Last Friday, I attended The Heritage Foundation's 50th Anniversary Gala, a sprawling and swanky affair featuring many fine presentations, a surprise Dierks Bentley mini-concert for the country music enthusiasts (yours truly among them) and an extravagant post-dinner fireworks show over the Potomac River. But the highlight of the evening, bar none, was former Fox News star Tucker Carlson's electric keynote address and his (all-too-brief) colloquy on stage afterward with Heritage's exceptional new president, Kevin Roberts.
Carlson's speech was both wildly entertaining and poignant, at times slapstick funny and at other times humorously self-deprecating about his Episcopalian faith. But as Carlson began to reach his peroration, the key substantive takeaway he wished to impart unto his audience became clear. The relevant political and cultural battle lines in the year 2023 are not those befitting a civil and polite discussion where both sides are reasonable, both sides pursue their own version of the common good and the best think tank white paper wins out in the end, Carlson cautioned. No, our current civilizational struggle is not reflective of a refined policy debate between amicable partisans; rather, it is one that implicates fundamentally distinct theological and anthropological visions of mankind -- of man's very biology and his relation with his fellow man, the state and God Himself.
I immediately hearkened back to an interview Claremont Institute President Ryan Williams did with The Atlantic in October 2021, where Williams had this provocative (but accurate) line about America's contemporary fault lines: "Even during the Civil War -- I think we're more divided now than we were then. As Lincoln said, we all prayed to the same God. We all believed in the same Constitution. We just differed over the question of slavery." This is the precise sentiment that Carlson was getting at in his keynote speech at the Heritage gala last Friday.
We in the audience did not know it yet, at the time of Carlson's speech -- nor did Carlson, for that matter -- but the broadcasting star had already given his last searing monologue for Fox News. In a stunning development, Fox News broke the news to their highest-rated host on Monday morning that he was fired. Hopefully, Carlson will retain something approximating his exceptional level of cultural and political influence in whatever role he next serves, because his witness to truth and civilizational sanity have never been more necessary.
This is perhaps most clearly true when it comes to gender ideology and transgenderism, which is the issue most directly implicated by Carlson's framing of America's fundamental divide as a struggle between differing theological and anthropological conceptions of man. Is sexual dimorphism an obvious empirical reality, rooted in Genesis 1:27, and mandating legal codification for any regime that claims a basis in truth and justice? Or is gender instead "fluid," wherein man can replace God and change his gender on a lark, and wherein it is contemptible bigotry to deny anyone's subjective sense of biological or sexual reality? Tucker Carlson certainly knew his answer: He opened a memorable 2021 interview of former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson by asking the then-sitting governor, who had shamefully vetoed a bill to protect vulnerable children from the predatory scalpels of the woke-besotted medical establishment, why he had "come out publicly as 'pro-choice' on the question of chemical castration of children."
That is not a debate where the "best white paper wins." It is a zero-sum contestation of clashing visions of the human person, rooted in diametrically opposed substantive underpinnings. And, more to the point, the forces of godlessness, paganism and civilizational arson certainly already treat the debate over gender ideology as a vicious winner-take-all battle.
The recent mini-insurrection in Nashville, which followed the tragic shooting of a Christian school and the temporary expulsions of two insurrection-complicit state lawmakers, can best be understood as one elaborate attempt to distract the public from the real issue: That a transgender lunatic shot up a Christian school, and that law enforcement has thus far been unwilling to defy the transgender lobby's not-so-thinly-veiled blackmail, opting instead to deep-six the deceased shooter's presumptively anti-Christian manifesto.
More recently, a similar situation unfolded in Montana, where Republicans who control the state House banned a transgender lawmaker from attending or speaking during floor sessions following the lawmaker's comment, during the debate over an anti-chemical castration bill similar to the one Hutchinson vetoed in Arkansas, that the lawmaker hoped colleagues would see "blood on (their) hands" when they bowed their heads in prayer. Numerous protesters were arrested and forcibly removed from the legislature earlier this week, as they agitated in favor of the uncouth transgender lawmaker.
Large swaths of the modern Left have made the fight for gender ideology and transgenderism their foremost hill to die on precisely because they are so infatuated with their own vogue anthropology and "theology" that they view the other side -- the side of sanity -- as wholly undeserving of the civility and respect that a normal exchange over public policy might entail. I know this all too well, myself: My writing that invariably elicits the most protests when I speak on university campuses is a short piece I wrote a few years ago praising U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit Judge Kyle Duncan's admirable use of biologically correct pronouns in a judicial opinion. I'd write the same thing again today.
But those protesters, whether in Nashville, Helena, Stanford Law School or another academic corridor, are not open to rational debate. They are not willing to be reasoned with. Rather, they know their conclusions, because they have fully imbibed a highly fashionable -- if false -- anthropological and "theological" conception of man. Those of us on the side of civilizational sanity need all the help we can get in pushing back against the onslaught.
Tucker Carlson, please come back soon.