How to make peace after the culture war

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A week ago Barton Swain contributed a column to the Washington Post expressing the hope that the left, having won the culture war, will be “merciful” to the defeated social conservatives. Many of the latter, he claimed, “are determined only to remain who they are and to live as amiably and productively as they can in a culture that doesn’t look like them and doesn’t belong to them.” If the victors will only decline to “take full advantage of their newfound cultural dominance,” we’ll have peace in the public square.

I’m all for that. The quality of mercy droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven, and anyone who’s had the job of writing speeches for South Carolina’s philandering Gov. Mark Sanford (and lived to write a funny book about it) has earned his fair share of mercy.

So, for example, social progressives ought to be able to accept reasonable accommodations for those with bona fide religious objections to same-sex marriages, mandatory insurance coverage of contraceptive services, and transgender bathroom access. They might even dial back their objections to faith-based service providers using public funds to hire those who share the faith.

But this kind of thing won’t happen as long as states keep passing laws that restrict women’s ability to obtain abortions and that encourage faith-based discrimination against same-sex couples. Nor as long as prominent advocacy groups — yo, USCCB! — keep insisting that religious liberty is in imminent peril in the U.S. of A. It’s all well and good to ask the victors for mercy, in other words, but as long as social conservatives continue to fight bitter rearguard actions, it’s going to be awfully hard for those in the driver’s seat to feel like compromising.

So here’s a modest proposal, Barton. You work on persuading your folks not to be sore losers, and I’ll work on persuading my folks to be merciful winners. Deal?