A Plea to My Fellow Conservatives: Forget about Chick-fil-A

You never know what will be the next big news story. Who would’ve guessed that the fast food chain “Chick-fil-A” would dominate the political airwaves just a few months before November? It certainly caught me by surprise, at least. Today, I want to look into the Chick-fil-A controversy, the conservative backlash, and to conclude with an honest plea to my fellow conservatives to move on, already.

What’s the controversy? Early last month, an interview conducted by the Biblical Recorder with Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy surfaced in which Cathy reiterated the company’s support for traditional marriage between a man and a woman. Anyone knowledgeable about the famous chain’s Christian views shouldn’t have been too surprised by the interview, but it still created a small backlash amongst liberals and LGBT activists who called for a boycott of the company’s restaurants. The story didn’t receive a great deal of attention from conservatives, and normally this would be when the attention and controversy began to fade.

Then, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino waded into the controversy and publicly proclaimed that Chick-fil-A wasn’t “welcome” in his city. This got conservatives interested, and soon Twitter and conservative blogs were afire with declarations of support for Chick-fil-A and denunciations of Mayor Menino as a “fascist.” This online firestorm culminated in former Governor Mike Huckabee’s “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day,” which the restaurant chain just announced produced record-breaking sales (and more than a little bit of gloating amongst conservatives).

I get it. I really, honestly do. Mayor Menino’s comments were silly and ridiculous in the most overbearing, big-government way. When taken to its logical conclusion, an elected official unilaterally banning a business from operating in a certain area because he disagrees with the views of the business’s management on religion and public policy is bizarre and antithetical to a free society.

In addition to that, I understand why people love Chick-fil-A and want to defend it. On one level, it’s a great restaurant chain that offers quality food and wonderful customer service. I’ve only eaten there once myself (at the behest of a Southern coworker who did his best to educate me in the Southern ways of food and dress), but it was a very enjoyable dining experience. If my home state of Michigan actually had Chick-fil-A restaurants, I’m sure that I would eat there often.

More to the point, many socially conservative Christians feel that their religion and beliefs are under attack in an increasingly secular America. Regardless of the truth of that claim, it’s completely understandable for those social conservatives to rally around a prominent Christian who they perceive to be persecuted. There’s nothing shocking or surprising about that.

Still, it’s time for us to let this story go. Many of us have argued that President Barack Obama has run a “distractions campaign” in order to shift media attention away from the stagnant economy and persistently high unemployment numbers. Realistically, if you ask me, he’s done a good job with that tactic.

While the polling suggests that he and Mitt Romney remain virtually tied on the national level, the president has kept a solid lead in several key swing states. While the race remains centered on these distractions, the polling numbers will remain in stasis, and Romney will ultimately lose because of it if nothing changes.

In the case of the Chick-fil-A controversy, I believe that conservatives are contributing to the problem. While we delight in mocking Mayor Menino and celebrating the success of “Chick-fil-A appreciation day,” nobody’s talking about the economy. Nobody is talking about job growth, dismantling the regulatory state, reducing the debt, or repealing ObamaCare. Nobody’s talking about principle or policy. We’re just engaging in the latest distraction because it’s entertaining and an easy win.

There are only ninety-six days left until the election. Every day spent on this story detracts from the hundreds of important races all across the country, from your local officials all the way to the White House. We can’t afford to keep talking about this while we’re so close to November. Christians and social conservatives made their point yesterday. All of us conservatives have had a few good laughs at Mayor Menino’s expense. We’ve had our fun, and it’s time to move on.

Full disclosure: While I do believe that the traditional family is important and a cornerstone of society, I don’t believe that government should be issuing marriage licenses in the first place. Therefore, I advocate marriage privatization.

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About Daniel Anderson

I am a 21 year old Michigan native completing the final year of my undergraduate education at Hillsdale College. I tend to categorize my political philosophy as "constitutional conservatism." I also advocate free-market economics.
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8 Responses to A Plea to My Fellow Conservatives: Forget about Chick-fil-A

  1. Jerry Higdon says:

    If one were to think through how marriage privatization would work in real life where property and other legal interests must be orderly managed according to a consistent set of rules, one quickly concludes that marriage privatization is an intellectual exercise with no practical application.

  2. William Flax says:

    While the economy is certainly a major issue, it is not the only issue. If, hypothetically, views of the economy will determine 80% of the potential swing vote, that would still leave 20% to be determined by other issues. There is also the factor of motivation to even bother to vote.

    Under these circumstances, it would be very unwise for Conservatives to overlook the chance of garnering serious gains among that hypothetical 20&, and a serious measure of insurance in the motivation factor. (Frankly, I do not believe that anything like 80% of the swing vote will be determined solely on the basis of economic factors, but I am giving the writer the benefit of the doubt.)

    William Flax [Truth Based Logic]

    • I’ll grant that a lot of people won’t vote solely due to economic factors, and that many others will or won’t vote depending on their motivation. I think that I wrote this post a little prematurely. If Chick-fil-A is still “the big story” a week from now, I think my argument will be a little stronger, but I jumped the gun on this one.

  3. Daniel, I’m sorry you’re being “jumped” over on Free Republic. I’ve been a Freeper for many years, and while I generally agree with the criticisms being made of your argument, I don’t always like the personal tone that gets taken. True, you’ve put your views out in public for us to comment and criticize, and you’ve made yourself fair game. But rather than attack, I’ve come over to your own blog to give you some encouragement in a way that “turns down the heat” a bit.

