Leah Libresco: social conservatives are becoming irrelevant

Atheist-turned-Catholic blogger Leah Libresco has a new gig working for the American Conservative magazine, and she’s produced some fascinating reporting on the 2014 CPAC convention, including a piece titled “Social Cons in Retreat at CPAC”

It might be a tradition that every year that GOProud is excluded as a CPAC sponsor, there will be a stealth panel on gay marriage.

In 2013, that slot was filled by the “A Rainbow on the Right: Growing the Coalition, Bringing Tolerance Out of the Closet” panel, which was the standing-room only panel thrown unofficially by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. This year, the gay rights debate happened on the mainstage at during “Can Libertarians and Social Conservatives Ever Get Along?”…

Throughout the panel, the social conservatives seemed to be soliciting the help of the libertarians, trying to speak their language, while the libertarians seemed indifferent to the idea of converting social conservatives. The libertarians answered the questions that were posed to them but made no parallel attempts to appeal to socially conservative tenets in order to attract their fellow panelists to libertarian positions…

By the conclusion of the panel, the speakers agreed that social conservatives and libertarians could remain bedfellows, albeit strange ones. However, the tone and tactics on display reinforced Ross Douthat’s assertion that social conservatives are no longer negotiating as equals, but are working out the terms of a conditional surrender.

It’s worth noting that what Leah’s saying is rather stronger than what Douthat actually said. Douthat was talking about opponents of gay marriage surrendering within the larger culture, but Leah sounds like she’s talking about a surrender of social conservatives to the more libertarian elements within the Republican party. And her phrasing on Twitter was in some ways more blunt:


This isn’t entirely surprising. Support for gay marriage is now pushing 59% of the population. Over a third of Americans now live in marriage equality states. It’s been obvious for awhile now that the Republican party would eventually have to pivot away from anti-gay bigotry and heavy reliance on religious voters in general. But to hear Leah tell it, that pivot is already happening right now, which is much sooner than I would’ve expected it to.

It’s interesting to compare this with Leah’s coverage of American Atheists being ejected from CPAC. According to Leah, both AA’s David Silverman and Secular Coalition for America’s Edwina Rogers self-identify as conservatives. I knew about Rogers, but had dismissed her as a hack who was hired more for PR chops than for having any kind of coherent view on anything. Silverman surprised me, though. There are plenty of atheist libertarians, but in the current political climate, “atheist conservative” almost seems like a contradiction in terms. The exception that proves the rule is the vapid S. E. Cupp, who talks about how she wishes she were religious.

The story about AA getting booted from CPAC at first seems at odds with Leah’s more recent reporting, suggesting that religious conservatives aren’t totally in retreat yet. But the fact that they bothered trying at all, and that Silverman is calling himself a conservative without making any concessions to the religious, could alternatively be seen as a sign of just how close we are to realignment. I expect Republicans to at least continue playing lip service to the religious right in the 2016 election, but given the polling numbers smarter candidates may try to stay away from topics like gay marriage as much as possible.

  • busterggi

    Leah Libresco…becoming irrelevant

  • Nathaniel

    Don’t kid yourself. The social conservatives will always be with us. Their influence waxes and wanes, but they never disappear. They massively resisted integration. They still are massively resisting evolution and effective sex education. Twenty years from now, they may be surging again to combat some other boogeyman.

    Don’t ever rest on your laurels with these people.

  • Pofarmer

    I never can quite figure leah out. How do you go from being an Atheist, to thinking reciting whatever rote prayers are in vogue this week will do, well, something? There was another gal on EWTN he other night that had a similar story. This may be sexist, but I wonder if it’s not something women go through at about child bearing age.

    • Nathaniel

      It is sexist. And if you want to figure out why Leah converted, try reading the relevant blog posts.

      • Pofarmer

        I have read some of them, but they have always struck me more as rationalizing an emotional decision than advocating an intellectual one.

        • Andrew Reid

          My (possibly incorrect) reading of Libresco’s blog history is that she was committed to property-of-the-universe-objective moral values existing and theism fits in with this better than materialism. As for how you get from there to Catholicism, I don’t know.

          I concur with other comments that there is nothing inherently female about this position.

          • Pofarmer

            I dunno, I have just witnessed too many women, including my wife, in their early to mid 20′s who have kids and then become increasingly religious. Maybe it’s just confirmation bias.

          • http://deusdiapente.wordpress.com/ JQuinton

            I’ve been blogging a bit about why women are more religious than men: http://deusdiapente.wordpress.com/2014/02/02/1684/

          • Unah

            Oh, this is true, but I don’t know what it has to do with confirmation bias. In my experience women become more religious after having children for a few reasons. Church is free and there are a lot of kid and mommy friendly activities. Being around church groups more leads to more indoctrination. She may be more conscious of moral issues when suddenly faced with a little one, and if she was half-hearted about religion before she may double down thinking that is what good moms do. Then there is the nostalgia of growing up in the church, and wanting Jr to experience that. On the other hand, I was very religious at one time then I had my son, and I ran for our lives. It helped that I was already becoming disillusioned with religion. But to be fair I have seen some men become more religious after becoming fathers too, but usually it is the women.

          • Darren

            Agreed. I would place her as an Aristotelian who bought into the RCC’s retconning of Aristotle as Catholic and with a heavy sprinkling of meditation / mysticism.

