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Conservatives, gay politics, and lost opportunities

At the time of the Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage this summer, it seemed to me that by ruling as it did, the Supreme Court had involuntarily handed many conservatives a great opportunity to move beyond the issue of gay marriage in ways that they hadn’t in the past.  Instead of making it a social or cultural issue, many conservatives could have sidestepped the issue entirely by talking more about economic issues and questions of taxation and state-sponsored benefits instead.

After all, the plaintiff in the case which challenged the Defense of Marriage Act was moved to file suit largely because of the estate taxes she incurred when her partner passed away.  So instead of viewing  it as a social or cultural issue, they could have taken up the cause of greatly reducing estate taxes for all regardless of marital status.

While I’m obviously biased on the issue, it seems to me that running on an anti-gay agenda is not a winning issue for conservatives.  I recognize that social conservatives played a very big role in the Reagan revolution, and I acknowledge that social conservatives are still an important part of the base that the Republican Party needs to keep winning elections.  But I believe that there are ways to accommodate social conservatives without alienating other potential voters.  Talking about court appointments is one way of doing this, because one needn’t be a social conservative to believe that the court should focus more on applying and interpreting the actual intent of the Constitution rather than legislating from the bench.  Likewise, one can have an honest debate about tax policy and whether or not it is in the state’s interest to carve out special exceptions for marriage or whether the state should get out of the marriage business all together and just simplify the tax code instead.

There are some signs that more and more Republican are getting this message.  On September 11 of this year, Politico reported on a survey that showed that more and more Republicans are embracing libertarian views about government.  (Hat Tip: The Blaze.)

FreedomWorks commissioned a national survey of registered voters last month, shared first with POLITICO, that finds 78 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents self-identify as fiscally conservative and socially moderate.

It’s not that Republicans are suddenly self-identifying as “libertarians” and devouring Ayn Rand novels, but more that they seem to be embracing underlying libertarian priorities and views about the role of government.

The Politico piece goes on to quote the Republican pollster who ran the poll saying that more and more voters are disturbed by both the size and the intrusiveness of government in the Obama era:

Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway, who ran the poll, said she’s seeing a spike in voters who feel the government is too expensive, invasive and expansive.

“The perfect storm is being created between the NSA, the IRS, the implementation of Obamacare and now Syria,” she said. “People are looking at the government more suspiciously. They’re looking with deeper scrutiny and reasonable suspicion.”

It all sounds great so far from my perspective.  I think this is a direction that Republicans need to embrace to be able to win significantly in the future.
And then, there’s the sad case of Virginia.  I first heard of Ken Cuccinelli when he was elected Attorney General of Virginia in 2009, in an election that many viewed as a sign of trouble ahead for the Democrats in 2010.  I knew he had played a large role in fighting Obamacare and in bringing the fight to the Supreme Court, and so it seemed to me that he would have a good chance of being elected Governor of Virginia this year, especially since he is running against corrupt Clinton crony Terry McAuliffe.  Over the summer, though, I kept hearing that Cuccinelli was not doing well against McAuliffe in the polls, and I wondered why that might be.

Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia’s attorney general, has garnered more than his share of national attention over the years, with high-profile legal crusades against global warming researchersObamacare, and abortion clinics. But it’s his recent war on consensual sodomy in the commonwealth that has raised the most eyebrows as the gubernatorial candidate has made the issue a centerpiece of the final months of his campaign.

His critics, including the ladies of The View and Jay Leno, have responded to Cuccinelli’s quest to reinstate Virginia’s anti-sodomy or, “Crimes Against Nature” law, with snickers and winks. The law is plainly unconstitutional—according to both a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision and a federal appeals court—and giggling about the attorney general’s creepy preoccupation with Virginians’ consensual oral sex makes for an easy comic target. But that focus obscures the real—even original—sin undergirding Cucinelli’s latest legal push: It’s a call for judges to read statutes to mean what they don’t say; a call for outright judicial activism, for freewheeling judicial interpretation—qualities legal thinkers on the right usually deplore.

