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October 12, 2004

Reformulating a Party via Guilt Trip

Jonah Goldberg posted an email earlier today posing a question that, as Jonah mentions, one hears often from homosexuals with some conservative leanings on particular issues:

What's a gay conservative to do? See, I agree with republicans on things like low taxes, free market reform, privatization, smaller government, foreign policy, and the war on terror. Unfortunately. the party caters to a constituency that pretty much defines me as an abomination and takes every effort to cast the "homosexual agenda" as anti-family and anti-american. In election years, this rhetoric becomes even more hateful, and now there's an entire constitutional amendment trying to keep me in my place.

Upon taking a moment to notice that the emailer is pretty much defining religious/social conservatives as hateful and bigotted, it becomes clear that he wishes to play the guilted compassion card in such a way as to marginalize an opposing, but larger and more historical, Republican constituency. It's not an argument from principle; it's an argument from emotional pressure. Granted, that's an approach that has accumulated undue force in modern times, but how does one respond to the following except with a wry "boo hoo":

They make it crystal clear they don't care about my vote under any circumstances. It's like the republicans labor under the illusion that we will all eventually go away and not have to be dealt with.

That's an intriguing construction. The first sentence is flatly untrue; Republicans would welcome "the gay vote" — as long as it is based on shared principles rather than capitulation to demands that the party simply cannot afford politically. Then, contrasting with the woe-is-me appeal, the second sentence offers a veiled warning. That implicit refusal to compromise isn't the only thing that's veiled; note what also lies behind the gay rhetoric:

On the other hand, I disagree with almost every "non-social" policy (I agree on abortion, death penalty, gay rights, and school vouchers with the democrats; pretty much whatever the religous wing of the republicans is for, i oppose) on the democratic platform.

The parenthetical at first caught my attention because it made me muse at the complete social platform with which the "gay thing" seems so often aligned. But there seems to be a deeper current, here. The complaint is of gay conservatives' political homelessness, and the plea is to treat homosexuals as people — as people who matter enough to address. However — if I may disassociate a word from a cliché — the homosexuality appears to be a wedge to open the way for an entire worldview that is wholly incompatible with the religious conservative perspective. Since the orientation is taken as immutable, it follows that the opposing perspective must go.

This factor plays in multiple directions, but it very often seems that sexual matters have this effect. Encouraging a narrowly linear way of thinking that accords with strong urges, they allow fundamental shifts to pass as a matter of course, the gathering earthquake unnoticed beneath the rocking of the bed.

Posted by Justin Katz at October 12, 2004 10:27 PM

That same parenthetical caught my attention also. I can understand defining yourself as a gay conservative when your primary break with conservative principles is gay rights, but when you also disagree with mainstream conservative positions on capital punishment, abortion, and school vouchers, what, if anything is conservative about you?
I see no basis for disagreeing on all 4 of those and calling yourself conservative. Given what he is for: low taxes, privatization, a robust war on terror, etc, and how he characterized his dissent: "pretty much whatever the religious wing of the republicans is for, i oppose," this gentleman is from the libertine wing of the libertarian political philosophy. He also has a directly stated anti-religious bias, and even misapprehends the religious position on capital punishment, which many religious conservatives oppose. That doesn't make you conservative.
He's likely a single gay man who makes a good living and therefore likes low taxes and a favorable business environment, and personally opposes all things religious because he believes religious people are mean and/or bigoted towards gays. It even gives him too much credit to call him a principled libertarian. An honest libertarian would support vouchers as they increase individual autonomy (unless he wanted to abolish all government funding for education altogether), but his anti-religious bias overcomes his libertarian beliefs and so he opposes vouchers, too.
He's not conservative, he's selfish.

Posted by: MG2 at October 13, 2004 10:24 AM

"He's not conservative, he's selfish."

Ha - precisely right. The whole conceit is ridiculous - "why isn't there a political party that caters to my views?" Waa, waa, waa. There are only two mainstream parties, and roughly 100 million voters - how many people does he think find themselves in complete agreement with either party? Either his security and fiscal views outweigh his social ones, or vice-versa - figure it out for yourself, buddy, don't whine that everyone else should adjust so that your decision is easy.

Posted by: Mike S. at October 13, 2004 10:39 AM

Okay, I'll do my parrot imitation...

What MG2 said. Why couldn't I have said that first? Of course, hard-core feminists are trying to sway all women into this myopic world view also, as noted in Wendy McElroy's op-ed article "Individual Rights vs. Identity Politics."

Posted by: smmtheory at October 13, 2004 12:35 PM

First he laments that

[the GOP] takes every effort to cast the "homosexual agenda" as anti-family

Then he boasts that

I disagree with almost every "non-social" policy (I agree on abortion, death penalty, gay rights, and school vouchers with the democrats; pretty much whatever the religous wing of the republicans is for, i oppose) on the democratic platform

And he "wonders" where they ever got the impression the "gay agenda" is anti-family!?!?

Posted by: c matt at October 13, 2004 12:35 PM

" choice"

Is it reasonable for a barren group to interfere with our choices on abortion and schools? I'm opposed to Saturn's rings, but I wouldn't bother the locals.

Posted by: Ripper at October 13, 2004 9:55 PM

Huh! Just because the rings make immigration a little more difficult... shees Rip!

Posted by: smmtheory at October 13, 2004 11:49 PM