The nation needs moral men to lead the conservative movement. And the hour is now for humble men, men of substance and character, religious men of principle and without guile to reassert themselves within conservative culture.
With them, conservatism will regain integrity and advance goodness. Without them, it will alienate sympathetic women while failing a generation of young men currently casting about for civic role models.
In recent weeks, video has surfaced of Donald Trump defending his lecherous statements about grabbing women’s privates. Security footage showed conservative commentator Stephen Crowder badgering his pregnant wife to the point of mental and emotional exhaustion. Leaked text messages from former Fox News host Tucker Carlson revealed him using vulgar slurs to refer to female colleagues and lawyer Sidney Powell.
When confronted by an attorney with one such message in a leaked deposition, Carlson responded: “I just want to apologize preemptively. I mean you’re trying to embarrass me, you’re definitely succeeding as I am embarrassed.”
Dennis Prager, long seen as an ideas-driven conservative, has recently defended the use of pornography by married men, bizarrely arguing that his own faith is OK with it (even though half of women in committed relationships disapprove of pornography use and a third of married women consider it a form of infidelity).
Men will never be perfect. But it’s not too much to expect conservative men in particular to strive toward moral rectitude. Yes, men will stumble and fall. And we ought to extend grace and the ability to learn and grow.
But it is also true that those who consistently prove unable to self-govern are not fit to govern anyone else. Furthermore, it’s a fundamental principle of conservatism that morality is not the end of politics but rather its beginning. And if conservatism fails to provide accountability for sexual Lotharios or casual misogyny it’s not clear what is left within the movement worthy of conserving.
To be sure, bad men are no respecters of party or clique. Jeffrey Epstein, the notorious sex-trafficking financier, gave overwhelmingly to Democratic political causes. So did Harvey Weinstein, the now-disgraced Hollywood producer. Bill Clinton carried out an affair in the White House, and Anthony Weiner spent time in jail. But conservatives should have a much higher bar — the movement has historically been the champion of family values, moral agency, self-governance, personal accountability and responsibility.
And, importantly, these are precisely the values needed to help American men in this moment of crisis. College enrollment is currently falling among men in the United States. Educational attainment is similarly declining. Millions of men have simply dropped out of the workforce altogether.
It’s no secret that men are significantly more likely than women to vote Republican, and this gap is growing. Misogynistic tropes or juvenile displays of machismo, much less outright abuse, won’t help American men — and they most certainly won’t help American women.
I want every woman watching this Steven Crowder situation to know that what you are witnessing is abuse. There is no justification. There is no context. No woman deserves to be controlled and abused like that. If you are in a similar situation, please get out and get help.— Bethany S. Mandel (@bethanyshondark) April 28, 2023
Women and men alike need public examples of faithful husbands and dedicated fathers who are productive and magnanimous.
True feminists recognize women are better off working and living among such men.
Genuine gentlemen are needed in the workspace, in the c-suite, around the boardroom and on the debate stage. But more importantly they’re needed around dinner tables and at school plays. They’re needed in PTA meetings and in Rotary Clubs.
This isn’t simple longing for an idyllic past.
When men like Dennis Prager prop up porn, an industry mired in the abuse of women and children, it underwrites an assumption that level-headed conservatism should be uniquely suited to challenge: that progress occurs when women come around to men’s baser preferences.
Conservatism must offer a pro-woman vision by challenging this lie. But no one will take that vision seriously if “traditional values” is used as a fig leaf for chauvinism.
Over the past several years, women across the political spectrum have already begun to challenge the notion that liberal feminism truly understands, much less serves, many women’s interests. Louise Perry, Mary Harrington, Christine Emba, Erika Bachiochi and others are shining a light on the plight of women that progress has left behind.
While certainly plenty of women have had their professional and economic vistas expanded in recent decades, a positive development, too often the hidden costs of decimating social institutions — which remain largely intact among wealthy and educated women — have fallen on the heads of poor and working class women and children, who suffer from the behavior of absent or unaccountable men seemingly unshackled from marriage, family and religious expectations.
At some point, the answer to the failures of our brave new world is not simply “more progress.” Can we envision a world in which a woman’s unique capacities for creation are a feature and not a bug? Can we envision a world in which women are not turned against their own bodies and the lives they create? Can we imagine a world in which a woman’s desires for commitment and children are honored rather than downplayed as socially constructed obstacles to market-driven formulas of “success?”
Sex should be understood as a relationship surrounded by obligations to women, rather than a commodifiable activity that our culture increasingly makes harder for women to object to.
If we want American women to take this conservative vision of sex and family life seriously, the movement must first and foremost model it and prove it works. This starts with accountability for men who actively benefit from a degraded sexual and family culture.
When Donald Trump boasts about using women to gratify his appetites and his vanity, it upholds the liberationist status quo. When Stephen Crowder threatens and bullies his wife, he underscores the fear that sacred family institutions are actually just a way to control and subjugate women rather than support and empower them.
The truth is, institutional breakdown has not freed women from bad men; it has simply lessened their opportunities for recourse. Women are not empowered by independence from men. Women and men are both better when there’s a healthy interdependence; when good men are responsive to women’s needs and supportive of their interests and talents.
Studies suggest that highly religious, married men tend to do more chores. And women in such marriages have more satisfaction in their relationships and even more satisfying sex lives.
But if conservatives don’t hold men accountable for chauvinism, misogyny or abuse, they promote the path of male liberation at the expense of women, furthering the social disintegration that will only harm the rising generation. It’s time for conservatives to unapologetically demonstrate that marriage, fatherhood, motherhood and religion are good for society. It’s time to lift up and build men who honor more than their personal fortunes.