Tiptoeing Through Gay Marriage

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Not long ago, Republican Party operatives were openly gleeful that the gay marriage issue was going to wreak havoc on the Democratic Party, whose candidates mostly refused to endorse the concept while still being perceived as being for it. The result: Candidates who alienate those in favor and against gay marriage.

Now it looks like the ring may be on the other finger. USA Today reports that George Bush has, in the words of pollster Andrew Kohut, "tiptoed through the tulips" on the matter by endorsing state-level experimentation with marriage.

On Tuesday, Bush said for the first time that he would, "if necessary," support a constitutional amendment that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. But he said he wouldn't prohibit "whatever legal arrangements people want to make" that are "embraced" by states.

That was a reference to civil unions and domestic partnerships for same-sex couples, now recognized by Vermont and California.

Predictably, that sort of talk isn't sitting well with members of the GOP base:

Bush's distinction between marriage and other "legal arrangements" brought protests from some conservative leaders. "I'm concerned that the president thinks that counterfeit institutions such as same-sex unions are OK, that he doesn't see that they threaten to devalue the real thing," says Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.

The embedded GOP strategy is that the base has "nowhere else to go," that social conservatives (and foreign-policy conservatives critical of Bush's invasion of Iraq) will in the end throw the switch for the president over any Democrat. But recent presidential elections–characterized by meager turnouts and the winner never getting even 50 percent of the vote since 1988–may be telling a different story altogether.

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  1. i gotta disagree joe. people vote along party lines, even when the party doesn’t exactly support what they see as the party line (or was the party line when they were 18).

    unfortunately i can’t figure out a way to weave fucktard into this post so i’ll leave it at that.

  2. But the difference in presidential races is about the 10% who don’t have a party to line up with. Those people, by definition, are going to put character and likability first, and adherence to a party line last.

  3. being gay
    i realized early on that
    i live in a heterosexual dictatorship

  4. joe,

    Yeah, I heard Kucinich say he was the only candidate with a plan to get the U.S. out of Iraq. Unfortunately, unless the plan starts out “Step one–Lose the election,” I don’t think it’s going anywhere.

    What puzzles me about the Department of “Peace”: how does Kucinich plan to pay for it? Surely not by holding people up at gunpoint, the way other cabinet departments are funded. It certainly doesn’t sound very pacifistic.

  5. It’s the war stupid.

    9/11 shrunk the Libertarians by 30 to 40%. They will do worse than usual in the next election.

    The economy is improving and so is Iraq.

    Iranians are asking for an American or Israeli attack to overthrow their tyrants. Israelis for God’s sake. Read about it here:

    http://www.debka.com/article.php?aid=746

    Gay marraige will make aproximately zero difference to the electorate.

    My prediction: Bush in a landslide.

    Now if we could just get something done about the drug war.

  6. I disagree with this assessment. My read is that the president would like to see the states get off their collective behinds and ammend their own state constitutions. Many already have.

    And certainly, no one benefits by making the FMA a central wedge in the 2004 election.

  7. Seems to me that a lot of people would prefer a candidate who forthrightly takes a position they disagree with to one that tries to weasel around the tough issues. In a two party system, the election will almost always be decided by people holding their nose in the polling booth. I think honest candidates who have a set of beliefs they stay true to are less stinky than those who cut and run in the fact of pressure.

  8. Probably true, joe. Too bad there aren’t any such candidates.

  9. You know what Dubs could do? It’s simple and pretty much would make the problem go away. He could say this whole marriage thing is something for states to sort out. You know, invoke that whole federalism bit that conservatives claim as one of their principles? (sometimes)

    If he did that he wouldn’t have to engage in Clintonesque word games, trying not to sound like a right-wing kook while also trying to keep the kooks on the reservation.

  10. Todd, there’s Dennis Kucinich. The man wants a Department of Peace, and he’s not afraid to say so.

  11. the president would like to see

    Well, of course, the man’s a religious conservative, and religious conservatives tend towards the “if thou art gay then surely thou shalt burn in hell, for the Lord hath appointed me as judge of such things, bitch” school of thought. What he would like to see and what he recognizes that states have the right to do are two different things. What surprises me most is that he’d even acknowledge the federalism.

    I hope they do the civil union bit. Gays whine about it not being enough, that other states won’t recognize it, but even if Mass extends marriage, other states still won’t recognize it. Somebody grab them by their tight little club t-shirts and tell them that if they cannot compromise like we straight folk have to, then they can climb back into the closet and none of us are going to care.

