Republicans may control Congress, the White House and North Carolina’s legislature.
But when it comes to debating the role of government in the public square, N.C. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest says conservatives are at a disadvantage.
Forest, a likely candidate for governor in 2020, was among the headline speakers this weekend during the Civitas think tank’s Conservative Leadership Conference at the Crabtree Valley Marriott.
In a short speech Friday night, Forest argued that government can’t — and shouldn’t be expected to — fix all of society’s ills. But, he said, small-government conservatives are in a dangerous place in history because “the left” marches and lobbies for bigger government with “religious fervor.”
“It’s the thing that wars used to be fought over,” Forest said.
“You see it on issues like climate change or the Me Too movement or Black Lives Matter or gun control,” he continued. “Name the issue today, the fervor has reached a religious pitch in America. Why? Because it really is the religion of the left.”
Real societal and cultural change comes with changes in character, Forest argued. Referencing a push for more gun restrictions, Forest at one point noted that God punished Cain — and not the rock — when Cain used a rock to kill his brother Abel in the biblical book of Genesis.
The left, however, “they don’t have a hope in God," Forest said. "They have no hope in a higher power.
“They are hopeless. They truly do believe that, but for the government, but for the work they do, there’s no hope for America. So, it’s a dangerous place to be.”
Republicans are guilty of relying too much on government too, Forest added. He noted that the recent omnibus spending bill in Congress raised America's debt, didn’t block funding to Planned Parenthood and didn’t repeal Obamacare.
Government isn’t the answer, he said.
So what is? “Before we can change government, we must change men’s hearts,” Forest said.
He suggested that people don’t help each other enough because they expect government to step in. “Why would we help our neighbors if government is going to do it for us?” he said. “Why would we help the poor if government’s going to do it for us? Why would we feed the hungry, help the sick, take care of mom and grandma in their old age if government’s going to do it for us?”
The U.S. Constitution and founding documents were crafted through a “God-ordained framework,” Forest said.
But, he argued, America‘s culture is no longer God-centric. “We need to teach character education in North Carolina,” he said. “If you want to make a huge dent in the breakdown of society, then make a dent in fatherlessness.”
Forest laid out these numbers: 43 percent of children live without their father, fatherless children are four times more likely to live in poverty, 70 percent of children in state-operated facilities come from fatherless homes and fatherless kids are twice as likely to die by suicide.
“If you want to make a dent in all these issues, don’t make a policy, don’t get government involved,” Forest said. “Start to do something about fathers in homes.”
He didn’t elaborate on what that might look like.