    As I said over on Free Republic: “This is an opportunity to help him learn that being a consistent conservative is about **MUCH** more than economics.”

    First — you need to decide whether you are a libertarian or a conservative. There is a big difference between the two.

    Second — you need to decide whether government has a role in promoting public morality. Nearly all of the Founders thought it did; even those who were not Christians advocated principles of personal responsibility, thrift, marriage, etc., which today would be identified with hard-right Christian conservatives. The moral values being advocated by even the “liberals” of the late 1700s and early 1800s were severely Puritanical by modern standards. The “liberals” of that day may have been Unitarians denying the Trinity, Deists who denied involvement of a personal God in the running of the world, or disestablishmentarians arguing against tax-supported clergy, but they certainly were not supporters of homosexual marriage, promoters of free love, or anything like it. What are we to think of the people who argued in the days the Constitution was written and subsequent decades that the American system of government was suited for a moral type of people and could not work without a shared sense of right and wrong?

    Third, If you decide that you agree with the Founders on the importance of personal morality, you need to decide what the source of that morality should be. It’s pretty obvious that the old “civil religion” consensus morality had fallen on tough times by the 1950s and was dissolved by the acid of the 1960s, and we can’t go back there — nor should be try to do so. Conservative religion systems work which are based on external authority, whether that means authority in the Old and New Testaments, the magisterium of the Church, or the Torah and Talmud. Religions based on humanism and personal choice simply don’t work, and the decline of liberalism has pretty much proved that.

    I’m comfortable with a civic morality that includes conservatives from different moral traditions, whether that means evangelical Protestants, traditional Catholics, or Orthodox Jews. You describe yourself as a constitutional conservative, and I think I can defend my position based on the actual practice of the Founders in opening up full citizenship rights to Catholics and Jews, but I’m very much aware of the history of anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic politics in America, much of which was founded on anti-immigrant nativism. I’m not at all convinced that it is logically consistent with the principles of the historic Protestant confessions, the Roman Catholic magisterium, or Orthodox Judaism to be tolerant of other faiths in the civil realm, but somehow the cooperation born out of core religious convictions that led to political cooperation in the pro-life movement seems to have made it work in modern America.

    The old consensus morality won’t work and can’t be resurrected. Maybe we can develop a new consensus; I don’t know. What I do know is a values-free type of conservatism won’t work and will destroy itself.

    • Hello Darrell, thank you for the long, friendly, and thoughtful comment. I certainly understand that publishing (and thereafter promoting) any political views will always bring about a certain backlash. So I wasn’t incredibly surprised by the reaction over there, particularly since my view of the best political strategy for conservatives was going against the popular wisdom. Also, like I said in a previous comment, it was a little too hasty. I will say that many of the comments were actually constructive, and more than a few people offered helpful advice on how to format posts over there, which I needed. Your mini-history lesson was also useful, and explained a lot.
      As to the content of your comment itself, I’ll admit that I’m not prepared to offer a true, in-depth response. Still, I do want to say that you present a strong case, and it’s one that I’ll need some time to fully consider. Thank you again for commenting, I appreciate it.

  4. darrelltoddmaurina says:

    Thank you, Daniel… I was a young college student once, too, and said things then that I would not say today. (I’m from Michigan, by the way, though I didn’t go to Hillsdale, I have numerous friends who are Hillsdale alums; though I don’t think I know any current students, I may know some parents of current students.)

    I firmly believe that how future leaders get treated by those of us who are already older adults with a long history “in the fight” will have a significant effect on how those future leaders conduct themselves down the road. Alienating 21-year-old conservatives interested in politics is neither necessary nor helpful. All it will do is convince those future leaders that conservatives are a bunch of crabby old guys who lash out at the least provocation.

    Making enemies should not be the goal for conservatives — especially self-described constitutional conservatives like you. Even with liberals, the goal should be to change minds which can be changed, and deal with people as enemies as a last resort when necessary, not a first step.

    The bottom line issue here is whether the focus of the conservative movement should be on the economy or “culture war” issues. Lots of us believe the culture war is the real war and everything else is secondary. Even for those who disagree, something like the Chick-fil-A incident is an opportunity to unify economic conservatives and social issues conservatives, both of which groups can support the owners of this private business, though for different reasons. And on this issue of homosexual boycotts of private businesses, I see very little backlash; most Americans still agree with conservatives that private business owners have the right to their opinions, and reject the attitudes of the mayor of Chicago and Boston that traditional values have no place in their cities.

    We don’t agree on tactics, obviously, and there are really important issues at stake, but that doesn’t mean I need to be disagreeable in how I express my disagreement.

    I sincerely hope things go well for you up at Hillsdale. Right now, with our hundred-degree temperatures, I wish I were back in Michigan.

  5. Oh, Michigan’s not THAT much better right now in terms of temperatures. We’ve hit 95 degrees several times recently, although I suppose that that would still be an improvement for you. Anyway, I will say that I completely agree that making an enemy out of those who disagree with us ought to be avoided whenever possible.

    I managed to spend a fair amount of time in front of the Supreme Court for all three days of the ObamaCare trial, and I managed to persuade a few of the bill’s supporters that specific elements of the bill were really bad ideas. It wasn’t a “huge success” by any means, but my friendlier, more upbeat method of debating was certainly more effective than the tactics of others there, who tried to scream down their opponents. I don’t see any need (or use) in outright hostile forms of debate. Even if you’re arguing only to sway those in the audience listening in, most people have a naturally negative reaction to an angry debater.

    Thank you again for the kind comment.

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