Cultural norms and gender roles are nothing new; they have existed since the very start of human civilization. But the social identity of conservatives is intrinsically and irrevocably wrapped up in their position with respect to their world. Paradoxically for a group that glorifies individualism and self-determination, we gauged our self-worth in reference to the roles and ideals set by the world we believed that we grew up in. Any threat of change to the defined structure of our world, any whisper that another way of life could be permitted to exist, threatened the mythos of the Conservative American Dream.
In the Conservative American Dream, there is no spurious consideration of privileges or advantages. Everyone has the same opportunity; those who succeed are the ones who bust their buns and put in the hard work and got things done. Successful, respectable people look a particular way and dress a particular way and relate to others in a particular way. Everyone knows their place, and everyone is meant to be their very best self by finding it.
It’s a world where the really difficult questions don’t ever need to be asked, because everyone knows the answer. The world around you simply is, and everyone understands and accepts it. It’s a world where we didn’t have to wrestle with issues like abortion and racial injustice, because if someone was in a difficult position, they were already outside of society’s expectations. What did they expect? Those things just don’t happen to people who know their place in the world.
The Conservative American Dream gives you all the answers.
- You’re no better than anyone else. Everyone is created equal. Everyone should look the same and act the same and do the same things, and then we wouldn’t have all these problems.
- Gay, straight, lesbian, transgender…it’s all a big mess. There’s a way that men and women are supposed to relate to each other, and anything different (or even anything that threatens a difference, like rethinking gender) threatens to invalidate those roles.
- There’s no epidemic of police brutality or racial inequality. These kids getting into trouble with cops…well, they must have been up to something. If they weren’t, then why weren’t they just cautious and respectful? Must be a lack of respect. It’s all about that whole culture those people have.
- No, guns can’t be blamed for yet another mass shooting. Gun ownership is part of our national identity, and there can’t be anything wrong with our national identity. It must be something else, something new, like violent video games or mental illness or taking prayer out of schools.
- No one needs to ask if abortion is okay. Nice girls don’t end up in that kind of position. Why can’t they make their “choice” before getting pregnant? The girls who act and behave the way we expect won’t have to worry about “reproductive choices”. It’s just easier that way.
At every turn, conservative opposition to progressive change has little to do with any specific issue and everything to do with a dogmatic worldview. Each issue challenges the framework of the Conservative American Dream. The ideas feared and hated by social conservatives debride the foundation of conservative identity, calling into question each conservative’s own personal value in the world.
It can seem hard to understand how Brock Turner, Brett Kavanaugh, and David Duke ended up on the same side of history as Billy Graham, Mike Pence, James Dobson, and Jeff Sessions. Sure, they are all united by hatred of the other and fear of change, but that fear comes from a deeper concern for the framework of their own identity. They exist in a world where everything is made simpler by adherence to structures and mores, and that system is what gives them their purpose and value. Questioning any facet of the social order they believe in is an assault on their entire existence.