What’s Wrong with the World

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Why Might That Be?

George Neumayr, discussing the seeming abdication of the Republican and conservative establishment from the cultural conflicts of the age, particularly in the wake of the California marriage ruling, observes:

Mush, not real substance, is all that's on offer in the Big Tent. Even the California Supreme Court's ruling in favor of gay marriage, which supposedly represents a great political opportunity for Republicans, underscores the GOP's identity problem: the ruling's author, Justice Ron George, is a liberal Republican, as is the governor who promises to back it. (Snip)

Meanwhile, John McCain's stance on this issue is about as galvanizing as his opposition to "amnesty." What exactly is the major difference between his position and Obama's? They both technically oppose gay marriage, and they both support the right of states to enact gay marriage. Perhaps the only difference in the end will be that McCain also supports the right of states to reject it (though presumably Obama, if only for political reasons, holds this view at the moment too).

ON SUCH SLENDER reeds hangs the GOP's agenda. Commentators predict a coming "culture war" between the Democrats and Republicans on this issue. I doubt it. A culture war presupposes two fighting sides. Only the Democrats are fighting on this one, and prominent Republicans long ago surrendered one of the principles upon which opposition to gay marriage rests: it is bad for children.

Democrats are full of passionate certainty, but Republicans grow ever more vague, opposing gay marriage merely on democratic, not moral, grounds. The media still clings to the culture-war model, but it looks more and more anachronistic.

Now, I do declare that I cannot discern a single reason for the conservative/Republican capitulation on this issue. It is unfathomable, defying comprehension to the last.

Comments (13)

I've long thought that the retreat of Republicans and establishment conservatives to the Federalism angle of the gay marriage debate was a major strategic capitulation. People are not especially impressed by formal arguments about mere process, the way they are by moral appeals to justice, fairness, and tolerance. Conservatives limit their arguments to those concerning democratic process because their hearts really aren't in the fight, and this becomes even more obvious when you pair their bloodless concern for division of powers with their widespread support for "civil unions."

In other words, they cede all the essentials and engage in stalling tactics, which signal only indecisiveness and a refusal to fight on first principles. No wonder the gay lobby has refused to accept half-measures--they're right to call the establishment right hypocrites for offering the substance of legal recognition of marriage without giving up the name.

You'll notice that just today John McCain boldly declared his opposition to same-sex marriage, and did so on Ellen Degeneres' talk show, of all places. He also advocates identifying this issue as a state, rather than a national, issue. Identifying it in this way does not mean he (or his party) is morally lax on the point. It means he is a Constitutionalist of a particular sort.

I'm waiting for Obama to go on, say, Michael Reagan's show to advocate his views on social issues, and to insist overtly in so doing that Ronald Reagan was wrong on these issues.

Some commentators have suggested that mid-level GOP partisans tend to ditch social conservatism to cover for their foreign policy stands or their love of business interests.

I've seen this in action in e-mail from a College Republicans chapter in Boulder, Colorado. Even back in 2002, when the idea was still openly risible, their leadership was unwilling to oppose same-sex marriage. Many of them are probably on the staff of a congressman or a law firm now.

Few people are willing to be conservative "moralistic scolds," and fewer still are effective at it. Hollywood, the press, the law schools and the universities are all in favor of such ridiculous radicalism, with the collaboration of some churches.

The Washington Times has even dropped its sneer quotes around "gay marriage."

Anyone who opposes it on malum in se moral grounds simply won't get a hearing. There are few institutions backing social conservatism, and even such churches have other concerns upon which to focus.

It's not only 'bad for children' there's another principle long ago surrendered: It's bad period, to be afflicted with homosexuality.

Part of the Cal court decision rested on their observing that the state had institutionalized domestic partnership to such an extent that it was de facto marriage, a parallel track of the same thing lacking merely the same name. They saw no reason not to give it the same name.

Once all these states made such arrangements de facto, it was only a matter of time before they would become de jure.