The Classical Values piece points out that not only does Cuccinelli campaign on saving the anti-sodomy statutes, but that he thinks “gays belong in jail.”  Scheie concludes with some questions that I also found myself asking:

I have one question. Why?

Why does the GOP persist in pushing this anti-gay crap when it is abundantly clear that
voters don’t like it? You’d think they would learn. How many losses does it take? What is wrong with them?

Naturally, liberals love running against Cuccinelli. It makes the job of electing a veteran political hack like McAuliffe so much easier.

 

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25 Comments

  1. I think the most important thing is to understand that most people, especially conservatives, approach issues in a very case by case way. So, we should end the romance of ‘social conservatism’ and understand that said term is an umbrella trope that covers many different, contradictory things. This is pretty clear when you drill down into the specifics.

    The American people despise the Democratic Party’s pro-abortion stance. For the vast majority of people, ending the life of an infant during birth is every bit as evil and horrible as doing it after birth. And I think even people who feel like maybe first trimester abortions are in a fundamentally different category (no beating heart at stake etc) blanch at the idea of federally funding those things.

    Similarly, gun bans may be beloved by the left, but they are absolutely toxic as all hell. These two issues clearly show that the “social conservative” side is WINNING, even though the label is despised. This shows a clear message.

    People in the Republican Party need to aggressively decouple gay issues from the rest of the social conservative slate and start aggressively selling gay people and the families / friends of gay people of the wisdom of 2nd Amendment rights and other such things. This has to happen ASAP.

    Comment by SwiperTheFox — September 15, 2013 @ 11:32 pm - September 15, 2013

  2. I’d have to agree with you on both points, SwiperTheFox.

    Comment by Kurt — September 16, 2013 @ 12:16 am - September 16, 2013

  3. I look forward to the day when conservatives will be more concerned with upholding healthy, monogamous relationships among adults, than they will be about the sex of each individual within said relationships. As is commonly said, marriage comes with responsibility between partners to be devoted to each other, and to foster an environment conducive to raising future generations. These are the responsibilities that would greatly benefit gay and lesbian couples.

    To be clear, it is not necessary to call these relationships marriages. However, like a marriage they do need some form of recognition among the communities that value the individuals within these relationships. During religious wedding ceremonies the priest, minister, etc. not only calls for the two individuals to work to maintain their union, but also calls for all who witness the union to do all within their power to preserve the relationship.

    It is a community responsibility to value marriages and relationships because of the commitment and stability that accompanies these unions. In an age where one in two marriages end in divorce it is essential to work to maintain healthy relationships regardless of whether the individuals involved are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or straight.

    Comment by B. Long — September 16, 2013 @ 12:59 am - September 16, 2013

  4. Until local county and state GOP committees stop placing extremists and tin-foil-hat candidates on the ballots…what’s the point? Most current GOP candidates for Fall 2013 are socially-conservative, anti-abortionists or moon-bat crazy which doesn’t win elections in purple-states. The electorate is not concerned about those issues; they care about jobs, the economy, their own debt and why their (expensively) college-educated son is back living in the basement and working at the local supermarket or a data-center.

    Comment by Ted B. (Charging Rhino) — September 16, 2013 @ 1:07 am - September 16, 2013

  5. Ideally, I would like to see a grassroots push among states rights / federalist individuals to push the GOP establishment types to adopt a “marriage is none of the secular government’s business” line. This can happen. This can work.

    Also, thanks Kurt!

    Comment by SwiperTheFox — September 16, 2013 @ 3:39 am - September 16, 2013

  6. 5.Ideally, I would like to see a grassroots push among states rights / federalist individuals to push the GOP establishment types to adopt a “marriage is none of the secular government’s business” line. This can happen. This can work.

