Dynamist Blog

Talking Glamour

I talk about Obama's glamour with Glenn Reynolds on PJTV. Check out my post-chemo hair.

After Prop. 8

Judging from both overheard conversations and personal communications, gays in California are feeling punched in the stomach. As my friend David noted on his Facebook page, California voters gave farm animals new rights while eliminating rights for loving couples. Over on Volokh Conspiracy, Dale Carpenter has a smart, comprehensive, and pessimistic post on the subject. An excerpt:

But the narrow margin of yesterday's loss masks some hard facts for the gay-marriage movement. Counting the losses for gay marriage in Arizona and Florida yesterday, we are now 0-30 in ballot fights. In California, we lost under circumstances that were as favorable to our side as they are likely to be for some time. We lost in deep blue territory on a blue night, when Obama carried the state by an astonishing 61% (running ahead of the opposition to Prop 8 by more than 13%). We lost despite being on the "no" side in a ballot fight, with the built-in advantage that gives you among those who vote "no" on everything out of understandable proposition fatigue. We lost despite the state attorney general changing the ballot title to reflect that it "eliminates rights," something most Americans don't like to do no matter the subject.

All of this suggests to me that actual support for gay marriage in California is something less than the 48% vote we got. My best guess is that actual electoral support for gay marriage in California is somewhere in the low 40s, when you factor out ballot fatigue, the blue tide, and the favorable ballot title — all of which you would have to presume in trying to reverse Prop 8 in a future initiative requiring an actual "yes" to gay marriage. And, of course, to reverse Prop 8 we'll have to raise lots of money and put together a petition drive just to get to the ballot. My estimate is that last night's loss — barring federal or state judicial intervention to undo Prop 8, which I regard as unlikely — means there will be no gay marriage in California for at least a decade.

I'm more optimistic than he is about the timetable, because attitudes are changing rapidly and, to be crass about it, there's a big enough generation gap that normal mortality works in our favor. But I'd still give it six to eight years, assuming we make an effort to persuade, or at least desensitize, the public rather than relying on the flim-flam of hiding the gays under the carpet while Dianne Feinstein opines that "no matter what you think about marriage" you should "vote against discrimination." No matter what you think about marriage???? Who the hell came up with that inane line? (The only voters it makes any sense for are the rare birds who think the state should stay out of the "marriage" business and only establish standard civil-union contracts. Not a bad policy--but let's apply it evenly.)

Conventional wisdom maintains that the hide-the-gays strategy was good politics, but a) it insulted voters' intelligence on an issue that was not hard to understand b) it seemed desperate c) it suggested that gay marriage is, in fact, something to be ashamed of instead of an extension of normal family life and, of course, d) it didn't work. The political and cultural reality is that either people think it's OK for gays to get married, or they don't. And if they don't, they think this kind of discrimination is good--and completely different from the bad kind of discrimination. Besides, when you say the issue is "discrimination" and equate traditional limits on marriage to (now-illegal) racist practices, traditionalists can claim, without seeming crazy, the next step will be to outlaw even private, religiously based limits on marriage. Isn't that what we do with discrimination?

Ideally, we would persuade skeptics that gay marriage is good. But, at the very least, we need to persuade them that it's not bad. A lot of people are still in the muddled middle on this issue. They just need more evidence and more experience. As hard as it may seem right now, gay families need to be more, not less, public about their lives.

UPDATE: A sore losers lawsuit is the opposite of public persuasion. How big a backlash do you want to invite? Nobody can control Gloria Allred, but Lambda should think beyond its donor base's immediate demands and concentrate on the future. (Of course, maybe my interpretation is wrong, and this is secretly just an effort to clarify the status of a future referendum that would repeal Prop. 8.)

Obama's Mandate

As I wrote in Reason:

Barack Obama has not run as the typical candidate, selling specific policies, a worldview, experience, or executive competence. He has instead sold himself, a glamorous icon onto whom supporters project their hopes and dreams and, in many cases, their own identities. If elected, he will have not a policy mandate but an emotional one: to make Americans feel proud of their country, optimistic about the future, and warmly included, regardless of background, in the American story.

Last night's excellent speech, with its sober tone and appeal to unifying national ideals and experiences, suggests he understands what he was elected to do. Of course, that doesn't mean he can keep it up.

President-Elect Obama

Pretty amazing. What he said. And I'm old, and southern, enough to remember.

Now I may have to go back to being a Republican, to gear up for the struggle between the Jindal-Daniels wing and the Palin-Huckabee wing of the party.

Dynamist Politics

I'm a fan of Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, not just because he's been known to plug The Future and Its Enemies but because he's largely committed to the ideas expressed in it. (Somewhere buried in my files I have an old speech he gave when he was an executive at Eli Lilly, telling his fellow Big Pharma execs that they needed to embrace dynamism in their own industry.) RiShawn Biddle explains why Daniels is way up in the polls, despite riling the state's establishment (not to mention being a Republican in a Democratic year).

UPDATE: Reihan Salam jumps on the Daniels bandwagon.

In other political news, I am hereby announcing my write-in candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives from the 30th District of California. I just can't bear the idea that Henry Waxman has no opposition, not even from third parties. This way at least the Postrels will vote against him.

UPDATE: Apparently there are ballot access rules even for write-in candidates. So that's just one more race where I won't be voting.

The Not-so-Nice Side of South Pasadena

My DeepGlamour co-blogger Kate calls my attention to this shocking bit of political intolerance out of supposedly neighborly South Pasadena:

California has a proposition on the November ballot seeking to reverse the right of same-sex couples to marry. I am a heterosexual, married mother of three, but I find Proposition 8 no different from any other attempt to deny people their fundamental rights.

Our neighbors have a "Yes on 8" sign on their front lawn and on their many minivans. While I respect differences of opinion, to me this is hate speech and deeply offensive. My meager "No on 8" lawn sign hardly seems enough. Can I destroy their sign?

South Pasadena, Calif.

Supporters of Prop. 8 could not have invented a more persuasive argument for their cause. Here is a woman who believes their free speech rights should be stamped out in the name of tolerance. Like the seven-year-old quoted below, she fails to understand that the other side is equally offended by her position and that the right not to be offended is inimical to a free society.

Jonathan Rauch needs to go on tour with a speech wrapping his message in Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought together with his message in Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America. Yes, you can (and should) be for BOTH gay marriage and free speech.

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