I’m not going to weigh in on the ethics or efficacy of recent tactics by local politicians to punish Chick-Fil-A for its bigotry; you can get that many other places. I just want to point out a simple similarity: when local politicians in Boston and Chicago use zoning or licensure or similar to ban Chick-Fil-A, they’re using tactics that conservatives have used for decades in the abortion fight. Not able (yet) to muster sweeping reform at the national level, they have taken to bending the rules and pushing the envelope at the local level, in thousands of discrete steps. Abortion rights, I’m very sorry to say, have been severely curtailed for thousands of American women, despite the fact that Roe is still the law of the land. Pro-life activists have gotten there not through large-scale national legislation or litigation but through a thousand little cuts.
I see the Chick-Fil-A thing as a similar set of tactics: absent widespread reform, you take a few stabs at it in friendly confines peppered across the country.
The question is, how do you feel about that sort of thing? You can take it in any number of directions: fear of a backlash, concern over the undermining of democratic principles, pragmatic happiness in scoring a few points for your side, concern that such efforts divert attention from national reform, and certainly the sense that if your opponents play dirty, you’ve got to, too. All I can say for sure is that this is the kind of situation where our ethical stances tend to be determined by our positions on the issue at hand. If you’re a pro-life conservative, you should recognize that your compatriots have opened this door. If you’re a liberal, you should recognize that, when people say that we need to adopt more of conservatism’s methods if we want to win, this is what they’re talking about. For good or for ill.