    While I agree with this, and the jist of Kurt’s post, I think a lot of the ‘traditional marriage folks’ (myself included) are still angry at Kennedy’s decision. By saying there was no other reason besides discriminatation, and by denying the people their right to redress the government for grievances in the prop 8 case, it was a slap in the face to everyone,and set a pair of nasty precidents.

    Why did California raise the age of consent from ten? Clearly because of discirmination against 10 year olds? Someone challenges the Connecticut law allowing SSM? Why what happens if the Governour decides not to defend it? (I use Connecticut specifically because it was passed through the legislature and, as far as I can tell, no trickery was involved).

    It even gives Hickenloper a way out in Colorado when their law gets challenged, “I felt the law stood on its own merits, and I didn’t need to defend it.”

    And, as harsh as it is to say… The Constitution doesn’t protect against biases. To use an extreme example, you can’t enter a (consensual) indentured servitude period and expect the government to recognize it. That’s biased against anyone who might want it.

    Comment by The_Livewire — September 16, 2013 @ 6:21 am - September 16, 2013

  7. The electorate is not concerned about those issues; they care about jobs, the economy, their own debt and why their (expensively) college-educated son is back living in the basement and working at the local supermarket or a data-center.

    The election results of 2012 say otherwise.

    Comment by V the K — September 16, 2013 @ 8:55 am - September 16, 2013

  8. The date shows Democrats vote against their economic interests in favor of trendy social issues.

    In NYC, the voters are prepared to elect a candidate for mayor who has explicitly promised to undo and reverse all the policies that have made NYC safer and more prosperous. It’s lunacy.

    Comment by V the K — September 16, 2013 @ 9:01 am - September 16, 2013

  9. You do make a very good point about the decision, Livewire. I was not happy with the things I read about the wording and the reasoning of the decision, but I also figured that, on some pragmatic level, it opened a door to focus on the issue at the state and not the federal level, or to the debate about whether or not there should be a government role in marriage, and so I viewed it as an opportunity, albeit a flawed one.

    Comment by Kurt — September 16, 2013 @ 1:33 pm - September 16, 2013

  10. Identity politics is stupid when the left does it, and it is stupid when the right does it. It is clear to me now that some “conservatives” are nothing more than wannabe Michael Bloombergs who want to control every aspect of everyone’s lives in order to create some kind of nanny-statish utopia. They’re all basically the same.

    And if sodomy is a sin, why the hell should Ken Cuccinelli care? If he’s not committing it, he shouldn’t have anything to worry about. That is one thing I hate about “compassionate conservatives”; they care so much about everyone that they think it is their business what complete strangers do with their own lives. If I want to destroy my own life, why shouldn’t I be able to as long as it is harming no one else? People should be smart enough to avoid that, but if they aren’t, then I say let them reap the consequences of their stupidity, and you might as well get whatever entertainment value out of it that you can.

    Comment by Rattlesnake — September 16, 2013 @ 10:17 pm - September 16, 2013

  11. @Kurt,

    I think Kennedy did realize what the 9th Circus’ ruling opened the door for, with their arguments that once something is recognized, it can’t be taken away.

    It wasn’t until the 30’s that fully automatic weapons were restricted (Famously, you could buy a Tommy Gun out of the Sears catalog). So those laws are unconstitutional, per the 9th’s ruling.

    Age of consent laws, as I mentioned above.

    Any attempt to restrict anything that is legal, by the 9th’s logic, is unconstitutional It was a dumb ruling.

    And by denying the people standing, it destroys our entire judicial system, because you know that ruling is going to only be used by judges who don’t like the argument presented before them. I mean if the people who fought to get the California Constitution amended don’t have standing to defend it, then how does Planned Parenthood have standing to sue any fetal heartbeat laws? The only ones with standing, apparently, would be said unborn babies. It is a dumb ruling.

    Comment by The_Livewire — September 17, 2013 @ 6:28 am - September 17, 2013

  12. @Rattlesnake

    People should be smart enough to avoid that, but if they aren’t, then I say let them reap the consequences of their stupidity, and you might as well get whatever entertainment value out of it that you can.

