What Republicans Should Learn From the Transgender Moment

The above title is from an article by Sean Fieler late last month over at The Daily Signal. In it, Fieler makes some very good points, but he also misses some very big points. Here are a few excerpts from the piece and a few responses.

In less than two years, transgender rights have gone from a non-issue to non-negotiable in the Democratic Party.

Rather than dismiss this change as a politically irrelevant story that belongs in the tabloids, Republicans should view it as a case study in the political power of principle. For it was principle, not a political campaign, that has advanced transgender rights so far so fast.

If Republicans would likewise put principle before policy, they would not only have the power to win elections but also the power to bring America back into fidelity with our country’s founding vision.

The transgender moment is the culmination of an idea, not a campaign. The idea is simple: Your sexual desire, not your biology, constitutes your identity.

The fate of the transgender moment rests completely on the triumph of this one idea.

That’s right — the political left says you are your biological urges. Much like an infant.

The rapidly growing acceptance of the previously marginal idea that underlies the transgender moment was only made possible by the Republican decision to opt out of this debate entirely.

I’m not sure there really is “rapidly growing acceptance.” When only one side is making all the noise, how can we really measure public opinion accurately? As far as opting out of the debate, plenty of Republicans and conservatives are in the debate, they’re just not being heard due to their extremely limited reach, and thus, their small audiences.

Almost without exception, Republicans have chosen to ignore the underlying principle and logic of the LGBT movement, confident that they could win this political debate on other grounds. In retrospect, this one decision laid the groundwork for the stunning series of defeats Republicans have suffered on issues of human sexuality over the past dozen years.

For many years I have been attempting to get those on the political right to stop pretending that they are actually fighting seriously in the nationwide information war. Republicans and conservatives are great at posting articles, publishing reports, and talking to each other. They are not good at getting information to the uninformed and misinformed.

Ironically, the transgender moment proves what was once a conservative insight—ideas matter. For, neither inertia, nor electoral victory, has protected Republicans from the sweeping changes entailed in the LGBT agenda. Worse still, having failed to engage at the level of principle for so long, Republicans have lost not just the debate but also the will to engage.

Failed to engage at the level of principle? Look through the archives in this website and you will find hundreds and hundreds of links to articles around the web that engage effectively at the level of principle. And the links found here only scratch the surface of what can be found with a point and a click. The political right hasn’t failed to produce materials — the failure has been to make contact with those who need to hear the message but are not. By contact I mean words-to-eyes, sound-to-ears.

Republicans are in such a defensive crouch on issues of human sexuality that they seem unaware that the political overreach of the transgender moment puts the underlying principle of the entire LGBT movement at risk.

Sean Fieler is correct in that you can’t separate the letters L-G-B-T-etc. They come as a package. If one abnormal behavior is seen for what it really is, the rest of the behaviors are in danger. As far as being in a defensive crouch, when the liberals control the k-college schools, the dominant media, and Hollywood, of course it would appear that Republicans are in a defensive crouch. You can’t go on offense if you don’t know how to play offense.

To successfully advance this argument without appearing to oppose a small, troubled minority, Republicans will need to articulate the principle for which they stand, not just the one they oppose. Having already repeatedly affirmed that our rights come from God, not the state, Republicans are starting in the right place. They need only add the logical corollary that if we recast ourselves in a way that denies either our human nature or our Creator, we undermine the very basis of the rights we cherish and defend.

Amen to the part about rights and human nature. But here’s something I’m not sure Sean Fieler realizes: Republicans and conservatives are seen as a small, troubled minority on almost every issue of importance and they will continue to be until they begin to fight to their potential in the information war.

Fieler writes of “Gov. Mike Pence’s disastrous attempt to advance religious liberty without advancing a principled argument on human sexuality”:

This debacle proved once again that a party unsure of its principles is a party unable to defend its policies.

The Republican Party, the party of ideas, needs to rediscover the value of “first winning the argument and then winning the vote,” to paraphrase Margaret Thatcher. The transgender moment is an important opportunity to do this.

Our side spends a lot of time figuring out what to say and how to say it — and that’s terrific. But we fail to give enough time to figuring out how to reach more of the uninformed and misinformed with those neatly arranged sentences.

Another point I keep making is that until our side fully utilizes existing informational pipelines and develops some of our own, Republicans and conservatives will continue to lack confidence in the public square. When you know what you say will be distorted and misinterpreted, it’s easy to come across as someone unsure of your principles.

Low information voters are low information voters because they are not hearing our argument. It’s not complicated: they are not hearing it. If you say something perfectly and no one hears it — you still lose.

You can read Sean Fieler’s entire article here.

Image credit: The Daily Signal.