Pete Domenici used to be a Senator and a conservative one at that, so conservative in fact that he managed to staunchly oppose anything that might benefit gay citizens. The Defense of Marriage Act? He was for that. A 2004 Constitutional Amendment that would have defined marriage as being between a man and a woman? He was for that. A 2006 Constitutional Amendment that would have defined marriage as being between a man and a woman? He was for that too. He enjoyed a 0% rating from the Human Rights Campaign. He was a man who stood athwart history yelling “Stop!” as the saying goes, steadfastly advocating the morality that he grew up with, swearing that marriage as an institution was the sort of thing that must be defended against the mongrel horde.
Funny thing though about Pete Domenici: he was so busy caring so much about the sanctity of marriage that he just could not find the time to tell anybody about the secret son fathered as a result of an extramarital affair. Nor, unfortunately, could he bother to find the time to tell the world any details of his partner in this: she was 24 (he was 46 at the time*) and the daughter of another serving Senator, Nevada’s Paul Laxalt. In fact, Domenici was so otherwise preoccupied that he also did not bother to inform either his wife Nancy (a woman he’d only been married to since the 1950s) or their eight children about his new child; they found out only several months ago.**
Judging Domenici is difficult of course. He is, after all, a product of his generation, one in which men commonly had extramarital sex with their coworkers’ conservative daughters and then also fathered out-of-wedlock children with those conservative daughters and then also did not tell anybody about a secret out-of-wedlock child and then also continued to insist publicly that his moral vision should become law and then also continued to vote for laws that would force his moral vision onto people whether they were interested in it or not or and then…wait, what? That’s not what men of his generation did, is it? That’s not the culture he was raised in, was it? Maybe it was the Devil*** that got him.
Anyway, is this the death knell for social conservatism? Will Domenici’s fall from grace be the end? Of course not. What’s remarkable about social conservatism as a political movement is that almost nothing seems to dent its adherents’ psyche. No matter how many social conservatives get caught – gambling, lying, affairing, foot-tapping, diapering, whatever – the underpinnings never change. According to the movement, society’s rules must be written to account for everybody else, not for social conservatives themselves or the institutions that they swear are good. It is, to put it nicely, frustrating that social conservatism manages to hang on without ever bothering to self-examine how it can continue to say one thing while enjoying the support of those doing something else entirely. That refusal is the fundamental bedrock of socially conservative thought, which unfortunately means that it is taking longer to die than even this guy.
So here we are. Speaking of dying, I’ve heard it discussed that the greatest equalizer in social politics is death; the intolerant are dying faster than those they oppose, largely because they’re older. They’re also not being replaced by people as hostile as they are. Kids today just aren’t terrified of the things that gave older generations the shivers. Still, one wonders what exactly it would take to devastate social conservatism. If the non-stop parade of hypocritical sinners hasn’t yet done the trick – and there are just so many of them – what exactly would it take to thoroughly discredit this utterly debased political philosophy? What would finally cause social conservatism to gets it own house in orders before insisting that they should be mucking about in everyone else’s?
*Editor’s Note: ewww
**It should be noted that there did exist extremely strange hints that something was going on.
***I’ll give it a few days before the Devil is defined as the woman who raised their son alone after tempting the innocent Domenici with her fiery hot Nevadan sexuality.