Monday, February 22, 2010

The Argument

Gay Conservatives, Pink PistolsThere is an argument that I have long wanted to make to conservatives in America. It is a tricky, narrow argument, but one I think I can win if presented correctly. My main point is that the demonization of gays in the conservative movement, real or perceived, is not only very ugly but that it is also extremely counter productive to the basic goals of conservatism. I don't think there are many who call themselves conservatives who would disagree that the main goals of the movement should be: a limited federal government that lives within its constitutional framework, expansive individual liberty (both political and economic), and a strong national defense. I'm going to explain why it is essential that we change our rhetoric, and policy proposals concerning gays if we want any chance of success over the next few decades.

First off, I want everyone to consider who gays actually are. Being gay is a sexual preference. It is not, and should not be linked to any political ideology. Sure, liberals like to throw people into groups, pander to them, and play them against each other for political gain and to form new dependable voting blocks. Liberals don't succeed at this because because of merit, they succeed because we let them, because we aren't making a better more principled argument. As conservatives, and as individualists we are better than that. Or at least we should be. Gay people need not be liberal ideologues. They are more often than not these days upwardly mobile professionals who pay their taxes and own property. They are people who should have no love of big government, except for the fact that the same people who continuously embrace them, and offer them equality are themselves proponents of big government.

So there is no rational reason why gays should be a monolithic vote for liberals. Do we really think gays are that irrational as a group? I sure don't. The fact is, I can't blame them. When conservatives end up looking bad, it is usually when they step outside of their own ideology and use government power to try to reshape the world as they wish it were. We all want good schools, strong families, and economic success, but why would we as conservatives use unconstitutional government power to achieve these goals? We know that liberal micromanagement of the economy and schools always ends in disaster... so why would we ever support any federal legislation that micromanages peoples personal lives? Why would we ever support a federal "protection" of marriage act, or a anti same sex marriage constitutional amendment? Why would we even stand in the way of same sex marriage or civil unions on the state level? When you are going down to the court house to get your marriage certificate, don't fool yourself, that is just a social contract. The real marriage happened at your church among your friends, family, and your god.

Conservatives get bashed a lot in the public space for being harsh and cold-hearted. This is purely perception most of the time. We believe what we believe because we know our values will lead to more opportunity, freedom, and success for anyone willing to work or pursue their dreams. Liberals offer a lot of arguments based on emotions, and policy proposals that rarely achieve their goals... but all this "well meaning" talk can lead to a huge gap when it comes to public perception. I'm not saying we can solve this by ceasing to speak against gays, but we might be able to close the gap a bit. Basically, taking gays out of the equation won't only get conservatives a few more gay votes, but more importantly changing our perception might open the door for others to consider themselves conservative.

Another point I want to make is a little distasteful to me, but I think it is still valid. I'm not a homophobic guy, but I do recognize that others have stronger feelings than myself towards gays in our country. I also realize that I need not talk others out of their views to win my narrow argument. To the conservatives who have issues with gays for one reason or another, and cannot be swayed from that position, I want to point out that the gays are not a cultural movement that can grow and damage our nation in any way. This argument is distasteful for me because it grants (for the sake of argument) that anti-gay rhetoric and opinions are fine and dandy. I personally don't think they are fine and dandy... but there are more important issues at stake.

Gays always have been, and always will be a small percentage of the population... probably 5% or so. It has been this way for basically all of human history, and it won't be changing any time soon. I would never argue that we should be tolerant of inner city urban (ghetto) culture. Urban culture in America seems to promote a hatred of learning, very little focus on building healthy families, and is often materialistic in the most disgusting ways. That is a cultural movement that could end up hurting our nation. People having a different sexual preference is not a movement. Gays will always be a small minority... a minority deserving of equal protection under the law and individual liberty. The question is, would you rather look down your nose at a small group of citizens that you dislike for personal reasons... or do you want to follow The Constitution, protect vulnerable minority groups,and maybe pick up a few votes in the process? I would hope any conservative... even those who disagree with me on a few finer points would choose the later.

I will say this. I think "social conservatives" can do great things when they are working on a local level... working in their churches, working with families, working with charities. But the second any conservative presents their social values on a national level, as rhetoric that can offend, or as policy, they cease to be conservative at all. Truthfully, I wish Mick Huckabee would shut the fuck up and go join the Peoples Workers Party... because that's where he belongs. If conservatives believe in freedom, The Constitution, and equal protection under the law... we can't try to engineer society as liberals do. When we do that, we become liberals. Not only that, but we fail like liberals always do, both in public perception and in any reasonable measure of achieving our goals. I would argue that the proper way to treat gays in America, and the way to shift the balance of power away from big government is to openly recognize gays as what they are... individuals. I'm not speaking from the outside here. I consider myself a social conservative. I just don't see legislating my social conservatism as conservatism at all... because it isn't

Liberals always promise gays rights and privileges that they almost never deliver on for political reasons. There are too many blue collar homophobes, and unions will always pull more weight in the Democratic party because they offer more votes, and more importantly, more money. Trust me... there are many gays in America who instinctively understand this, and who are ripe for the picking. We don't need to offer them a carrot on a stick or government handouts like liberals offer every interest group. Most people, gays included, are too damn smart for that. We need to promise them one simple thing that we can actually deliver on. We need to stop making them the enemy, and offer them equality, freedom, and opportunity. This is a win/win situation for gays in America, and for real conservatives who want to succeed as a movement.


Jasonrocks said...

I'm a proud gay man and an equally proud capitalist.

