As your enemies do the scolding, sit back and enjoy the leverage!

While I continue to have reservations about inviting the government into people's private lives, more Americans than ever are supporting same sex marriage -- to the point where today's headline proclaims a "milestone."

More Than Half of Americans Say Gay Marriage Should Be Legal

More than half of Americans say it should be legal for gays and lesbians to marry, a first in nearly a decade of polls by ABC News and The Washington Post.

This milestone result caps a dramatic, long-term shift in public attitudes. From a low of 32 percent in a 2004 survey of registered voters, support for gay marriage has grown to 53 percent today. Forty-four percent are opposed, down 18 points from that 2004 survey.

The issue remains divisive; as many adults "strongly" oppose gay marriage as strongly support it, and opposition rises to more than 2-1 among Republicans and conservatives and 3-1 among evangelical white Protestants, a core conservative group. But opposition to gay marriage has weakened in these groups from its levels a few years ago, and support has grown sharply among others - notably, among Catholics, political moderates, people in their 30s and 40s and men.

The results reflect a changing albeit still polarized climate....

I'll say. Family values conservatives do not merely oppose gay marriage. They claim that this position is central to conservatism, and that opposition to homosexuality constitutes one of the "three legs" of something known as "the conservative stool." And that Western civilization will fall if the homos aren't stopped.

What the family values conservatives forget is that gay marriage is an issue of little importance to most people. Yet the more loudly they scream about it, the more they generate support for it. (They even had me an inch away from supporting gay marriage -- simply out of disgust for the opposition.)

Thus same sex marriage becomes no longer a gay issue, but a position for people to take as a reaction against what they see as a mindset that attacks them.

The dynamic is explained by PZ Myers (whose general liberal view I do not share) in a post titled, "Why I am an amoral, family-hating monster...and Newt Gingrich isn't":

Today is my wedding anniversary. I've been married to the same woman for 31 years, without ever straying. Newt Gingrich has been married 3 times, divorced one wife while she was recovering from surgery, and has had extra-marital affairs.

Guess who is considered the defender of traditional sexual morality?

It's a strange situation where the political party with more ex-wives than candidates, that houses and defends a disturbingly amoral network of fundamentalist operators is regarded as the protector of the sanctity of the family. They're anything but.

I think I understand, though -- it doesn't matter what you do, all that matters is what you say. The Republicans support a version of marriage that rests on tradition, authority, and masculine dominance, and everything they do props up one leg of the tripod or the other. Public piety reinforces religious tradition; the insistence that there is one true form of marriage, between a man and a woman, which represents a legal and social commitment is part of the authoritarian impulse; and of course, if a man steps out of the matrimonial bounds, it's an expression of machismo and patriotism and entitlement.

OK, he loses me with much of his liberal rant, but I can relate to his point about the dynamics of scolding people. Calling people "anti-family" when they are in fact monogamous and happily married is not the best way to win them over. Similarly, calling those who want to legalize drugs "hedonists" is a great way to bring people over to the pro-legalization side. And yelling at people over Global Warming while threatening to take away their light bulbs while they're struggling through an economic crisis is a great way to shift the AGW believers over into the skeptic column.

It's simple leverage, and it can almost be reduced to math. 

posted by Eric on 03.18.11 at 10:19 AM


The link to the "disturbingly amoral network of fundamentalist operators" led me to this review:

Sharlet's discoveries dramatically challenge conventional wisdom about American fundamentalism, revealing its crucial role in the unraveling of the New Deal, the waging of the cold war, and the no-holds-barred economics of globalization. The question Sharlet believes we must ask is not "What do fundamentalists want?" but "What have they already done?"

1. - unraveling the New Deal? - Good
2. - waging and winning the cold war - Good
3. - globalization - Good long term with a fair amount of present pain

Evidently I have quite a bit in common with social conservatives. Where we part company is (this is going to be hard to take no doubt) social issues.

I keep hearing that because social conservatives get the above listed items right they must be right on everything. Not even Libertarians are that good.

M. Simon   ·  March 18, 2011 4:42 PM

In an Amazon review of the book:

The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power

One reviewer says:

This is one of the very few books of recent years that has kept me up most of the night reading. Those who discount the power of the type of schmoozing Sharlet describes have not spent much time working in and around government.

So the real danger is that they talk to each other? Uh. Well then. I talk to them. And I have made some progress in talking some of them out of the Drug War.

In the end the vast majority of "conspiracies" are just people with similar interests talking to each other.

M. Simon   ·  March 18, 2011 4:53 PM

Well, actually, I have no problem with gay marriage. Or straight marriage. Or polygamous marriage. I just don't think the state should be involved.

I DO have problems with any marriages that are non-consensual (ie bestiality, pedophilic marriages, certain arranged marriages, etc.)

Kathy Kinsley   ·  March 18, 2011 5:41 PM

Kathy, my problem stems from the heavy-handed role of the state, and the foolishness of the belief that granting state jurisdiction over your private life constitutes a "right."

Eric Scheie   ·  March 19, 2011 7:29 PM

It's odd that the coverage of the pedophile ring has not mentioned how many, or what fraction of the of the 70,000 "members" or the fraction of the 670 people arrested for molesting under-aged boys were heterosexual women.

It's almost like news coverage that might tend to confirm the worst assumptions and bigotries of the readership must be censored.

I wonder who is behind such repression of free speech? Is there a government agency? An evil billionaire? A violent religion? Who would or could manage such a conspiracy of silence?

Pouncer   ·  March 20, 2011 7:28 PM

This post was not about pedophilia, but I would assume those arrested for molesting under-aged boys would nearly all be men, and I am sure the same would hold true for those arrested for molesting under-aged girls.

Aside from the article's silence about the suspects' sex, why the silence about their nationalities, races, ages, marital status and religious backgrounds?

Eric Scheie   ·  March 21, 2011 9:12 AM

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