I'VE COME to believe that conservatism is genetic, not environmental.

After all, to take a page from the gay community, why would I choose a lifestyle that subjects me to criticism, discrimination and general vilification if I wasn't born that way?

Now, allow me to dislodge my tongue from cheek, and I'll explain how social conservatives have become the new Nazis for some people. In fact, we've been lumped together with the SS by disgruntled citizens from Wisconsin to New Jersey, most of whom pay union dues and seem to have a particular penchant for depicting their governors as Hitler.

(And don't get me started on Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann, either of whom can't make a slip of the tongue without the New York Times, MSNBC and the rest of the media lynch mob turning them into a cross between Aimee Semple McPherson and Leni Reifenstahl.)

Some like to say that a conservative is a liberal who's been mugged, but that's simply a way to denigrate those of us who believe in personal responsibility. Liberals tend to sympathize with the mugger, and have a hard time waking up to the fact that not every miscreant on the street is a Jean Valjean looking for bread to feed his starving family. Sometimes, if it walks like a thug, talks like a thug and looks like a thug, it is a thug - and no amount of social engineering will make the thug sympathetic.

Social conservatives, as opposed to their fiscal and foreign-policy neocon cousins, have had a particularly hard time of it.

While the mainstream media drums up grudging appreciation for a guy like Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who says we should abandon our fixation on social issues - and even had a (temporary) crush on Rudy Giuliani, who balanced his law-and-order creds with moderate views on abortion and gay marriage - anyone who is pro-life, anti-gay marriage, supports religion in the public square and thinks that the Equal Rights Amendment was a savvy scam is anathema to the Fourth Estate.

And when the media is agin' ye, thee has a problem, Pilgrim - because most of the Pulitzer-winning opinionators out there are unabashedly liberal, and seemingly incapable of believing that a rational being can ever be against abortion, same-sex unions, institutional atheism and anything else opposed by evolutionary amoebas like me.

So that's why I'm convinced social conservatism is a matter of DNA, not GOP, since anyone with a sense of self-preservation wouldn't willingly choose to live a life where you are considered a bigot, racist, misogynistic or, my very favorite, hopelessly stupid. Even those of us with advanced degrees, like Bachmann, a tax lawyer, are ridiculed as clueless simply because we don't sound like subscribers to Ms. magazine.

Our brothers and sisters in the gay community have made great inroads with the idea that they were born with their particular sexual orientation, something they neither acquired nor necessarily desired. They just "are," which helped reach the recent decision legalizing same-sex marriage in New York.

And while I used to struggle against that interpretation, given my strong belief that we are not slaves to biology, I have to admit that it makes life an awful lot easier if we can just say, "Hey, it's not my decision that I'm this way, so don't hate me for it!"

That's why I've decided that the next time someone writes a snarky comment after one of my op-eds calling me a mean-spirited "rhymes-with-witch," I'll try to convince them that believing in the sanctity of life from the moment of conception is as much a part of me as my attraction to men.

And the next time I get an email telling me I'm a coldhearted "rhymes-with-punt" because I don't think that the homeless should be able to use the sidewalk for a toilet, I'll argue that wanting to keep innocent citizens safe from unpredictably dangerous mental patients is as much a part of me as my Italian heritage.

And the next time I get a voice mail wondering why the Daily News employs a disgusting "rhymes-with-trucker" like me, I'll leave a return message explaining my belief that you can't give constitutional cover to same-sex marriage is as much a part of my inherited identity as my brown eyes and freckles.

I'm not sure it will work. But given the recent results in New York, I'm optimistic.

Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer. E-mail

She blogs at