    I agree with this in theory. The problem is, human nature goes against it.

    I’ve spent blood and treasure helping friends, and those I thought were friends (the later have let to the spending of blood). That is my choice. In a truly libertarian society (or at least one as our founders envisioned it) people like me need to be allowed to exist, but so do people who help strangers and, more importantly, people who hoard their resources for themselves and would step over the broken addict in the street.

    The model breaks down when people have more ‘compassion’ than resources. When I use my credit rating to help a friend buy a car, that’s me using my resources. When my neighbor wants to do so, and can’t, that’s life. The problem is when enough of my neighbors want to do so, and decide that I, or the aforementioned self focused person above, should be required to use my resorces to help someone. That is the mentality that rules this society, and, unfortunately, I don’t know how we change it.

    Comment by The_Livewire — September 17, 2013 @ 6:37 am - September 17, 2013

  13. Once again, reich-wingers in a Christianist Red State have gone and arrested a couple for performing consensual sex acts in the privacy of their bedroom.

    http://tinyurl.com/q934w3b

    What right do people have to impose their Bible-based morality on consenting adults and their pets?

    Comment by V the K — September 17, 2013 @ 8:13 am - September 17, 2013

  14. Serious question: Why do all of these “Fiscal conservative/social moderates” insist that the Republican Party has to change its stance on social issues instead of pressuring the Democrat Party to change its stance on Fiscal issues?

    My cynical side knows the answer: These people aren’t really trying to help Republicans gain “moderate independent voters.” They want to drive a wedge between Republicans and a large part of their base; thus marginalizing Republicans electorally and denying social conservatives any political voice.

    Can anyone give me a non-cynical answer?

    Comment by V the K — September 17, 2013 @ 8:16 am - September 17, 2013

  15. I believe we’ve reached the point where liberty isn’t even an option. Too many Americans don’t want it because they don’t want its inherent responsibilities and they have been convinced that social issues are the only ones that matter, that elections are to satisfy emotions, to express ‘social values’. A militant homosexual is every bit as much a values voter as a devout, elderly, church-attending widow. Besides, most have no idea how an economy works and during hard times, they run to the very entity that has mostly made it worse: the government. We’re well past the time when freedom is even desirable and we will in some future decade have to rediscover it, probably when our nation is a smoking ruin.

    Comment by Ignatius — September 17, 2013 @ 12:41 pm - September 17, 2013

  16. I’ve spent blood and treasure helping friends, and those I thought were friends (the later have let to the spending of blood). That is my choice. In a truly libertarian society (or at least one as our founders envisioned it) people like me need to be allowed to exist, but so do people who help strangers and, more importantly, people who hoard their resources for themselves and would step over the broken addict in the street.

    The model breaks down when people have more ‘compassion’ than resources. When I use my credit rating to help a friend buy a car, that’s me using my resources. When my neighbor wants to do so, and can’t, that’s life. The problem is when enough of my neighbors want to do so, and decide that I, or the aforementioned self focused person above, should be required to use my resorces to help someone. That is the mentality that rules this society, and, unfortunately, I don’t know how we change it.

    Exactly. This is why I say that compassion isn’t a good thing.

    Serious question: Why do all of these “Fiscal conservative/social moderates” insist that the Republican Party has to change its stance on social issues instead of pressuring the Democrat Party to change its stance on Fiscal issues?

    My guess is that, to people who believe in liberty, the Republican Party is better than the Democratic Party. But they also view social conservatives as anti-liberty. And, I don’t think that is necessarily the case, but I do think it is the case when social conservatives want to use the government to push an agenda like the one Ken Cuccinelli is apparently pushing. IMO, the best social policy for a political party to have is “none” (unless it is something that can be derived logically from the premise of individual liberty, such as a pro-life stance on abortion). Obviously, both the Republicans and the Democrats have social policies that push their own version of morality (and, for the record, I would argue that the Democrats’ is far more intrusive).

    I’m also sure that, in some cases, your more cynical answer is correct as well.