Aligning myself with the conservative party has never even crossed my mind because, while they've maintained the same talking points for decades (lower taxes, less government, etc) I've felt like the massive debt the Bush administration racked up while simultaneously 'getting all up in my personal business' has pretty much just proven how liberal-like Republicans have actually become. It's all just marketing now.

But in the past year, the ridiculous debt the Obama administration has racked up has easily dwarfed any previous records, leaving a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Add to that the reality that Don't Ask Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act were both enacted during Clinton's watch, and I've pretty much lost all hope in the Democratic party.

So here I am, stuck between a rock and a hard place. Being gay, being a disheartened Democrat, but feeling like Republican's will never let me just be me.

I am, as Shanter would say, "ripe for the picking."

Shatner said...

You are absolutely correct on all your points Jasonrocks. It is branding to some extent at this point, and Republicans are as big government as anyone now... with the possible exception of the Obama administration.

I don't have much faith that the Republican part will change significantly... which is why I used the word conservative throughout the post. Personally, I think we're fucked. But I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't throw my two cents in.

A lot of people would call my views libertarian. That's fine, I call myself libertarian all the time. But the fact is, my views are so in line with our basic constitutional principles, that I think the title "conservative" should also fit. I think we need to redefine the word moving forward if we want "conservative" to mean something positive.

The modern conservative movement was begun by Senator Barry Goldwater, who became an outspoken proponent for gay rights and gays in the military later in his career. If Barry Goldwater is a conservative, then I'm a conservative. Perhaps, and this is part of my point, we shouldn't call the Mike Huckabees of the world conservatives. Mike Huckabee is a big government liberal who's quick witted and good on camera.

Harry Paget Flashman said...

Works for me. The only gay agenda I have problems with are the in-your-face minorities who parade in leopard skin jockstraps in San Francisco. Even Harvey Milk would gag. Conservatives need to embrace gays in a partnership of mutual goals.

Good article.

Sotarr the Wizard said...

Frankly, I could care less who anyone sleeps with (Well, provided it's not my wife, and I'm rather picky on those who would sleep with either of my daughters. . . ).

As long as nobody's frightening children or livestock, what's the big deal ? The Conservative's problem is the Social Conservatives, who are just Liberals in Jesus Robes. . .

K. Erickson said...

Shatner, Amen brother. I've been meaning to write a similar post on my own blog for sometime. So many good points, so little time to comment.

Party identity has become so diluted as to be meaningless. Bush was no more a conservative than Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi in many respects. The only political definitions that have any meaning anymore are whether you are liberal or conservative, whether you stand for the Constitution or against it.

Speaking as a diehard Christian, I believe "fundamentalists" have hijacked the rhetoric on homosexuality and abortion among other issues. We are supposed to be followers of Christ. He taught us to love the sinner but hate the sin. Homosexuals deserve the same respect and equality as any other individual under the law. If you are against gay marriage, go talk to your minister about not performing same sex marriages. If your minister doesn't agree with your beliefs, chances are you are in the wrong place of worship.

The Six said...

I've gone 180 on this issue. In fact, it shouldn't be an issue at all.
I posit that the majority of the far left GLBT groups out there were formed precisely because of the (perceived or real) bias toward homosexuals. Take away that bias and most will either diapppear or become moot.
DADT is an abomination. If anyone wants to serve America they should be free to do so without reservation and with a heartfelt thank you.
My daughter actually changed my mind about gay marriage. You're absolutely right Shatner, it's a legal issue not a moral one. Either we're all free or none of us are.
I've been reading some blogs by gay conservatives (I've got The Gay Patriot on my blog roll) and come to the realization that conservatism (not republicanism necessarily) is the natural state for most Americans and to deny entry to gays is unsupportable.

Anonymous said...

I'm a social conservative, and its not that we hate gay people, we just hate their flaming faggotry and how they have to flaunt it everywhere. Keep that nasty ass shit to yourself. You don't talk about your sex life in a professional setting. And I damn sure don't want to hear about your abominable sexual affairs that are distasteful. Keep it to yourself. Being gay is wrong and should not be socially acceptable in the public square. But you have that right as an American to do that nasty crap in the privacy of your home. I just ask you to keep it there.

Now, I have a few friends who are gay, but they're not flamers. Like I joke around with my other male friends about things on the nature of sex, I BS around with them on that, and they'll talk about what they did, or how they went to a gay bar whatever and we get along fine. But they're not part of the "we're here and we're queer" brigade.

tim said...

Ok I am neither conservative nor liberal, I tend to vote for whoever I believe will do the job the best. Sometimes this involves voting one way for president, and another way for senators and crongressmen. I know who I am and I am proud of it. Bil Clinton was a liberal and he made no bones about it. Hillary Clinton was a conservative hiding behind a liberal facade, I laughed so hard when she went down in flames. My point here is if you are gonna be a conservative, then be a conservative, if you're gonna be a liberal, then be a liberal. As far as I know conservatives stand for family values, smaller government, lower taxes, and better business opportunities for all. Liberals tend to have alot of the same values, but they tend to go about them ih different ways, they raise taxes, increase the size of government, and line their respective states with federal dollars to keep the people in their states working. Now the major problem I see with your post is you are claiming to be conservative, but are coming at this issue like Ted Kennedy, all out balls to the wall liberal. This is something that should be done in stages. Its ok to be gay would be phase one. Phase two would be now that it's ok to be gay, let's get gays some more rights, phase three would be pondering giving gays the right to get married, and phase four would actually be allowing them to do just that. Hell man you've skipped all the phases and are merrily walking arm in arm with them to the justice of the piece. Anyone with half a brain would look on this neo-conservatism as being more wishy wasy than Clinton was during his presidency, and the word conservative will take an even bigger hit than it recently has.