Sunday, December 21, 2008

Andrew Sullivan: Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

I respect Sullivan and agree with him on many things, but on today's post about Warren and gay rights, Andrew is simply, as John McLaughlin might say, "wrong, wrong, wrong."

Andrew: "And so the notion of the president stigmatizing someone because of his religious views, and the gay movement pressuring to ban such a person from a civic ceremony, strikes me as coming from precisely the wrong place."

Wrong: we aren't trying to "stigmatize" Warren for his views or even "ban" him from the ceremony. Au contraire: most of us would be more than happy to have him at the ceremony. It's that he's GIVING THE CONVOCATION. What is the convocation? It is the role where the *religious leader* of our country invokes the good will of the almighty upon the administration. It is just very hard to imagine that any distancing Obama does from Warren's view could possibly compensate for the validity that putting him in this role gives to them. Could there not be some other role that would be a "reach out" to Warren? There very well could be a hundred other ways to reach out. Why this, which is so insulting?

Andrew: "With Obama's election, power has shifted. Gay people helped win this election. We will be part of this administration in ways that we would never be under a McCain or a Bush."

WRONG: Gay people are so far not much included in Obama's administration. Not that there's a problem, but really, what power is Andrew talking about? Biden is telling people already that gay issues will take a back seat to the economy, we should expect anything in the first year, etc. How is this any different from eight years of the Clinton administration, or what we would have expected under Hillary? At least Hillary told us up front exactly how she would triangulate the issues, and we believed her explanations. Obama, on the other hand, was much more cagey, getting us to think he understood not only the substance but the symbology of the problem, and I believe that Andrew has fallen hard for the sales pitch. It's possible Obama may yet represent something different. But not so far, and that's precisely why the Warren affair is so upsetting.

Prop 8: If we take this issue fairly to the ballot box next time instead of using power to enforce a premature settlement, our victory will have a durability and a legitimacy that will count for generations. So thanks, Jerry Brown, but no thanks. We already have marriage in two states.

WRONG: There is never any guarantee at the ballot box. Prop 8 was losing by big margins till the Mormon money and distortion ad campaign swung opinion. And if these rights can be given at the ballot box, they can be later taken away. Andrew seems to think the courts are somehow inimical to the democratic process, but the courts are an ESSENTIAL COMPONENT to the democratic process. The courts are there precisely to protect the minority against tyranny from the majority. This battle NEEDS to be won in the courts before the long struggle of swaying public opinion can take effect (in fact we wouldn't be here if we hadn't won a battle in the Hawaii courts fifteen years ago to begin with). And besides, having marriage in Massachusetts does little good to gay families in California. There are very real lives at stake here, and asking them to wait ten, four, or even two more years for their inalienable rights causes REAL HARM to REAL FAMILIES. If Andrew wants to make tactical decisions about political fights, fine - but meanwhile, California couples need court relief now. This kind of insensitivity not only to real families but to the role that the courts play in our society, coming from Andrew, specifically drives me bonkers.

What I have appreciated in the past about both Andrew and Obama have been a kind of intellectual honesty and moral courage. But to attempt to justify the Warren pick as anything other than a political calculation at the expense of gay people is just so intellectually dishonest that I really can't keep my respect for people trying to put this stuff out there.

The more that people like Andrew and the Obama try to justify this this way, the more and more suspicious and disillusioned with them I become. And the more I appreciate Hillary Clinton's approach, and wisdom. It really is one thing to be triangulated against and told, "yes, I realize I'm triangulating, but I think this is all that I can accomplish right now, and I believe it will be the best way to take one step forward without having to later take two steps back." That's Clinton's approach to these issues, and I really do appreciate being treated like an adult and told exactly what a politician expects to be able to accomplish.

But it's quite another to go on and on about what a great friend you are and all the great things you'll be doing in some mythical future while at the same time undermining right now what we're trying to achieve. It's really really hard to keep having faith in that kind of pandering when you have nothing to base that faith on, and years and years of history that proves the opposite. It's like Obama just expects everyone to believe in him like Santa Clause. And Andrew is his greatest apostle. Just be good, and you'll get your presents. But he's not Santa Clause, he's a politician. It'd be nice if he would treat us as adults.

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