    Comment by Rattlesnake — September 17, 2013 @ 4:59 pm - September 17, 2013

  17. Liberals and conservatives both use government power to control and regulate areas of society about which they care the most.

    Comment by Ignatius — September 17, 2013 @ 5:14 pm - September 17, 2013

  18. Liberals and conservatives both use government power to control and regulate areas of society about which they care the most.

    Comment by Ignatius — September 17, 2013 @ 5:14 pm – September 17, 2013

    Yup.

    In the case of conservatives, you get Singapore.

    In the case of liberals, you get Greece.

    Which do you prefer?

    Comment by North Dallas Thirty — September 18, 2013 @ 12:00 am - September 18, 2013

  19. I get what you’re saying, but right now I’m having coffee on my terrace in Mykonos watching the sailing school in the harbor. I’ve been to Singapore many times, but would rather be here, as big a mess as it is.

    Comment by David in New Orleans — September 18, 2013 @ 2:26 am - September 18, 2013

  20. Compassion isn’t a bad thing.

    Justfiying theft as compassion is. And that’s the problem.

    Comment by The_Livewire — September 18, 2013 @ 6:12 am - September 18, 2013

  21. My feeling is that the government should be out of marriage completely.

    The government is involved solely to give perks to “married couples”. All people wanting to gain tax/death/etc benefits should have to enter into a civil union.

    Then those who want to go the religious route can get “married” at their local Church, Mosque, Synagogue, Temple, etc.

    It seems to me that this route would be the one that is most just to all (atheists included), and is a win/win for everyone.

    BTW, your site is fantastic. You bring a great perspective to the table.

    Comment by rorschach — September 18, 2013 @ 8:22 am - September 18, 2013

  22. To make it explicitly clear, Justice Kennedy dissented on the Prop 8 case which was dismissed. He was one of four justices to do so (Sotomeyer, Thomas, Alito). Then the majority was Ginsburg, Roberts, Scalia, Kagan, Breyer. It was implied in the comments section that Kennedy had ruled to dismiss Prop 8 when that’s just not true. He had as a matter of fact stated in the dissenting opinion that the citizens of California had the right to defend it in court without the elected officials involvement which is the ground used by the majority for its dismissal. Back in 2010 when Vaughn Walker invalidated it, then-Gov. Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Moon Beam declined to defend it and Jerry Brown continued to refuse to defend when he became governor along with his successor Attorney General Kamala Harris. Just making something clear.

    Comment by Jonathan Gillispie — September 18, 2013 @ 6:55 pm - September 18, 2013

  23. Jonathan Gillispie–I understood the comment about Justice Kennedy as referring to the DOMA case, which was the one I was more concerned with in my post. The PDF of the decision can be found here, and as you can see, Kennedy was the author of the majority opinion. That was the decision that The Livewire was referring to when he cited Justice Kennedy’s thinking that DOMA was motivated by “animus” and a “desire to harm” (see p. 20 of Kennedy’s decision).

    You are correct with regard to the Proposition 8 case, but I view that as another whole issue, since that ruling had more to do with the legitimacy of the proposition process; it effectively empowers elected representatives to disregard the will of the people by failing to defend propositions that those officials do not like.

    Comment by Kurt — September 19, 2013 @ 2:46 am - September 19, 2013

  24. In the case of conservatives, you get Singapore.

    In the case of liberals, you get Greece.

    I would have used Chile and Greece. Chile was briefly under the rule of a right-wing dictator. He liberalized the economy, instituted reforms, and left when his work was done.

    In Cuba, they have socialist dictators-for-life who convey power dynastically and never give it up, opponents are imprisoned, and the economy is a wreck.

    Where would you prefer to live?

    Comment by V the K — September 19, 2013 @ 9:54 pm - September 19, 2013

  25. Thank you Kurt, you understood my point exactly.

    Comment by The_Livewire — September 20, 2013 @ 6:56 am - September 20, 2013

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