The Therapy Sessions
Saturday, November 06, 2004
Gays and lesbians were bitterly disappointed yesterday at so many Gay Marriage bans being passed. But, in many ways, they had no one to blame but themselves for attempting to use the courts, rather than democratic persuasion as their method of choice. The plain fact is that demographic and social changes were well on their way to making at least civil unions a reality in a number of state legislatures. By attempting to force the issue through the courts, the activists have done nothing more than provoke a backlash among social conservatives. Moreover, the courts, by allowing themselves to be used in this way, have so politicized court appointments that they have become major political issues, rather than the relatively uncontroversial matters that they used to be.
You could call it the Roe v. Wade methodology.
Had liberals waited in the '70's, public opinion probably would have moved in their direction in fairly short order. Abortion would have been legalized through democratic means without controversy, as it was in the countries of Europe.
Instead, an unelected court imposed abortion rights on unwilling populations, particularly in the South.
For the courts to do this in the case of civil rights in the 50's was justified. In the case of abortion, the justification was a little less apparent. For gay marriage,it is provoking a backlash among social conservatives before the backers of gay marriage can even try it.
It is a pity. Civil unions - marriages in everything but name - were already favored by sizeable numbers of people throughout the country. In the gradualism of democratic governance, they would have been reality in time.
But I disagree with the people - particularly on the left - who believe that this issue cost John Kerry the election. Yes, gay marriage was on the ballot in many red states, including the the key state of Missouri, but I don't think it was the reason Bush won that state. Bush won Missouri because it, like Kansas, has been trending red for a decade. (It voted for Bush in 2000 as well). Also, gay marriage lost on the ballot in Oregon, a state Kerry won without breaking a sweat.
Kerry went into this election forfeiting 190 electoral votes - southern states where he knew a Boston liberal would simply not be competitive. That is not a winning strategy. Democrats are also deluding themselves when they say "Kerry came close."
He didn't. 500,000 more votes and George Bush would have taken PA, MI, MN, WI and NH, winning the electoral college 345-181. A landslide.
In those key states, Kerry barely won. But in the states Bush won, he generally trounced Kerry. And it is not going to get any better. The population center of the US crossed the Mississipi decades ago. It is now in Missouri, moving south-southwest at the rate of a couple of feet a day.
If the Democrats want to win they will have to figure out how to win in the South.
In my mind, the key issue was the war and Kerry's ambivalence toward it. Americans do not like to give up and lose, and Kerry gave indications that this was exactly what he would do. The red states - in particular - are extremely patriotic and extremely Jacksonian: when it comes to war, they believe that once you are in it, you are in it to win it. It is no accident that these states supply 75% of our current military recruits, and it is no accident that our military - most encouragingly our troops in Iraq - voted overwhlemingly for George Bush (they apparently think that the war is winable).
Give the Americans a choice between a principled, decisive idiot and an unprincipled, indecisive intellectual and the idiot will triumph every time (some will say that is exactly what just happened). A dogged fool who knows where he is going will probably stagger around until he gets there; an intellectual without direction or determination IS CERTAIN to go nowhere.
And nowhere is a terrible place to be. Ask Jimmy Carter. His indecision in the face of Islamist thuggery - trying to win the Ayatollah Khomeini over with his kindness - made it all worse:
The embassy raid came just days after the Brzezinski-Bazargan meeting in Morocco and, by all accounts, took Khomeini by surprise. It is now clear that leftist groups opposed to rapprochement with the United States had inspired the raid.
Khomeini saw it as a leftist ploy to undermine his authority. He was also concerned about the possibility of the United States taking strong military and political action against his still fragile regime.
Deciding to hedge his bets, the ayatollah played a double game for several days, waiting to gauge the American reaction.
According to his late son Ahmad, who had been asked to coordinate with the embassy-raiders, the ayatollah feared "thunder and lightning" from Washington. But what came, instead, was a series of bland statements by Carter and his aides pleading for the release of the hostages on humanitarian grounds.
Carter's envoy to the United Nations, a certain Andrew Young, described Khomeini as "a 20th-century saint," and begged the ayatollah to show "magnanimity and compassion."
Carter went further by sending a letter to Khomeini.
Written in longhand, it was an appeal from "one believer to a man of God."
Carter's syrupy prose must have amused Khomeini, who preferred a minimalist style with such phrases as "we shall cut off America's hands."
As days passed, with the U.S. diplomats paraded in front of TV cameras blindfolded and threatened with execution, it became increasingly clear that there would be no "thunder and lightning" from Washington. By the end of the first week of the drama (which was to last for 444 days, ending as Ronald Reagan entered the White House), Khomeini's view of America had changed.
We have come a long way from that. It says something about American resolve that when radicals seize our hostages these days, they rarely even bother with demands. They know that there is no point, and they just kill the Americans.
Coming from these horrible people, that is a sign of respect. The terrorists are hard men; they recognize that America is not a soft country, either.
Now is no time to go wobbly, no time to hand the fight off to mythical French armies or an ineffectual UN.
The US must win this, with help from our friends. It will take resolve, and Bush has resolve.
That's why he won.