I admit it. I was wrong. When I wrote about the importance of "woman-centered" conservatism back in 2007, here, in 2008, here, and this year, here, I was thinking about a continuing of the old conservatism, but centered on the issues that matter most to women: health, education, and welfare.
It was an easy mistake to make. But it was wrong. Now we know what is really going to happen. Indeed it is happening before our very eyes. The new conservatism is going to be a "woman-led" conservatism.
No doubt when our liberal friends get to hear of this they will come up with a suitable pejorative. But it will probably be more insulting than "chick-con."
The scales fell off my eyes as I was reading Steven F. Hayward's article in the Washingon Post enticingly titled (for liberals) "Is Conservatism Brain-Dead?" Where are all the serious conservative titles that used to crowd the best-seller list, Hayward mourned? Your Glenn Becks, your Ann Coulters, your Michelle Malkins don't quite make the grade, at least not for Hayward, author of The Age of Reagan.
But wait a minute. What about all the serious titles by conservative women that have been coming out in recent years? I am thinking of titles like Return to Modesty by Wendy Shalit, The War Against Boys by Christina Hoff Sommers, What Our Mothers Didn't Tell Us by Danielle Crittenden. Those are just the more popular ones. There is also Smart Sex by Jennifer Roeback Morse and Domestic Tranquility by F. Carolyn Graglia.
It's true that these titles haven't been best-sellers on the scale of George Gilder's Wealth and Poverty and Charles Murray's Losing Ground that scored big in the 1980s. Anyway, Michelle Malkin's Culture of Corruption is a best-seller, a solid investigative work, and should be a bible for any young conservative activist that can't wait to go underground into Chicago politics armed with a Flip MinoHD.
The woman-led conservative future is not just about conservative books written by women. It is about political activism led by women.
Let's stop worrying about losing the battle of Web 2.0. The experience of the last few months shows that conservative activists know how to use the on-line social networking tools as well as liberals. We now know how the Tea Parties got started. It wasn't astroturf manufacturers in Washington DC or racists in Racine, WI. It was women organizing with social network sites like Smart Girl Politics. A couple of weeks ago the Smart Girl Nation held their first Smart Girl Politics summit in Nashville, TN. Then there's NeW, the Network of enlightened Women, celebrating its fifth birthday. The NeW women are conservative college women organizing on campuses all over the US to read conservative titles from Danielle Crittenden and Christina Hoff Sommers and to challenge liberal monstrosities like The Vagina Monologues. No doubt there are hundreds of similar efforts that are operating below the radar.
For all the celebration of women's liberation, the modern world has been difficult for women. The characteristic organizations -- the corporation and the family firm -- have performed miracles in taming the natural male urge for war, booty, and rapine. Now instead of battling for lebensraum, men fight for market share and trophy wives. For those less courageous there's the hierarchical bureaucracy, preferred by absolute monarchies, religious orthodoxies, armies, and welfare states.
Women specialize in social relations. Every women lives at the center of a web of social relations; she spends a good part of her life maintaining those social relations by conversation and the exchange of small gifts. Over the last century liberals have forcibly wrecked the gossamer threads of these webs. To paraphrase Marx, liberals have "drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of [loving] fervour, of [emotional] enthusiasm, of [feminine] sentimentalism, in the icy water" of political power. That is why "society," "social," "societal," "socialism" and all the "soc-" words have come to mean not convivial and communal relations but the reduction of all social relations into cruel politics and power.
Another word for social relations is social networking. And in social networking is power of a different kind. It is not the male power of physical force, of bureaucratic offices, armed forces, and market valuations. It is the kind of power that women exert and have always exerted through their social relations. In Spirit and Flesh, James M. Ault related how this worked in a fundamentalist Christian church in Worcester, MA. All the church offices were held by men, he explained, but that didn't mean that the men held all the power. The women controlled the church and they controlled it through their gossip networks. In their daily conversations the women defined social reality, who had done what to whom, and what the church community should do about it.
To imagine what liberal women could do with the social networking tools on the internet is frightening. Fortunately they are all at work, trying to prove that gender is a social construct. To realize what conservative women could do as they ride the crest of the social networking wave in the months and years ahead is awe-inspiring.
You will notice that I have said nothing about a certain woman conservative leader whose unpublished book is, at the moment of writing, #1 on the Amazon bestseller list.