Can’t I Dissent on Anything?

The following was originally published and is the sole property of

Like thousands of other undergraduates, I flocked to Washington, D.C. this summer to intern and build up my political resume. As summer is coming to a close and I will shortly be trading long days at the office for long nights at the library, an interesting event occurred during my final week at my internship at Brent Bozell?s Media Research Center.

I was chatting with one of my fellow interns when I noticed she had a stack of Pro-Life stickers, T-shirts, and pamphlets piled up on her desk. She apparently was given the material at one of Grover Norquist?s ?Wednesday Meetings,? by someone who asked her if she would be interested in starting up a Pro-Life group on her college campus. Like a good young conservative activist eager to fight the liberal establishment, without hesitation she precipitously agreed.

My intern friend proceeded to ask me if I would like to have a sticker for my car. When I replied with a solemn ?no,? she proceeded to Socratically question my position on abortion. When I told her that I do not consider myself ?pro-life? or an evangelize for the movement, my friend was quite taken aback and looked almost insulted. My young colleague ardently disagreed with me, to no surprise as she is Catholic and a strong social conservative. But what?s notable was her initial response to my view of the issue, ?Maybe you are working in the wrong place.?

Now of course the MRC is a conservative organization, and leans to the right on abortion. I chose to intern there because I am a conservative on foreign policy, immigration, economics, and basically every social issue, I don?t even consider myself ?pro-choice.?

This kind of seclusion regarding social issues seems to be an overwhelming theme of the conservative movement and Republican party politics lately. More than once, I have been labeled a ?squishy moderate? by my College Republican counterparts because of my view on abortion.

Apparently, gone are the days of Frank S. Meyer?s and William F. Buckley?s ?fusionism.? While maybe supply-side economics won?t fix the financial problems of today, and SDI won?t help win the Cold War, a return to Reagan?s ?big tent? philosophy would be a positive for conservatism. How can we rebuild a party when we practice seclusion rather than inclusion? Does one need to check every box on the conservative ideological checklist in order to be a Republican or a conservative?


3 Responses to “Can’t I Dissent on Anything?”
  1. Wallace Forman says:

    I think part of the problem, Sam, is that for a sizable part of the motivated conservative movement, abortion *is* the only non-negotiable issue. If you believe that abortion is morally equivalent to murder, then everything else sort of fades into the background, doesn’t it? It isn’t a position that allows for much subtlety or compromise, nor is it a philosophy that we can build a greater movement on top of.

    Though yes, I would hope there is more room for debate on some of the other social issues that are identifiably “conservative”. Immigration and gay marriage, I’m looking at you!

    • nick says:

      Unfortunately Wallace, at some point, if you compromise on all the things that define you as a Conservative, then you are no longer a Conservative, you are a Moderate or a Conservative Democrat.

      This is my problem with the “new” Conservative movement, because it’s really just Moderates in disguise. This isn’t the last time Sam is going to run into this discussion in DC or anywhere else.

      I think he’s been spending too much time with Frum. Educate yourself, grow a back bone, and pick a side.

      • Wallace Forman says:

        I suppose I’m not convinced by the first premise – that the anti-abortion movement really is part of the conservative movement in any helpful sense. If someone thinks that abortion is like the Holocaust, then they are going to vote for the party that wants to end the Holocaust. Its unclear whether these people should be expected to necessarily have any dedication to a coherent larger conservative philosophy – if there is such a thing.