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Archive for February, 2011

The GOP’s love affair with gay folks; or, why libertarians fail

February 13, 2011 1 comment

While CPAC splintered over whether homosexuals and/or Dick Cheney should have a place to speak, “conservative gay group” GOProud hosted a fun party with pseudojournalist Andrew Breitbart and inebriated singer Sophie B. Hawkins. A really happy dude from Reason, the ostensibly libertarian but now GOP-leaning magazine, was there with a microphone to talk with Breitbart, Hawkins, former GOP honcho Michael Steele (sadly, not the Michael Steele from the Bangles) and a few others:

The message: “See! We’re just as cool and tolerant as liberals! People just have negative stereotypes of us!”

Some of the interviewees were sincere and obviously pleased that it’s easier to be gay and Republican these days. To go from being technically outlawed by ancient sodomy laws to being accepted by at least part of both major political parties is indeed remarkable.

But before libertarian-minded conservatives go overboard with the self-congratulation, they might want to ask a few questions:

1. Does this grand party of tolerance extend to Muslims? Looking your direction, Mr. Breitbart.

2. If gay workers face workplace discrimination, can the government step in and help, or would that be left for the free market to decide?

3. If everyone is so wrongly painting political groups with a broad brush, can someone explain why Sophie B. Hawkins and the interviewer are griping about some unnamed people who would want to take the guns out of the home of her neighbor, who is presumably law-abiding and sane? Are we not allowed, even under this great tent of tolerance, to discuss gun laws that might prevent a repeat of Virginia Tech or Tucson without yanking every lawfully registered gun out of everyone’s hands?

4. Do the Democrats get any credit for decades of unpopular arguments that helped the folks in the bar walk around and proclaim themselves to be gay without fear of recrimination?

5. Did the person trumpeting gay rights as the greatest civil rights crusade of our time ever walk in anyone else’s shoes?

And the last one really gets to the problem. What we’re seeing here is a gangplank mentality. Hey, the GOP let us in, at least at this nice social gathering in a Northeastern white-collar town, so we’re all good after years of being victimized. The fact that so many people in this room make their living by slandering scientists, independent economists and Europe … well, that’s not a problem.

What grates most in this video is the parade of people playing the victim card — not for being gay, but for being “conservative,” as if that’s the same thing. We’ve learned over the passing decades that homosexuality is simply reality for some people, same as having brown skin or big hands. Being “conservative,” parental and societal influences aside, is mostly a choice. At the very least, one’s political beliefs could be — should be — easily swayed by reason.

The people in this video are tone-deaf to the realities that (A) other people of many persuasions face discrimination and (B) being accepted at a GOProud party doesn’t mean everything is fine and dandy in the party to which they’ve pledged allegiance. They think they’re being oppressed by vague forces of anti-conservative prejudice while they party with a guy who’ll stop at nothing to smear “liberals” who fought for the freedoms they’re currently enjoying.

But to cite a more modern take on the “gangplank mentality,” these guys are in the “IGMFY” school. I got mine … you can guess the rest.

And this is why libertarians, even when they’re taking laudable stands for social liberty, fail to win over us utilitarians.

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Reagan reconsidered: An illegal alien-coddling, tax-raising capitalist icon

February 7, 2011 1 comment

When Ronald Reagan died, nary an ill word was spoken. Perhaps that silence tells us the country was at least somewhat civil in its national dialogue in those days.

For his 100th birthday, the Reagan legacy is getting a thorough re-examination. And that’s a good thing, considering the new generation of politicians falsely claiming his mantle.

As various “myth” pieces tell us (see CBS, EsquireThe Washington Post), Reagan raised taxes, expanded government (even outside the Defense Department), gave amnesty to illegal aliens and did absolutely nothing on the “social conservative” front unless you count ignoring AIDS. That leads to a terrific question waiting to be asked of Reagan wannabes in an upcoming election: “You say you admire Reagan. Does this mean you’ll pass liberal abortion laws, grant amnesty to illegal aliens, raise taxes and still increase the deficit?”

Yes, Reagan had a Democratic Congress through much of his presidency, but these were the days of the Dixiecrats, Southern Democrats who had not yet cut their vestigial ties to the Old South’s political machine and become Republicans. Reagan in many senses was dealing with a three-party Congress.

Slate has re-run two Michael Kinsley pieces, one shifting much of the Cold War-ending credit from Reagan to Gorbachev. Indeed, it takes a bit more political courage to tear down a wall than it does to ask for it on behalf of a country unified in its desire to see it taken down.

The second tells us, though not explicitly, why right-wing elites revere Reagan. Yes, he was as much of a tax-and-spend-and-borrow president as anyone else, certainly moreso than Clinton. But he kept taxes down on the wealthy.

So what did Reagan do well?

Communication, of course. The Christian Science Monitor tells us he’s ranked poorly on administrative skills but highly on public persuasion.

And he was far more complex than either his revisionist acolytes or his fervent critics would have us believe. That’s the message of an upcoming HBO documentary and a book by his liberal son Ron, who had a lively interview with Stephen Colbert about Reagan mythology.

It’s another complex man, Christopher Hitchens, who points out many Reagan flaws and says with conviction that he should’ve been impeached over Iran-contra. And yet, says Hitchens, would you rather have had Walter Mondale presiding as the Cold War was coming to an end?

Reagan certainly made us feel better about ourselves, encouraging an economic expansion with the force of his sunny personality as much as his policies. On the flip side, his foreign policy kept us in awkward alliances with Very Bad People in the name of tightening the screws on the loose Communist empire, and you could argue that we’re still paying the price for those alliances in the Middle East and perhaps Central America.

All presidents, like all humans, are flawed. We should try to remember the good in people where we can, and Reagan was certainly amiable to his fellow American. Dishonesty over his legacy serves no one, least of all him, and so the thoughtful reconsideration of his presidency that we’re seeing today gives us some hope that we’re haven’t completely fallen into the abyss of propaganda.

Though it is, of course, great to dig back through the SNL archives and imagine a totally different Reagan.

Categories: mutual respect, philosophy