Left Behind (oo-er!)
This entry was originally going to be an update to a post below about gay marriage, but I came to conclude it merited its own post. DC-area gay paper The Washington Blade published a column about a week ago, which was linked to by Volokh. The writer, one Bruce Carroll, argues that gay rights groups are responsible for the anti-gay marriage backlash by provoking the religious right.
Since two-thirds of Americans oppose gay marriage, and the same percentage support legal protections for gays in the workplace, then why, I asked, are the radical gay groups forcing marriage down the throats of America at this time? But it wasn’t the “religious right” or President Bush who started this round of the culture war. It was us. The battle was clearly started by gay activists who adopted the tactic of challenging marriage laws across the country....[W]e need to step up and admit that the responsibility of the gay marriage debate, good or bad, is squarely on the shoulders and the consciences of the so-called leaders of the Human Rights Campaign, National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, Log Cabin Republicans and their ilk....[I]nstead of appreciating the feelings of most Americans and undertaking a long-term commitment to educate our nation about who we are, our leaders took the easy way and went to the courts to dictate one version of morality and forced tolerance from the bench. That strategy is faulty and will never work....Gay leaders will scratch their heads and wonder what went wrong, but the fact that they don’t “get it” is proof enough that we need to find a new way and new leadership....The path to gay marriage is not to force Americans to accept a morality they are not prepared to embrace. Instead of radical gay groups spending their precious few dollars, time and resources engaging in court fights and street battles, it’s time to turn our attention to the hearts and minds of mainstream America....Until the leaders of these radical gay groups come to grips that they have wasted precious years on counterproductive strategies, we will continue to face these predictable setbacks to gay marriage and other issues with increasing frequency. Until all of us start reaching out to mainstream Americans, instead of shouting in their faces, we will continue to be responsible for our own failures.Replace "gay" with "progressive" and Mr. Carroll expresses far more concisely my beef with the liberal-left.
The People have spoken - the Bastards!
The failures of the liberal-left are due less (if at all) to the "institutionalization of power" or somesuch Chomskyite claptrap and more to Machiavellian revolutionary tactics (not that there's anything wrong with Machiavellian tactics, but they sure don't build trust) that resemble a distrust of democracy. There's something deeply hypocritical about using phrases like "Power to the People!" in public and "false consciousness" in private. For all its democratic rhetoric, the liberal-left (really just the left, but liberals who see "no enemies on the left" and therefore don't challenge them are just as responsible) is blind to the fact that democracy means that we don't always get the policy we want if enough people are opposed to it. "What do we want? [Something!] When do we want it? Now!" is an inherently un-democratic attitude.
Michael Moore describes Americans as "progressive-thinking, liberal-leaning, good-hearted people," "[e]ight in ten [of whom] believe that health insurance should be provided equally to everyone in the country. And 52 percent say they would be willing to pay more in taxes or insurance premiums to see that happen." For once - you may want to sit down for this - I believe that Moore is absolutely right. Would the vast majority of Americans really turn down universal health care? F*ck, no! Of course not! So why aren't more liberal initiatives successful? Why don't Americans elect more liberal officials? Mostly because of Michael Moore and people like him. When Michael Moore - or other famous liberals like Tim Robbins or Susan Sarandon - gives a talk at a rally preceded and followed by speakers who are openly contemptuous of the United States, its culture and its people and he fails to challenge them, doesn't it ever occur to him that this might hurt the causes he supports? There are enemies on the left, dammit! And they rob liberals of their credibility.
As with the Christian religion, the worst advertisement for Socialism is its adherents.
- George Orwell, The Road to Wigan
In a post on abortion, I mentioned a pro-life Jewish woman who would consider joining the pro-life movement if she weren't afraid of Christian evangelism. After her concern was relayed to a leader - a Christian - of the protest the Jewish woman was observing, he replied, We just might. Voters fear, with justification or without, that if they hand liberals too much power, they may as well just take up arms and instigate the Revolution themselves. Bill Clinton's Sister Souljah moment and Tony Blair's removal of Clause 4 were shibboleths signalling to the voting public (not least independents, moderates and open-minded center-right voters), Hey, if you elect us, you won't be putting the inmates in charge of the asylum. And they won. Maybe it's not progressivism that voters are afraid of, but rather progressives.
Democracy means that we don't always get what we want when we want it. This doesn't preclude trying again later. It was almost a century from the Declaration of Independence to the Emancipation Proclamation and almost another century again to Brown vs. Board of Ed. The suffering of African-Americans and the justice of abolition and desegregation obscures the fact that the Constitution is designed to be a wrench in the works of revolutionary change, no matter how just the cause. But Bush ran as a moderate and is governing as a reactionary, you might say. The Constitution prevents change, I said, It doesn't halt it altogether. The Constitution has checks and balances like NASA's got redundant backup systems. Mark my words, the Supreme Court will spend the next years knocking down provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act. Besides the USA PATRIOT Act isn't all bad, such measures as those knocking down walls between intelligence and law enforcement were long overdue. The court system will winnow out the egregious measures. The Constitution is like the drain at the bottom of the tub, allowing us to keep the baby but not the bathwater. But we have to remember that drains are inherently slower at getting rid of water. Bypassing public opinion, no matter how just the cause, has its costs. After a Civil War fought by a Republican President, the South was solidly Democratic until a Democratic President signed the Civil Rights Act. Abolition and desegregation were worth that price, but not all causes are. Gay marriage certainly isn't when an almost-as-good-but-far-cheaper substitute is available in the form of domestic partnerships. The revolutionary mindset is eternally blind to fact that, it doesn't matter what cause you're fighting for, public opinion never appreciates being ridden over roughshod. The White House would do well to heed this lesson with regard to the Arab Street. It may not be fair to kill the messenger (except maybe if he shot his way to the throne room), but he'd better know his audience for his own sake.