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Tuesday, November 25, 2003  

Politics: Courting the gay conservative voter

I don't regularly read David Brooks' column in the New York Times. However, this week I gave it a close read after a conservative praised it as showing compassion for gay people by saying marriage of homosexuals should be legal.

I wrote an early blog entry, now likely lost to Blogger's perverse crimes against archives, about the differences between people of color and gay Americans politically. I believe that gays could become for the Republican Party what African-Americans and Hispanics have become for the Democrats - almost certain votes. If any one factor can be said to be preventing that from happening, it may well be the failure of the Right to support societal recognition of gay coupling -- both as a legal right and in regard to matrimony.

But, let's go back a bit. Key to my theory is that I believe many, if not most, gay people are conservatives - except for being gay. Why? Because the gay population is mainly white, male, educated and affluent, major characteristics of Republicans, not Democrats. Furthermore, since a minority of gay people opt to have families, the interest in social programs that binds liberals often does not resonate in their lives. A DINC (double income, no children) lifestyle is typical. People in that demographic are more likely to be interested in tax cuts than educational subsidies.

Brooks does not rely on such reasoning to reach his decision that gays should be allowed to marry. Instead he focuses on the rectitude of the institution.

Anybody who has several sexual partners in a year is committing spiritual suicide. He or she is ripping the veil from all that is private and delicate in oneself, and pulverizing it in an assembly line of selfish sensations.

But marriage is the opposite. Marriage joins two people in a sacred bond. It demands that they make an exclusive commitment to each other and thereby takes two discrete individuals and turns them into kin.

Few of us work as hard at the vocation of marriage as we should. But marriage makes us better than we deserve to be. Even in the chores of daily life, married couples find themselves, over the years, coming closer together, fusing into one flesh. Married people who remain committed to each other find that they reorganize and deepen each other's lives. They may eventually come to the point when they can say to each other: "Love you? I am you."

Brooks' believes marriage 'domesticates' people, making them more stable and happier. He asserts this blessed state should include lesbians and gay men who want to marry. The alternative is, according to him, giving in to what he calls the "culture of contingency," in which people decide whether they want to be in monogamous relationships based on the circumstances, not an allegiance to fidelity.

Still, even in this time of crisis, every human being in the United States has the chance to move from the path of contingency to the path of marital fidelity - except homosexuals. Gays and lesbians are banned from marriage and forbidden to enter into this powerful and ennobling institution. A gay or lesbian couple may love each other as deeply as any two people, but when you meet a member of such a couple at a party, he or she then introduces you to a "partner," a word that reeks of contingency.

. . .The conservative course is not to banish gay people from making such commitments. It is to expect that they make such commitments. We shouldn't just allow gay marriage. We should insist on gay marriage. We should regard it as scandalous that two people could claim to love each other and not want to sanctify their love with marriage and fidelity.

I don't agree with Brooks' description of what marriage is. (It can be different things for different people.) He also doesn't give enough weight to the reality that longterm marriage is becoming less and less common in developed countries. But, I believe he has identified an argument that could 'sell' gay marriage to conservatives. That, in turn, could allow the GOP to open its arms to gay conservatives, instead of continuing its current two-faced strategy of wooing them as conservatives and dissin' them as gays.

If the GOP builds it - a big tent that includes recognition of gay marriage - will they come? All we can do is speculate at present, of course. However, I believe Republicans would make significant strides with gays, especially gay men, if they could get over the gay marriage hurdle. Economic status, or at least perceived economic status, is still the most reliable indicator for political affiliation in the United States.

On other channels

  • Trish Wilson describes the Supreme Court of Massachusetts' ruling favoring gay marriage. She attended hearings on a gay marriage bill before the Massachusetts legislature and has colorful stories to tell.
  • Silver Rights considers how the GOP can court the black conservative voter.

  • 7:21 PM