The Terms of Their Surrender

Anyone feeling dejected or frustrated by the Hobby Lobby decision needs to read this Andrew Sullivan post, in which he places this perceived "setback" in proper perspective. The basic point: Social liberalism is triumphing wherever you look, and it’s a rout. The progress of marriage equality is the most prominent example of course, banking yet another victory yesterday, this time in that bastion of liberalism, Kentucky. But there’s a lot more:

[U]niversal health insurance, to take an epic example; the shift in drug policy away from mere law enforcement; the speed with which marijuana legalization marches forward; the rise and rise of women in the economy and the academy and politics. Then consider the broad demographic shifts – the sharp increase in the religiously unaffiliated, the super-liberal Millennial generation, the majority-minority generation being born now, and a bi-racial president possibly followed by a woman president. When I see the panic and near-hysteria among some liberals in response to the Hobby Lobby ruling, I have to wonder what America they think they’re living in.

Regarding Hobby Lobby, first recall those dark days before the ACA, when there was NO federal requirement for contraceptive insurance coverage. None! Then, suddenly, there was a universal requirement (yay!). But now, it’s been pared back to a near-universal requirement (boo!), in which there will likely be some provision arrangement for those women left out. But, perspective please:

[L]ook at it this way: with the ACA, for the first time ever, all insurance covers a wide array of contraception options. That’s a huge step forward for social liberalism, and it was allowed by the Roberts court.

Progressives still are having trouble taking yes for an answer. Through hard experience, they still seem to think they are beseiged by a dominant American reactionary culture, hostile as ever, implacably committed to mobilizing its silent majority to roll back every inch of liberal social progress.

Ain’t. Gonna. Happen.

And rather than validating the paranoid roll-back view, the Hobby Lobby decision actually further undermines it. These are the terms of surrender. It is social conservatives, unable to prevail at the ballot box, facing demographic irrelevancy, who are left appealing to the courts to help wall themselves off from what they consider the most offending aspects of the ascendant progressive culture outside their gates. As Andrew notes, it is they who are now desperately seeking some small accommodation, some protection, from the victorious majority. The Supreme Court gave them an accommodation this week. So be it.

Yes, there are some companies that can make the provision of certain contraceptives a little more difficult. Just as while gay marriage triumphs faster than even the most optimistic scenario, there are still businesses which can deny service to same-sex weddings; still private citizens who can harbor grotesque bigotry toward their fellow man.

There are surely other areas where cultural anxiety and grievance, or yes, genuine religious conviction, will lead some to try and quarantine themselves from modernity’s encroachment. And they will sometimes be successful, through the courts or other means. So be it. None of this is evidence that progress is tenuous, or that magnanimity in victory is naive or misplaced. These are merely rearguard forces, protecting a vanquished army in full retreat. The victors needn’t give chase.

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