  12. I doubt that many conservatives will abandon Bush for a 3rd party candidate in 2004, at least not the social conservatives. He’s done enough for them that they know he cares, and they aren’t quite dumb enough to forget the lesson illustrated so starkly for Gore in 2000: When the base revolts, an even worse (in the base’s opinion) candidate wins.

    Sure, there will be some who bolt the GOP for the LP. There always are. But judging from the fact that LP candidates tend to garner 0.5%, it probably won’t make a difference unless there are some states as close as Florida again (and even then only if the electoral votes are close enough that those toss-up states matter). If Bush manages to nail down victory margins of 1% or greater in enough states then the LP won’t be a factor. I base this on the fact that LP candidates tend to poll 0.5% to 1% nationally, and 3rd party candidates of any party tend to do worse than the national average in swing states.

    So, overall, Bush should do fine with his conservative base unless he does something that totally pisses them off. Something that merely causes a little bit of grumbling won’t be enough.

  13. They could just stay home. Remember 94, which had the lowest turnout in history because leaning-Democratic voters just didn’t show up. Clinton didn’t do anything in particular to alienate them; rather, it was his failure to do things they wanted. The fact that he failed to accomplish significant goals with a Democratic White House, Senate, and House is particularly relevant to the next election.

    In that case, a decision not to push hard for FMA could doom him. Where’s the federal school voucher program? Where’s the faith-based programs? Where’s the unquestioning support for Sharon, the bringer of the End Times? (Believe it or not, National Review et al are constantly hammering him for being insufficiently hawkish on the Palestinians.)

  14. WSJ Washington Bureau Chief, Al Hunt, had a subscription-only article in yesterday’s WSJ pertintent to this discussion that can be read here:

    http://www.lawfullywedded.com/

    Click on “In the News”, and then on “Public Ambivalence on Gay Unions” on the subsequent page.

  15. There were about 105 million votes cast in 2000, split down the middle. I guess about 90% of voters are set in stone today and would sooner change religions as their politics, leaving about 10 million voters, tops, to decide our fate in 2004.

    At least 300 million dollars will be spent in the next election, 200 million of which will be aimed at those 10 million voters in the middle.

    Do the math. Is this a great country, or what?

  16. Joe sez: “Seems to me that a lot of people would prefer a candidate who forthrightly takes a position they disagree with to one that tries to weasel around the tough issues. In a two party system, the election will almost always be decided by people holding their nose in the polling booth. I think honest candidates who have a set of beliefs they stay true to are less stinky than those who cut and run in the fact of pressure.”

    So THAT’s why you voted for Pat Buccanan in the nineties, eh Joe? Or are you simply saying the electorate prefers principled candidates to the alternative, but won’t necessarily vote for them (they like them for identification purposes, I suppose)?

  17. Uh, no. I’m not talking about people choosing a diametrically opposed, principled candidate over a weasel with a compatible philosophy. I’m saying that all else being equal, most people will choose a principled candidate over someone who tried to please everyone. What’s more, along some margin, people will choose a candidate they agree with less but who is principled, over one they agree with a great deal, but who cuts and runs on the tough one.

    Basically, people vote on “character” and “likability,” not just philosophy, and coming across as unprincipled in your political philosophy hurts you on those criteria.

  18. Yes, being ambiguous is political suicide, but in the end the GOP won’t abandon their boy because it will fracture the party. The Democrats are already so fractured, moreso even, and that the GOP is not so much may well serve to be the sole reason the Democrats fail. All they have to do is keep an even keel and I’ll wager the elephants win by default.

  19. The GOP and it’s conservative base go through this same dance every election cycle. The Righties howl and threaten to bolt the party over some hot-button social issue, but in the end they know they are politically marginalized and screwed if they leave the big tent. Likewise, the party knows that it cannot do without the grassroots energy and money that the Further Right provides. So it’s kind of like this unhappy marriage which stays together “for the kids.” In any case, the GOP and its wingnut base deserve each other.

  20. “It’s the war stupid… The economy is improving and so is Iraq… My prediction: Bush in a landslide.”

    The economy is being reported as improving. That’s not the same as actually improving. Warren Buffett, of all people, is shorting the dollar by buying foreign currencies because our trade balance and deficit picture looks so bad. (See Buffett’s Fortune magazine article, mid-November) These past few months the dollar has repeatedly hit all-time lows against the euro.