          • Donalbain

            I am sure it had nothing at all to do with the fact that she had a catholic boyfriend.

    • guest

      Yes, it is sexist. Two ancedotal pieces of evidence isn’t a representative sample. Plenty of men also convert to religion or change their religion at various stages of their lives. Jumping to the conclusion that it’s ‘something women go through’ when it happens to men as well, and there are women it doesn’t happen to, is shoddy reasoning. What’s ‘child-bearing’ age anyway? A girl/woman can carry a carry a child from her first period around 13 anywhere up to 35-40 and even 65 for the most extreme cases.

    • Luke Breuer

      I never can quite figure leah out. How do you go from being an Atheist, to thinking reciting whatever rote prayers are in vogue this week will do, well, something?

      What evidence do you have that Leah believes this? You clearly don’t respect her very much, as you can’t even bother to capitalize her name, even though you capitalize the beginning of your sentences, “I”, and most interestingly, “Atheist”. This is telling. Of what, precisely, I don’t know. But I consider it significant.

      • Andrew Reid

        >> I consider it significant.

        You shouldn’t. The comment was probably just typed using an editor that knows to capitalize after a period :)

        • Luke Breuer

          The editor knows to capitalize “Atheist”?

          • Pofarmer

            Don’t your panties all in wad. I am typing either on an ipad or a smart phone with pulled tendons in my left arm and disqus is hating on both devices.

          • Pofarmer

            Oh, and I’ve followed her just enough to know that she’s reccomending different novena’s or, whatever the fuck the Catholic prayers are at different times.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ trivialknot

    David Silverman identifies as conservative? You cite Leah, but I can’t even tell where Leah said that, much less where Leah heard it.

  • White Dragon

    Even though gays have higher STD and AIDS rates. A social cost.

    • Plutosdad

      Yes they commit suicide more too. That doesn’t mean it’s because they are gay, it’s because of awful people in the world who persecute them and keep giving silly arguments like yours.

      You mean gay men have more STDs, gay women have lower rates of STDs than straight men or women. I’m sure you’re not telling women to all become gay (if it’s a choice after all).

      The fact that gay men have a higher rate probably has a lot more to do with the fact they are men.

      Men are encouraged to have “traditional” roles, be “manly” seek out sex and power. etc, all the things that Dobson et al tell us is how God wants us men to be.

      Also, when you have to hide yourself and sneak around to have a relationship at all, it makes it hard on relationships. Monogamous relationships are difficult when they are constantly trying to hide for fear of persecution, whether verbal, losing their job, or worse. You can’t go out together, you can’t be seen together. This limits people to short term relationships or one night stands. Which increases risks of STDs along with leading to unhappiness if what you want is to be open and honest and find a long term partner and simply not live in fear every day.

      • Jason Wexler

        So what’s the excuse for Millennial and Digital Native generation men living in gay ghettos in large tolerant urban communities in marriage equality states, having an increased rate of STD infections? Your argument/explination is certainly plausible for Silent and Baby Boom generation gay men, and even has some merit for generation Xers, and certainly still holds for people in rural communities and bible belt states regardless of their generation/age, but when current 20 somethings with tolerance and support and stability are bug chasing I think the implication that White Dragon makes while on the surface is ignorant, may have some kernel of truth with regards to promiscuity.

  • jose

    This changing view on gay marriage is evidence worth studying in the field of morality. It’s too easy to say we’re thinking the moral thing now and we were immoral before.

  • Y. A. Warren

    Yoda quote,”Ignorance breeds fear. Fear breeds hate. Hate breeds violence.”

    “Social conservatives” should simply call themselves what they are “Scared people.” They seem to believe that it is better to have “a devil that you know than a devil that you don’t know.”

    Those who seek power simply have to spread fear to turn rational humans into their most basic animal selves. What any one person can understand in our highly technological, specialized society is limited. This can, and should, create more diverse communities, rather than pockets of bobble-heads. I work toward the day that people take the time to include, rather than ridicule, others with languages and habits different from their own.

    • White Dragon

      Funny how only Whites keep pretending that diversity is a strength.

      Diversity = less Whites = White displacement = White genocide.

      I repeat, WHITE LIBERALS ARE FUNDING AND CELEBRATING THEIR OWN ETHNIC DISPLACEMENT! This is LUNACY! No other race would do this.

      Not only that, it is blindingly obvious that not every race is capable of building/maintaining a 1st world nation. You can‘t build 1st world nations with lower IQ, crime-prone races (Blacks and non-White Hispanics). You can’t create wealth with races that have never created advanced nations themselves. The truth is “rayyysssiiissssst”.

      In fact, non-Whites flock to White majority nations, because Whites build the most desirable societies. Again, the truth is “rayyysssiiissssst”.

      • Y. A. Warren

        Please take yourself down to the public library and read some history of the Mayans, Persians, and Africans before whites got there.

      • Sven2547

        Diversity = less Whites = White displacement = White genocide.

        A stunningly, incredibly stupid position. You have the nerve to call this junk “truth”?

      • gimpi1

        Ignorance breeds Fear. You proved Warren’s point perfectly.

  • Spectrall

    What’s amusing is that she’s blogging over on the Catholic portal here, which harbors some of the more bizarrely militant social conservatives I’ve seen anywhere. People like Rebecca Hamilton and Mark Shea hide behind a thin veneer of reasonableness and scholarly tradition while just being positively nasty individuals.


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