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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

On GOP fundraisers who support gay marriage

Today's Washington Post included an article by Dan Eggen entitled "While GOP opposes gay marriage, key donors fund the other side." Mr. Eggen notes that while the official GOP party platform will include support for a proposed federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, a number of prominent Republican fundraisers are nevertheless putting their support, and their considerable fundraising capacities, in service of the contrary position. Indeed, there is even "a new super PAC focused on supporting Republican congressional candidates who favor marriage equality" that's drawing multi-million contributions from some prominent Republican contributors.

Eggen describes this as evidence of a "growing rift" within the GOP on issues of sexual preference, but he also asserts that "support for same-sex unions remains an outlier among Republicans." In my evaluation, both of these statements are technically correct, but they miss and indeed conceal a larger and more important context:

Eggen appears to think this is new news. And he appears to think that there's only a "rift" within one party on such social policy. If so, he's wrong on both accounts.

In fact, each's party's platform will contain again this year — as they have since the mind of living man reacheth not back — policy positions that may indeed reflect the views of a majority of convention delegates, but that are much less fervently or consistently held by the voters who will cast ballots for that party's candidates.

The classic and still-valid example on the Democratic side will be the Democratic Party's official embrace of government-financed abortion on demand. There actually are still substantial numbers (quite literally millions) of pro-life Democrats who oppose abortion as a matter of broad principle; they've been rudely conditioned to keep their views mostly to themselves within the supposed party of tolerance, but they actually do exist, and a few of them still are "on record" with that position. Short of that, there are quite a few Democrats (and quite a few Republicans, including me) who are weakly and reluctantly pro-choice, but who genuinely and sincerely still believe in the Bill Clinton formulation that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare — a last resort whose moral complications must be acknowledged. And there are indeed Republican daughters who end up having abortions. There are Democratic daughters who end up bringing their unborn children safely to term, even though inconvenient or unplanned, even if they support the "right to choose" as a general matter, but out of personal reverence for that which distinguishes a human embryo or fetus from a "lump of tissue."

And likewise, on the questions of gay marriage and sexual orientation more generally, there are both Republicans and Democrats scattered all along the spectrum. There will be married gay Republicans who vote for Romney-Ryan. There will be Democrats who stay home because they're disappointed that Obama has endorsed gay marriage. There are voices even within the gay rights movement who caution against overreaching through court decisions, and who (correctly in my judgment) point to the recent repeal of "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" as the better model for gradual and politically legitimate changes in social policy. 

And actually, Dick Cheney and I are part of a sizeable plurality in the GOP who oppose any government discrimination on the basis of sexual preference, but who are unwilling to engage in the pernicious and unprincipled fiction that the U.S. Constitution somehow already addresses sexual preference. Cheney and I have held that position for many years, whereas Barack Obama only came around to the first part of it a few weeks ago. So the new news is supposed to be that there are Republicans who — gasp! — support same-sex marriage as a policy matter? You'd think the recency of Obama's conversion might have merited more than the brief and passing mention that it got in this article, but I suppose we've always been at war with Eastasia.

Nope, when the WaPo reports on something like this story that deviates from the Democratic Party narrative, it suits the WaPo's purposes to pretend that this is the new news, and that these people are mere "outliers." Otherwise, they can't use fear to move votes. Otherwise they can't pretend that these controversies are going to be resolved, once and for all time, definitively and forever, based on this November's election. Otherwise they can't distract voters from the shambles which this Administration has made of our national economy and the government fisc.

Americans really can't be neatly sorted so neatly into boxes. But that doesn't stop the mainstream media and the political meme-spinners from trying.

And that doesn't mean we have to fall for it.

Posted by Beldar at 11:54 PM in 2012 Election, Current Affairs, Ethics, Obama, Politics (2012) | Permalink


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(1) ech made the following comment | Aug 23, 2012 4:04:27 PM | Permalink

It's the classic split between the social conservative and the small government wings of the party. There is usually an uneasy peace between the wings, but sometimes it flares up into conflict, as it did here in Harris County a while back, resulting in a purge of everyone not socially conservative enough from the ranks of party officials and candidates.

I've thought that the Roe v. Wade decision is responsible for the downward spiral of politics in the US. The Pro Life side felt (rightfully) shut out from participating in making the law, the Pro Choice side is constantly having to defend the ruling by holding on to 5 votes in the Supreme Court. So both sides have been fighting verbally, politically, and physically since.

On the issue at hand here, I thought the silliness reached its peak here in Texas when we passed a poorly worded amendment to the state constitution that defines marriage as one man and one woman and then outlaws marriage. (Article 1, Section 32)

The more I think about it, the more I think that we ought leave marrige to the churches and have a civil union law for purposes of inheritance, taxes, and the like.

(2) Beldar made the following comment | Aug 23, 2012 7:14:17 PM | Permalink

Not many people actually see these issues as presenting only binary choices. But that's how both parties tend to frame these issues for political purposes.

No advocacy group has sufficient or pervasive enough influence yet to see a constitutional amendment on either topic passed through Congress or ratified by the States. I'm okay with that; I again bless the Founders' wisdom in making the Constitution hard to mess with. And I'm confident that our national laboratory of democracy — federalism, with its distribution of policy-making authority and its distinct and limited role for federal involvement or preemption — will sort these issues out in the end, if allowed to do so without interference from judicial activists. (I concede that won't always happen at the pace I'd like to see, and it will come with a fair amount of chaos along the way; but that is endemic, perhaps intrinsic, to democracy.)

Regarding this sentence in the original post:

There are Democratic daughters who end up bringing their unborn children safely to term, even though inconvenient or unplanned, even if they support the "right to choose" as a general matter, but out of personal reverence for that which distinguishes a human embryo or fetus from a "lump of tissue."

I could as aptly have written it another way that's equally true:

There are Democratic daughters who end up bringing their unborn children safely to term, even though inconvenient or unplanned, even if they support the "right to choose" as a general matter, simply because they love their unborn children.

The first sign that someone is incapable of discussing the abortion issue rationally and calmly is usually his or her refusal to accept "unborn child" and "fetus" as synonyms. If your argument depends for its persuasive force on using either term exclusively, that's a good hint that you're appealing to emotion rather than logic.

(3) Beldar made the following comment | Aug 28, 2012 12:11:35 AM | Permalink

I've just changed the term "gender preference" to "sexual preference" in a couple of places in this post because I think it's more accurate and less confused/confusing.

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