Monday, October 12, 2009

Sullivan's wishful thinking

Andrew Sullivan engages in some wishful thinking:

The ideals of small government, individual freedom, fiscal sanity and prudent foreign policy are appealing to many gays - a third of whom voted for McCain last time around. But Rove and Bush used us as a wedge to build a fundamentalist coalition, a coalition that has inevitably now become a rump.
Look, I'll admit that I find it annoying when people just tell gays and lesbians to just wait and be patient and hope something will emerge from Congress. They shouldn't have to wait. But I think this is rather disingenuous.

For at least fifty years, the GOP has been an organization dedicated to excluding large groups of people from contributing to America. It started with blacks, moved thenceforth to women, and it's finally landed on gays for some time. American conservatism was never built on a platform of letting people just do what they want and keeping the damn government out of their hair. Sure, Barry Goldwater believed that, but he was not the leader of conservatism after 1964. That was Ronald Reagan, who made a career out of the culture wars and, in essence, telling people how they should live their lives. Nixon just synthesized it well enough to get elected in 1968.

This is a group that gets by on fear and loathing. They need to have enemies, and they need to be able to think that these enemies are the worst people in the world. Witness the zombified 2010 Republican strategy to center attacks on Nancy Pelosi for the third straight election. (I guess because it worked so well before?) It might well be that Republicans will stop the anti-gay campaign at some point in the future, but if history is any guide, it will only be because there's a better, more divisive target for their hatred to find. In many ways, hating the gays is sort of the apotheosis of right-wingery--they're a very small group so the political ramifications are small, they've been stereotyped and denigrated for generations, and while racism might or might not be endemic to the human condition homophobia almost certainly seems to be, and getting people to overcome that particular bias requires a great deal of personal work that many people simply aren't that willing to do. Plus, there's a verse or two in the Bible that lets people totally sidestep the issue. So, unless the right's DNA completely changes to such an extent that they're totally focused on putting forward a positive agenda and not on hating unAmerican groups--something unprecedented in history so far--it's unlikely they'll drop these attacks for a while. At least, not until enough of the oldsters watching Fox and listening to Rush keel over and they need to find a new angle to promote conservatism.

Then there's this:

How long before Ted Olson's view manages to make its way back to the center of the GOP? The news of the HRC sell-out reveals just how important that now is for the future of civil rights. And if the GOP had any idea how to get back to the center, they'd do in America what the Tories have in Britain and outflank interest group politics by embracing civil rights for all individuals, regardless of any identity, as non-negotiable.

I actually find this mostly reprehensible. Back to the center? Since when has gay marriage been the center of the GOP? And in what universe is giving a speech broadly supportive of gay rights to a major gay rights group considered a sell-out? A sell-out would be if Obama had said that there's just too much going on, and we're fighting two wars, and so repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell will just have to wait until Iraq ends. This didn't happen. And if the Republicans actually did what Sullivan is suggesting they'd get about 15% of the vote nationwide tops, after every religious rightist bolts to the Constitution Party or some such.

I think the thing to understand here is that the predominant complex on the right is victimhood while the primary complex on the left is betrayal. Liberals are frequently very cynical about the political leadership on our side, and this often manifests itself in shouts of "betrayal" (the right, of course, equivalently shouts "treason"). Of course, if substantive healthcare reform occurs and if something real on energy gets passed, liberals will be confronted with something unusual: victory. That might change mindsets a bit.

I generally like Sullivan, but I always have to mentally remind myself that when he says "conservatism", he's using a definition of the term that merely exists in his own head. I totally support Sullivan's boldness in pushing equality, and I truly wish that Republicans were much better on this issue than they are. But I think his tendency toward wishful thinking and his bias against liberalism--which is sometimes merited but often not--is getting the better of him here.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.