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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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Whoever wins, utilitarians will survive Election Day

October 29, 2010 Leave a comment

Election Day promises seismic change. Not that we haven’t heard that before.

For utilitarians, the political landscape may seen depressing. Campaign rhetoric has been full of flame-throwing and short on facts — perhaps no different from past years but held under a magnifying glass this time around. And the candidates’ capacity for sheer ignorance — from Sharron Angle’s take on “autism” and maternity leave to Rand Paul’s scientifically unsound medical views to Christine O’Donnell’s every word — is dispiriting.

We’ll also see several decent Congressfolks tossed out with the bathwater. Acting for the general good often fails to pay for politicians, and this election is likely to be a bloodbath for those who tried. Several politicians tried to steer the middle course, giving enough of a stimulus to stave off further calamity but not enough to rev up the debt much more. A lot of them will be voted out on Tuesday. That’ll mostly be Democrats, but a few Republicans have already lost their jobs to one of those periodic “RINO” hunts.

Given all that, how is a utilitarian supposed to stay optimistic?

The answer is found in history. And outside government.

If you’ve studied British history, you may have wondered how England, Scotland and Ireland ever contributed anything to the world while being ruled by a succession of scumbags through centuries of pointless wars. And yet they did. Writers make compelling cases that the Irish saved civilization and the Scottish modernized it. (The English contributed as well, but historians haven’t found a way to paint them as plucky underdogs.)

We’ve been doing that in the USA as well. Our most fruitful musical period rose out of a more turbulent time than we’re seeing today. Businesses are going “green” even if the government isn’t. As a society, we’re far more tolerant of diversity today than we were 50 years ago. Medical researchers are flirting with wonders beyond imagination, cranking out a miraculous H1N1 flu vaccine recently and continuing to refine treatment for everything from cancer to mental illness. (The common cold still proves elusive, unfortunately.)

This year, if you take away the overheated rhetoric about socialism and “Obamavilles,” the argument is over the role of government. The utilitarian agenda doesn’t depend on that.

The utilitarian agenda may overlap with the progressive agenda, but much of that agenda can be accomplished outside government. Businesses can reach overseas even if the government represents people who want to call the police every time a person of color walks by. Ending discrimination must take place in everyday business, not just in government. The economy and employment are ultimately in the hands of business, no matter what the government is or isn’t doing to keep it competitive. Nongovernmental organizations, including one led by former president Jimmy Carter, do amazing work overseas. Charities and private individuals aren’t powerless.

So congratulations in advance to those who are rising to power with an odd mix of populism that we all know is actually designed to take America back to some time that never really existed. Just remember that the wheels of progress keep turning for the betterment of all, not just you, and you’ll need more than 51 senators to stop them.