Wednesday, May 09, 2012

When the Going Gets Tough: Will conservative leaders sell out on same-sex marriage?

In making his announcement that he has given up on the traditional view of marriage, President Obama has thrown down the gauntlet to conservative leaders, who will either take a firm stand or give up on the issue.

It will separate the conservative men from the libertarian boys.

My bet is that over the next two years, many "conservative" public intellectuals will cave, and it will tell us a lot about their real philosophical convictions--or lack thereof. Just watch conservative spokespersons short selling on the marriage issue. A good example was Jonah Goldberg on Piers Morgan last night. And it will be interesting to see how Romney responds.

But any conservative who cannot stand up for marriage cannot be counted on to have the fortitude to stand up on any other conservative issue in the face of adversity and should in all honesty renounce the conservative label.

If traditional marriage is not central to conservative social thinking, then what is?

Marriage has always stood as a pillar of conservative social conviction, along with the sanctity of human life, and the belief that the concept of private property is essential to other freedoms. The so-called conservative leaders who renounce the first should never be trusted on the others. Given sufficient pressure, they will cave on those too.

That liberals want to redefine marriage is not in question; whether conservatives want to redefine conservatism is. But make no mistake, it would be a redefinition.

Nothing has changed on this issue except the polls, and although the polls are shifting, it is not a forgone conclusion that they will continue to shift or that the traditional view of traditional marriage is on its way out. Fully half of American (depending on the poll) still favor the traditional definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.

And one of the ways to make sure that the polls do not change further is for conservative public intellectuals to hold their ground on the issue.  There are other conservative positions with less support than this which are not being abandoned by so-called conservatives.

It is not unreasonable to conclude that the people who are changing their public positions on this issue are people who never really held them in the first place. If you have a philosophical grounding that undergirds your political positions, then the political positions will not change with every wind of politics. Conversely, if your views change with the political winds, it is an indication that you don't have a philosophical grounding for your political positions. And if that's the case, you should either get one (a philosophical grounding) or keep your opinions to yourself.

There are certain postures that can be called conservative. Standing for what you believe is one of them. Putting your wet finger in the air is not.

17 comments:

KyCobb said...

Martin,

50 years ago, you could've written the same article about segregation, and yet you consider yourself conservative today. 50 years from now, the homophobia will be in the past, and the central issue of traditionalists will be the space-alien marriage controversy.

gruntled said...

I think the answer to your title question is Yes. And they will not say they are giving up on marriage. Instead, they will say that homosexual marriage is better than homosexual sex-without-marriage, just as heterosexual marriage is better than heterosexual sex-without-marriage.

Andrew Sullivan has long maintained that this is the true conservative position. I think it will become the mainstream position.

Liberals will be those who say all sexual relations are equally good.

Art said...

Marriage has always stood as a pillar of conservative social conviction, along with the sanctity of human life, and the belief that the concept of private property is essential to other freedoms.

Marriage? Yeah, Newt showed us how much of a pillar marriage is for conservatives.

Sanctity of life? Martin has showed us on this blog that this pillar takes a back seat to convenience.

Private property? I'll grant you this one, Martin. And the country started downhill once some types of private property (slaves) were banned. That ol' slippery slope is so hard to fight.

The problem is that conservative seem to care not an iota for their own values. Not that their values are much worth defending. But heck, people. If yer gonna have 'em, at least live by them.

Singring said...

'But any conservative who cannot stand up for marriage cannot be counted on to have the fortitude to stand up on any other conservative issue in the face of adversity and should in all honesty renounce the conservative label.'

Sorry, Martin, you and other conservatives don't get to claim to be 'standing up for marriage' when you are doing the exact opposite. You are standing up against it. You want to prevent loving, caring, monogamous and commited people from getting married. It has nothing to do with defending marriage, it has to do with discriminating against a particular group of people by preventing them from doing the very thing you pretend to be defending.

Lee said...

Like it or not, Martin, you and I are allies in this struggle. Maybe this is how the Church will become re-unified.

Martin Cothran said...

Why wouldn't I like it?

KyCobb said...

You'll be glad to know that Bristol Palin is on the case, lecturing the President on the importance of traditional marriage. Perhaps she could have a joint news conference with another of the GOP's great moral defenders of traditional one man, three women marriage, Newt Gingrich.

Lee said...

KyCobb, just as a general moral question -- and let's remove it from a specific issue or a partisan association -- is it better to espouse the correct moral view and fail to live up to it, or to espouse the incorrect moral view and live up to that?

KyCobb said...

Bristol and Newt espouse the incorrect moral view and fail to live up to it.

Lee said...

> Bristol and Newt espouse the incorrect moral view and fail to live up to it.

It seemed like a fairly simple, straightforward, and even nonpartisan question, but somehow I just knew you weren't going to answer it.

KyCobb said...

OK, if Bristol and Newt would espouse the correct moral view, that would be better. Happy?

Lee said...

> Happy?

Not until you answer the question.

KyCobb said...

I did

One Brow said...

Lee,

It's better to live up, or even down, to your genuine beliefs that to espouse beliefs you fail to live up to, all other things being equal.

Lee said...

> I did

You did not. And we both know it.

Lee said...

> It's better to live up, or even down, to your genuine beliefs that to espouse beliefs you fail to live up to, all other things being equal.

So, OneBrow, you are saying better to live up (or down, whichever way it goes) to a bad standard one espouses, than to fail to live up to a good standard.

Therefore, it follows that we have to wait for saints to espouse the saintly.

Is that a fair representation of what you're saying?

The Rev. Martin Luther King committed adultery. Can we now remove the "Rev." from his name?

Al Gore preaches against high carbon footprints and owns two enormous mansions, with heating bills in the tens of thousands. Does that mean the work he's done for global warming is worthless?

One Brow said...

So, OneBrow, you are saying better to live up (or down, whichever way it goes) to a bad standard one espouses, than to fail to live up to a good standard.

I added "all other things being equal", that is, under the same behaviors.

Therefore, it follows that we have to wait for saints to espouse the saintly

Those who espouse the saintly, but choose the opposite, add "hypocrite" to their errors. That would include King preaching against adultery. I think Goes has actually actively attempted to reduce the carbon footprint of his dwellings, so it might not include Gore (but it might).