Why we’ll win eventually

Like anyone who enjoys good writing from a sensible person, I am looking forward to reading Tod’s dispatch from the “Values Voters Summit.”  With the possible exception of the late David Foster Wallace, I can’t think of another person whose perspective I would more want to get on the whole shebang.  I’m glad he’s there (and I’m sorry I couldn’t join everyone for drinks.)

For my part, I’ve already said essentially everything I have to say about the gathering.  The people who would identify as a “Values Voter” stand on the other side of a vast gulf from me with regard to issues of particular importance to my family, and there’s really nothing served by my belaboring that point.

But since I’m always happy to stumble upon good news, it felt worthwhile to share a few thoughts after reading David Weigel’s report in Slate:

Bryan Fischer is surrounded by shiny, happy people. Rep. Paul Ryan has just finished speaking to the annual Values Voter Summit, the final pre-election conference of social conservatives. He smiled through two ineffective hecklings—Ryan is quite good at turning those into applause breaks—and got the audience cheering for Mitt Romney, for the “moral clarity” of his foreign policy, for the threatened “religious liberty” of churches.

Everybody else swooned, then filed out of the room to grab lunch. Fischer, whose American Family Association co-sponsors this event, wasn’t swooning.

“He didn’t say one single word about marriage,” says Fischer. “This is the safest environment in the United States of America to talk about marriage. I’ve got to believe that that came from on top. Marriage won 61-39 in North Carolina—in 2012! That’s in a state that President Obama won in 2008. Marriage is a winner. It’s just a mystery to me that they won’t touch this thing.”

This makes me smile a big, fat grin.  First of all, anything that makes Bryan Fischer unhappy is like a warm, cozy blanket wrapped around me on a chilly day.  In this case, I’ll take my schadenfreude straight up with no chaser, thanks.  That other attendees quoted in the article seem to be treating the Romney candidacy with all the enthusiasm you’d expect from serving them a dirt sandwich makes me similarly pleased.

For years I’ve said that gays were the last group of people it was still socially acceptable to publicly hate.  This no longer seems to be true for a couple of reasons.  “Illegal immigrant” is the new “homosexual” in the “detested other” hit parade, with “Muslim” making a strong showing in certain quarters.  Lest you think I am celebrating the shift in animus towards either of these groups, let me make perfectly plain that bigotry in all forms is a nauseous blight on society, and I no more welcome vicious demagoguery against those people than I do against myself.  This is also not to say that plenty of people don’t still hate blacks, Jews, women, etc in their secret hearts or within like-minded groups.  But it has become taboo to say so in polite company, and certainly if you aspired to national office.  For gays until quite recently?  Bring on the Two Minutes Hate, and don’t anybody bother paying attention to the clock.

If it is now too toxic for the darling of the “Values Voters” to even mention the topic of same-sex marriage in front of a crowd that is positively yearning for it, then something has changed in the public’s perception of the issue.  Rejoice or lament at this change, clearly one has occurred.  How proximately this will affect marriage equality referendums is a different story, and I don’t think anyone does my side any favors by hitting the “inevitability” note too hard for too long.  These things come in fits and starts, gradually over a long, long period of time, and we’re a long way from home just now.

But I think it’s undeniable that a shift has happened, and I tend to think shifts of this kind are unidirectional.  Thus, I take pleasure in the notion of an unhappy Bryan Fischer, not merely as an end unto itself, but also as an indicator of things to come.

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. It’s an interesting thing indeed to note that Rep. Ryan didn’t choose to address SSM in this of all venues. What I don’t see in your post is a postulate as to why Ryan didn’t want to touch on the subject. The party’s platform, the candidate’s personal position, and that of his running mate, are all against SSM.

    Let me hazard a guess: as you note, this would have been the most friendly imaginable environment for him to have hit that note — clearly, he’s conscious of the presence of cameras, microphones, and reporters, that while he might be speaking directly to the people in that auditorium, the general public would see and hear him, too.

    Therefore, he must have made the calculation that he could not be certain he would lose more votes for the ticket than he would gain by touching this issue. In Rep. Ryan’s judgment, it can no longer be relied upon that the American electorate as a whole is characterized by some combination of a) majority opposition to SSM, and b) people who care enough about the issue for it to influence their votes.

    Shorter: he can’t be sure that by vocally opposing to SSM, he isn’t alienating the majority. Not quite the same thing as the majority being pro-SSM, although there are other hints that this milepost has indeed been passed like the most recent Gallup poll on the subject.

    Another possibility is that Ryan was concerned about not further deepening the bothersome fissures between libertarian-leaning Republicans and the “values voters” assembled in Washington. Libertarian-leaning Republicans are susceptible to the argument that marriage is simply none of the government’s business in the first place, and SSM bans are attempts to impose into law a particular moral value set about which reasonable people disagree, which is distasteful to them.

    Or perhaps he is also worried about eliciting eye rolls from defense-, gun-, economy-, or immigration-minded Republicans who view the SSM debate as a gigantic circus which distracts the nation from the issues of real importance like keeping the military strong, protecting individual firearm ownership rights, balancing the budget and/or keeping taxes low, or defending the country from the (perceived) invasion of illegal immigrants stealing our jobs.

