In the comments section to my first post from the “Equality Summit,” another participant chimed in, offering thoughts which help define the difference between the left and right in American today.
Addressing my observation about the absence of Republicans at the event, Stephen R. Stapleton wrote:
I don’t think we plan much outreach to conservatives. They aren’t very receptive to the outreach and I think those resources will return more if used to focus more moderate voters. I think resources put into reaching out to the religious and minority communities would return considerably more.
Note, his bias against conservatives, assuming we won’t be receptive to outreach. Has he even tried? He was not even aware of Republicans Against 8, saying, “I don’t think there was any Republican leadership active in the fight on Prop 8.”
Most (but, alas, not all) conservatives are a limited government lot. If gay activists could tweak their message, framing this as an issue of freedom rather than dwelling on equality, they would certainly get more conservatives on board. They would sway still others by doing as Catherine Thienmann did in pointing out that advocates of gay marriage understand and upload the obligations of the institution, including monogamy.
In short, they needed present unifying message based on ideas, the political idea here being freedom, the social, responsibility.
Too many on the left, however, would rather appeal to interest groups, as if the gay movement were part of some vast coalition of the oppressed. Minority groups thus become their allies, while conservatives their adversaries.
Since Ronald Reagan, however, the conservative movement has been one of ideas, crafting an inclusive, unifying message. (Republicans fail, when they lose sight of that message and resort to pandering as they did in 1992 and 2006.) By contrast, the modern left is a collection of interest groups, with the Democratic Party (as an example) pandering to each and every minority.
To reach to conservatives, gay marriage advocates need not pander, but instead make a strong case for gay marriage, making clear that state recognition of same-sex unions will not prevent private institutions for setting their own standards while defending the values undergirding this ancient institution.
The idea is not to pander, but to advocate. To promote an idea, in this case, the benefits of extending the privileges of marriage to same-sex couples.
Had conservatives been included in this weekend’s conclave, participants might better understand this strategy.