More and more, we hear this phrase ‘social conservatives’ tossed around, and in more instances used as a negative connotation against those observers of traditional values. Furthermore, this phrase is seen by some as a force that stunts the growth of the conservative movement, and falsely so. Let me break this lightly…the problem is not, nor ever has been, with 'social conservatives’, and the mere labeling is a joke! You're either conservative or you are not. Either principles, morality and traditions, as the Founders implied, as Bastiat and Burke inferred, factor into being a conservative, or you fall into some other category. Sadly, most Republicans can't even live up to this prescription. And to be perfectly honest, so as not to appear to be 'holier than thou', I absolutely struggle, yet aspire, to reach these truths...but I know it's what is honestly prescribed to be principally conservative. If one says, "I'm fiscally conservative, but socially liberal" that is an honest statement...but it doesn't make you a 'Conservative'.
In his book The Conservative Mind, Russell Kirk discusses Edmund Burke’s thoughts on the negative elements that detach man from Divinity, but to be wise in acknowledging that the establishments of positivity alone do not gain Providential favor; rather, overcoming ones vices through these principled establishments set man on a more righteous path. This idea is among many of Burke’s that present a perfect example of the social principles all conservatives should embrace:
Ours is a moral order, then, and our laws are derived from immortal moral laws; the higher happiness is moral happiness, says Burke, and the cause of suffering is moral evil. Pride, ambition, avarice, revenge, lust, sedition, hypocrisy, ungoverned zeal, disorderly appetites – these vices are the actual causes of the storms that trouble life. “Religion, morals, laws, prerogatives, privileges, liberties, rights of men, are the pretexts” for revolution by sentimental humanitarians and mischievous agitators who think that established institutions must be the source of our afflictions. But the human heart, in reality, is the fountain of evil. “You would not cure the evil by resolving, that there should be no more monarchs, nor ministers of state, nor of the gospel; no interpreters of laws; no general officers; no public councils…. Wise men will apply their remedies to vices, not to names.”
… “When we know, that the opinions of even the greatest multitudes are the standard of rectitude, I shall think myself obliged to make those opinions the masters of my conscience. But if it may be doubted whether Omnipotence itself is competent to alter the essential constitution of right and wrong, sure am I, that such things, as they and I, are possessed of no such power.” Now and again, Burke praises two great virtues, the keys to private contentment and public peace: they are prudence and humility, the first pre-eminently an attainment of classical philosophy, the second pre-eminently a triumph of Christian discipline. Without them, man must be miserable; and man destitute of piety hardly can perceive either of these rare and blessed qualities.
For solitary man in search of spiritual peace, for society in search of permanent order, Providence has furnished means by which mankind may apprehend this moral universe. Tradition and prescription are the guiding lights of the civil social man; and therefore Burke elevates to the dignity of social principles those conventions and customs which, before the eighteenth century, most men accepted with an unreflecting confidence.
Would those who differentiate ‘social conservatives’ as being separated from the core of conservatism also castigate the “father of modern conservatism”?! Perhaps those who tout “the era of Reagan is over”, or adhere to the ‘new’ notion that the Republican ‘big tent’ no longer has enough room for prescribed social values, might reconsider the principles, morality and traditions of conservatism before their professed separation and abandonment, which would otherwise lose the battle against the forces of the Left, ultimately leading to tyranny. These values should not be compromised, nor could such a dismal outcome be afforded.