    But mainly, I think Ryan is thinking about 2016 (he can read fivethirtyeight.com as well as anyone else) and thinking that the majority then will find his opposition to SSM distasteful at best.

    So while I’ll follow your caution about ringing the “inevitability” bell, I don’t think you’ve called for silencing the more modest one labelled “optimism.”

    • What I don’t see in your post is a postulate as to why Ryan didn’t want to touch on the subject.

      Clearly I had a sense that, in short order, you would come along with a thoughtful, detailed comment along those lines, so I lazily saved myself the trouble.

      And I think “optimism” is exactly what’s called for.

      • And I think “optimism” is exactly what’s called for.

        Yes. Definitely.

        Contra Burt, I’d suggest that Ryan’s speech was carefully vetted and the final version approved by Mitt. The realtrue optimism will therefore come later: if Romney decides to shelve talk of “marriage” in favor of international Conservapolicy and fiscal Conservastraint. Or if we was saving it up as rally cry at the closing.

        Personally, I’d be surprised if he followed up on “marriage” with any substance without his VP candidate priming the well. But that campaign has been all over the place, without any pattern or consistency, so…

        • For some reason I thought Romney was making an appearance at the VVS. (Huh.) But he did make a video appearance and apparently said that he would defend marriage but not redefine it. Which isn’t really a rally cry, I suppose.

  2. The day will come when conservatives will look back and ask “why did we oppose gay marriage, again?” and only the religious conservatives will remember the answer.

    • No they won’t look back. It will be Tabula Rasa. They’ll deny they were ever against it. Ever. Just like they’re now claiming they were never against civil rights.

      • Not only that they will probably proclaim that the Republican Party is the “real party of Gay rights” and wonder very loudly about why a large chunk of the gay population are strong partisans for the Democratic Party.

      • Because conservatives in 2012 are exactly the same as conservatives in 1952 and if they say they’re any different then they’re liars.

        • Of coirse they change. Bt they often pretend they haven’t by rewriting the past.

        • “conservatives in 2012 are exactly the same as conservatives in 1952 ”

          Oh if wishing were to make it so!

          • Hee hee. In 1952, hell, even in 1962, even 1972 — there were respectable Conservatives. The GOP has shunned them from out of their company. There was an Amish family recently shunned out of the congregation in Augusta. The Mennonites (with whom the Amish don’t get along: the Mennonite women wear bonnets but they drive cars) had to come in to rescue this family.

            That’s what’s happening to modern Conservatism, if Tod’s excellent work is any indication of what’s going on within their ranks. Eventually they’ll become nothing but a troublesome sect within American politics.

  3. “For years I’ve said that gays were the last group of people it was still socially acceptable to publicly hate. ”

    Except for child molesters.

    • I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and believe that was meant to be snarky rather than what it really is.

    • Duck, Michael may give you the benefit of the doubt, but it’s hardly earned.

      Draw even the faintest gossamer thread of connection between gays and child molesters on my blog again, and consider yourself banned.

      • See, I’d apologize, but I’ve been re-reading the single sentence I wrote back, front, and sideways, and I just cannot see where I drew even the faintest gossamer thread of connection between gays and child molesters.

        Maybe it’s one of those dogwhistle things.

    • Intent and possible insensitivities aside, DD’s got a point. It is socially acceptable to hate on sex offenders. Hell, the government keeps publically-accessible lists so that even after they’ve served their time (and regardless of the actual crime), we can all go on hating them for eternity.

      The law is, at times, bent and twisted to try to serve up extra punishment, rules of evidence are perverted, and there’s little concern for the treatment they’ll get in jail (it certainly isn’t taboo to wish rape upon SOs when they get sent to prison).

      (As an aside, I thought Duck was clearly making a distinction between gays and child molesters, in that child molesters are the other, separate, group that one can publically hate.)

      • I agree with your take on what Duck meant. But the fact that his (implied) position is that we should stop objecting to the molestation of children isn’t helping him much.

        A more nuanced argument (like yours) about our sex offender laws would perhaps be apropos, but Duck is incapable of making nuanced arguments.

      • Jonathan, if in the time since I started this blog the commenter in question had gathered unto himself even the tiniest scintilla of goodwill, I would be inclined to a charitable reading of his comment. The sad fact is that he has not, but to the contrary has gone to every effort to be as nasty and self-congratulatory a snipe as one could imagine.

        If he doesn’t want to be misunderstood, he can abandon his habit of making oblique, usually inflammatory references and simply state his opinions outright. If he is incapable of doing so, particularly if said oblique, inflammatory references are obviously calculated to goad the person who writes the blog posts, then I have absolutely zero investment in his ongoing presence as a commenter.

        Edited to add: I do take your point about sex offenders, and agree that there is an unjust state of ceaseless perdition into which they are cast. Criminals of all stripes could be considered a group of people it is still acceptable to publicly hate. I assumed it was understood in the OP that I was referring to populations who were hated for reasons of identity, not as a result of criminal behavior.

        • I certainly agree with both you and Ryan. It’s pretty clear that Duck isn’t going for nuance (at least in delivery), and certainly embraces obliqueness. The quasi-trolling can be aggravating, especially if it is coming close to implying a link between gays and child molesters, but I have found that sometimes it’s kind of useful.

          • I suppose some insect specialist could make the case for the usefulness of a tick on my dog’s ass, along much the same lines.

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