    As to Iraq… I know a number of soldiers. Not one who has been or is in “The Box”, as they call it, thinks things are improving. Remember what’s said above about how close the election was. Consider what happens to Bush when he doesn’t get the military vote — which he did last time, and almost certainly won’t next time.

    Joke from my military friends: Q: What’s the difference between Dubya and Jane Fonda? A: At least Jane went to Vietnam! If you know anything at all about how much and why Fonda is despised by soldiers… Yup. And that’s before we get to the resentment over his wearing uniforms he’s not entitled to, or postponing reunions of sailors coming home from the longest aircraft carrier deployment for a campaign photo op, or barring soldiers who were next in line to get Thanksgiving dinner at a particular mess hall in Baghdad, or…

    But you get the idea.

    This all assumes that the election matters at all, and that the Karl Rove hasn’t already made his payoff to Diebold to make sure the no-paper-trail voting machines give us the “right” results. I note not one Republican has asked for action on that issue.

    And I have historically voted Republican as a small-l libertarian. Next election, though… {shrug}

  21. rst – “I hope they do the civil union bit. Gays whine about it not being enough, that other states won’t recognize it, but even if Mass extends marriage, other states still won’t recognize it. Somebody grab them by their tight little club t-shirts and tell them that if they cannot compromise like we straight folk have to, then they can climb back into the closet and none of us are going to care.”

    What do you mean, compromise like you straight folk have to? What compromise is involved for you? Unless you mean general political compromises that everyone has to make. In that case, you should already know that you don’t get compromises by just asking for the compromise to begin with – you have to ask for more.

    If more states other than Vermont started to grant civil unions, under the same name and same terms, and they started recognizing each other’s contracts, then maybe it would seem like a decent development to me. But although plenty of states already have rules against recognizing gay marriages performed in Massachusetts, that’s not going to stop legal challenges to those laws, and perhaps in states like New York and Connecticut that don’t have DoMAs yet, these marriages’ll even be respected.

    I know folks like you who assume I’m wearing a tight little club t-shirt couldn’t care less if I climbed back in the closet, but we’re not being out for your benefit – it’s for ours. I suppose it’s possible that our demands for marriage could hurt the Democrats, but it seems increasingly likely that this issue will hurt Republicans worse in coming years. It’s only because we’ve been out of the closet and people have gotten to know us and respect us as friends, and realize that we don’t conjure satan or whatever.

    And if you’re going to do the gay stereotype thing, at least realize that it’s not the guys in the tight little club t-shirts that care about marriage – it’s the 30-something lesbians with kids, and the wall street brokers and such.

  22. Thinking that the same argument that is working for same sex marriage would work for plural marriage, I’m wondering how the government is going to handle sharing spousal SS benefits, etc. with multiple spouses.

    As the marriage rate increases, I foresee a drop in the d-i-v-o-r-c-e rate as chain marriages take place.

    Consider this:
    I married HER, then SHE married HIM, so HE is now MY husband-in-law, or would that be wife-in-law, or would that be just another in-law.

    I say leave it all as it is… out lawed!
    dj

  23. “Gays whine about it not being enough, that other states won’t recognize it, but even if Mass extends marriage, other states still won’t recognize it. Somebody grab them by their tight little club t-shirts and tell them that if they cannot compromise like we straight folk have to, then they can climb back into the closet and none of us are going to care.”

    What compromises are you talking about there guy? Who’s telling heterosexuals that they can’t marry, that they have to settle for some separate but equal status, to be determined in a popularlity contest, instead? I would love to have to accept the same compromises heterosexuals do.

    Tight little club t-shirts? Even when I was a slim little twenty something I never wore those. I sure don’t wear them now. As the previous poster said, the club set isn’t exactly the marrying sort genius, and we are not out of the closet for your sake. If our relationships were as cheap and shallow as the other side claims then this fight would never have happened. But it had to happen, and that’s not because America is slouching toward Gomorrah, but because we’re not the pale imitations of humanity the other side insists that we are. Whether or not our neighbors choose to acknowledge our humanity, it is there. It will be heard.

  24. Hear me out. I think bush is just ducking and dodging the main question and that he is running scared. I think that any person has the right to marry anyone that the truly love and care for. I think that it should be state decitions. And also the religious aspect should be left out. It seems like the conservative goups are trying to press their beliefs on everyone else. Personally I think all these religious wackoes are screwing up our contry

  25. EMAIL: draime2000@yahoo.com
    IP: 62.213.67.122
    URL: http://www.enlargement-for-penis.com
    DATE: 01/26/2004 02:10:53
    The best solution against abortions is education, not snipers.

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