All us "homophobes" who originally opposed domestic partnership laws as the camel's nose in the tent were scorned as small minded bigots who wouldn't let people visit their dying partners in the hospitals.

The fight against society disordering itself morally has had little to no support from the Right punditocracy. Thanks, Republicans, for never thinking to fight until it's too late.

No one on the Beltway Right seems willing to notice that the slippery slope regarding moral issues never fails to come true. No, birth control wouldn't lead to abortion, which wouldn't lead to infanticide, which wouldn't lead to devaluing children, which wouldn't lead to sexualizing the young, which wouldn't lead to hooking up, and approving of homosexual practices, which wouldn't lead to making criticism of homosexuality illegal and so on.

Talk to the God of the Old Testament about slippery slopes. I'm so sick to death of all these urbane conservatives who never find any new perversion of the moral order disturbing and think those that do are the same as the preachers who want to ban dancing in their towns. (Seen any "freak dancing" lately?)


The barbarians are not only within the city-gates, they are it's keepers. Some form of martyrdom will be the only viable means of resistance to their rule. Do not look for the GOP, or any secular party structure as a meaningful vehicle for Christian expression. Just look at the lives of their leaders and their actions when in power and one realizes the role they've played in the ongoing cultural revolution.

Boy, it's all brightness and sunshine around here, aint it?

The federalist/decentralist approach to the legal preservation of the integrity of marriage necessitates a delicate balancing act; the ostensible rationale for a federalist approach is that it harmonizes with our Constitutional architecture and lowers the temperature of the national debate, while enabling advocates to press their cases at the state level. There are, of course, things to be said in favour of such an approach, though I harbour suspicions that our political culture is too far gone, too immersed in the emotivism and rights-talk of the debate to accept incompleteness (which is to suggest that I believe the partisans of nominalist marriage are the aggressors). However, implicit in the rationale is a desire to remove the issue from the Big Table, so as to preserve some semblance of national comity: debate that question all you wish in your spare time at home, but here in the Big Time, at the national level, we've got other matters to attend to. In other words, people pressing the argument for federalism are doing so, in part, because of a desire to get along, to smooth things over, to establish as policy a national indifferentism towards intractable differences. Crucially, if such a policy is to be successful, as a vehicle for a legitimate social conservatism, the advocate must balance in his thoughts and actions this sort of national Millianism (experiments in living) with a fervent defense of moral orthodoxy on the state level.

I'm not postulating the impossibility; far from it. But the psychological timbre of "federal indifferentism so that we can all get along" is not so different from that of "PC diversity orthodoxy ensures the greater fungibility of workers". The risk, therefore, is that, by virtue of this psychological resonance, the federalist bulwarks will erode, and those who began by ceasing to care about the issue at the national level will also cease to care about it at the state level, finding the tensions of federalism unbearable, and the pressures of corporate homogenization irresistible.

Boy, it's all brightness and sunshine around here, aint it?

It's called "What's Wrong with the World" for a reason.

Paul, how's this view; it's sunny, breezy and 70 degrees. On tap; the wonderfully medieval mix of Memorial Day reverence and raucousness. A family reunion, a parade, some college lacrosse and the Mass. Always the Mass, because man cannot live on steaks, steamers and stout alone. We joyfully perform our small role in an Eternal struggle, knowing that which matters most, remains forever outside the Jacobin's vain grasp.

Much better, Kevin. Well said.

domestic partnership laws as the camel's nose in the tent were scorned as small minded bigots who wouldn't let people visit their dying partners in the hospitals.

A bit of quibble with that. Domestic partnership laws are probably somewhere around the camel's hump(s). His nose was contraception; and ears "no-fault" divorce.

Scene from the movie "Abbot And Costello Meet the Space Nazis":

Abbot: Boy, it's all brightness and sunshine around here, aint it?

Costello: It's called "What's Wrong with the World" for a reason.

After thinking about it for some time, I have come to a definite conclusion: I am sane. The emotions I have been experiencing are due to the misfortune of my living in extremely weird times.

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