A strong move is on to demonize and marginalize social conservatives, a move that originates from the political left but is being aided by some on the right, a move that is based on assumptions that better describe the leftist accusers than they do their targets.
Obama, by rewriting the Bush rules to protect health care providers who objected on moral grounds to abortion, has breached his repeated promise to preserve them and has dealt a significant blow to religious liberties, yet he is painting people of faith as the extremists.
In his University of Notre Dame speech, he said, "Let's honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion and draft a sensible conscience clause and make sure that all our health care policies are grounded not only in sound science but also in clear ethics, as well as respect for the equality of women."
In his propaganda speeches for Obamacare, he said, "One more misunderstanding I want to clear up: Under our plan ... federal conscience laws will remain in place."
But what about his actions? Well, a few months before his Notre Dame speech, the administration disclosed that it had begun the process of overturning the Bush protections.
Also, when he signed Obamacare into law on March 22, 2010, the bill contained no conscience protections, and the administration was still working feverishly to overturn the Bush rules. This was made clear when the administration filed papers in a lawsuit brought to challenge the protections, in which it revealed that it was seeking to rescind the rules.
Recently, the administration formally repealed the rules and adopted new regulations that allowed the protections to remain in force on abortion and sterilization but eliminated protection for contraceptives and so-called abortion drugs.
Though the administration maintained it was protecting conscience rights, it was obvious -- to people of conscience, anyway -- that it had flagrantly breached its promise, just as it had with its pledge not to increase taxes of any kind on families making less than $250,000. Indeed, in testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations in November to determine whether the Obamacare mandates threaten conscience rights, many panelists affirmed they do.
When the faith community strongly objected to this betrayal, the administration at first defiantly refused to budge. Then it ordered a take-it-or-leave-it "compromise" that shifted the requirement to arrange and pay for contraceptives and abortifacients to insurance companies. Most understand this was a sham compromise that did little to protect conscience concerns. When people objected to his "compromise" edict, Obama responded with a dictatorial wave of the hand, signaling that he was through "compromising" and that there wouldn't be any further discussion.
But something potentially more disturbing is unfolding than Obama's duplicity and his attacks on religious liberty. The left has become so ruthlessly adept at deceptively framing arguments that it has succeeded, to some degree, in painting religious people as the aggressors in this dispute instead of the administration and the left, which started it and finished it. It simply recycled the same template developed by the militant homosexual lobby to depict those who object to the formal sanctification of same-sex marriage as bigoted against the homosexual community rather than as trying to preserve the traditional institution of marriage.
Conservatives -- if we'll wake up and fight back instead of underestimating the importance of holding this turf or, even worse, allowing ourselves to be divided and conquered on social issues -- can win these arguments.
Republicans can reasonably disagree about who is the best presidential candidate. Unfortunately, however, there's a lot of acrimonious infighting on the right, much of which is centered on the hysterical charge that Rick Santorum is some kind of theocrat who wants to outlaw contraception and surveil our bedrooms. It's a spurious claim and one that Santorum has specifically denied, saying he would not attempt to impose his personal views on contraception through policy. He would appoint strict constructionist judges, just as the other Republican nominees say they would, and his worldview would doubtlessly inform his policies -- a universal, inescapable phenomenon.
Just because we must focus our attention on reversing our national financial free fall doesn't mean we have to abandon our traditional commitment to social conservatism, long reflected in the Republican platform. It doesn't mean we have to fecklessly surrender to the noxious notion that authentic, outspoken Christians are now a threat to religious liberty when in fact no other group is more committed to preserving it. It doesn't mean we have to roll over to this progressive trend to coarsen our culture and denigrate traditional values.
The Republican tent is plenty big enough for conservatives of all stripes -- and Libertarians -- but Reagan's three-legged stool of economic, national defense and social conservatism will topple if any of its legs is severed.
Leftists have succeeded in redefining many issues. Will we allow them to redefine us, as well?
David Limbaugh, brother of radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, is an expert in law and politics and author of new book Crimes Against Liberty, the definitive chronicle of Barack Obama's devastating term in office so far.