or people less known to them teaching their young kids about sex and gender issues. If NBC News is to be trusted, it’s clearly not just conservative or Republican households that hold this opinion.
Attacks to weaken the family have long been a persistent goal of cultural Marxism. The goal is a lot less about “grooming” kids for sexual abuse but about preventing children from experiencing the family as the center of life and knowledge. If kids are further severed from strong families, it ultimately fuels statist objectives and desires. “The family is the fountainhead of all mental and moral influence,” declared the famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass. If families are in disorder, it is much easier for centralization schemes to succeed.
Social conservatism simply means believing that life is imperfect and it’s essential to promote moral virtues for humans to flourish. Yet, it’s been unfairly maligned for decades because these attributes and virtues frustrate the ambition of central planners. Creating stable families, institutions, and traditions is always positive for communities, and we abandon those values at our peril. Let’s hope, like DeSantis, more politicians understand this simple truth.
Ray Nothstine is Carolina Journal opinion editor and Second Amendment research fellow at the John Locke Foundation.