By Yuval Levin, First Things.
The prospect of social liberals annihilating their opponents in the public square over the coming years is not much more plausible than the expectation that social conservatives were set to do so in 2004.
Ten years ago this fall, it seemed for a moment like social conservatives might be ascendant in our politics. Immediately after the 2004 election, some analysts on the right and left alike said George W. Bush’s reelection signaled a rising tide of “values voters” who would yield an enduring nationwide advantage for Republicans on social issues.
In a post-election op-ed that the New York Times’s headline writers subtly titled “The Day the Enlightenment Went Out,” Gary Wills said the American people were giving up on modernity. On CNN the day after the election, conservative commentator Tucker Carlson said “it is clear that it was not the war on terror, but the issue of what we’re calling moral values that drove President Bush and other Republicans to victory.”
Many social conservatives now look wistfully upon that moment and see in the decade that followed what traditionalists are apt to see in the world in general: a sorry decline.