In Illinois, a dramatic story is unfolding: the supposedly slam dunk case for gay marriage in the lame duck suddenly stalled-out and failed. The state senate was supposed to be in session on Friday, passing gay marriage. Instead, the senate suddenly adjourned.
The sponsor of the gay marriage bill was still saying late on Thursday she hoped the Senate would reconvene and vote to pass gay marriage on Tuesday. Perhaps.
But according to Fox News’s political editor Mike Flannery, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton’s spokesman said that even though Democrats control the Senate currently, and will increase their margin when the new Senate opens up on January 9 to 40 to 19, “without Republican votes, they’re unable to get gay marriage” passed.
Illinois Review asks “Is it possible that Downstate Democrats end up defeating the Chicago Liberals’ plans?”
I do not know what will happen in Illinois; deep in blue states dominated by one party, the Democrats, its going to be extraordinary if we can succeed in blocking gay marriage. Well, extraordinary things happen every day.
I bring this up for another reason, a less hopeful development: the growing effort to get the Republican party to endorse gay marriage, shutting down politics as a vessel for the views of millions of voters.
I first glimpsed this strategy in 2010 when I was asked to join a panel with Andrew Sullivan and British MP Nick Herbert, who was urging gay marriage be embraced as a conservative cause. You can watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/
In Great Britain as in Canada the so-called “conservative parties” have conceded on gay marriage. British PM David Cameron has made promoting gay marriage a Tory cause in Great Britain, much to the dismay of actual Tories. It appears likely this move will backfire politically leading to a Tory rout in the elections.
The same backfire that happened in New York state: a coalition of economic conservative/GOP donors are going to attempt to eliminate the Republican party as a vessel for voters’ concerns about gay marriage, to pretend that gay marriage can be a conservative cause.
Well, it didn’t work out that well in New York state. Of the four Republicans who voted for gay marriage, ensuring its passage, only one returned to the Senate this year, after the voters had their say. And this after the whole Democratic establishment conspired with wealthy economic conservatives to get them re-elected, showering them with cash, even favorably redistricting to benefit a Republican.
But nonetheless someone or something has persuaded to Illinois State Republican party Chairman, Pat Brady to endorse gay marriage in Illinois and to call it a “conservative” idea.
This is not happening by accident; it’s part of a well-financed, coordinated campaign by wealthy economic conservatives who are inclined to kick all social issues, but especially marriage, to the curb. They imagine that calling for spending cuts to Medicare and Social Security is going to be the key to Republican resurgence.
I believe exactly the opposite. Old people are the fastest growing demographic in this country who have a direct vested interest in benefits they have been promised for 50 years–and little capacity to recoup from cuts.
The best possible future GOP coalition will involve promising senior citizens we will deliver on these promises, even if it requires cutting other government programs. Use this opportunity not to “privatize” social security but to cut unnecessary government programs.
Not a dime for expansion of any government program until Social Security is fully funded, should be our rallying cry.
It’s the right thing to do both politically and morally.
But the Libertarian wing of the GOP is unaware of how few voters they have. They are lettting their dislike for social conservatism lead the GOP in a truly dangerous direction, politically.
We should combine support for the retired with support for the seed-corn of America (and the GOP coalition), protecting family income, especially married family income from the excessive taxation to come. The GOP’s willingness to embrace marriage penalties in the fiscal cliff tax hikes is a sign they do yet not understand the importance for the country’s well-being and the conservative coalition, of being champions of the married family, not just rhetorically but practically.
A few days ago I filed my last syndicated column.
I decided to retire the column in part because I think what you and I are doing here together is by far the most important thing I can do. I need your help to expand the readership of this letter. If you have one or two friends who should join this conversation could you pass this onto them and ask them to sign up?
My last column is called “A Farewell to Optimism.”
But really its theme is: Good-bye optimism, hullo hope.
A few days ago, going through some memorabilia of my mother’s, I found the original promotional material for this syndicated column, launched in 1993. I was billed as “A New Conservative Voice for Young Women!”
More than 17 years ago, I set out to explain how a Yale-educated young women from of a secular Oregon family could become a social conservative:
Every life is precious. It is better to care for your children than to kill them. Divorce hurts children; it also breaks apart life’s most precious commitment, a family.
Men and women are different. A society that pretends otherwise is not going to raise boys to be loving, reliable family men. Marriage is about settling for less but raising up an ideal much bigger and more important even than the most urgent whispered promises of romantic love.
Sex makes babies. Society needs babies. Babies need their mother and their father. Men and women need each other. We all need a strong marriage culture, whether we choose to marry or not.
If it is true that sex makes babies, then that is clearly the most important thing about sex, the thing around which a decent person or society will organize sexual values, behavior, and norms.
If they saw clearly. If they were only told the truth. For of all the ways adult society can abandon the young, one of the worst is to ignore the key adult task of creating and sustaining a larger meaning for sex and sexual desire for young people.
My own baby, the one that was born about the time my syndicated column launched, will graduate from high school this June and go off to college in the fall.
On every key measure, marriage is weaker, the consequences more obviously unsustainable,yet culturally powerful voices are less willing to engage, and the power of porn and Hollywood to create our norms for family life more triumphant than ever.
Since 1993, the proportion of children born out of wedlock has jumped from 31 percent to 41 percent–mostly since about 2003. For women with only a high school degree or less nonmarital childbearing is the new normal. Divorce has declined for the privileged, for everyone else stable marriage has gotten to be even further out of reach.
Without a powerful ideal of masculinity that points men towards marriage and fatherhood, more and more young men are deciding the hard work of becoming marriageable is not worth it: porn, beer, video games with the guys, freedom and fleeting sexual encounters are good enough.
The most urgent overlooked need is the deep need of boys for masculine ideals. If civilization refuses to provide any, porn and video game makers will step in to fill the gap.
Why should young men work hard to become protectors and defenders of women and children when American culture–and women— tell them they are not needed in either role?
So in this my final column I say my farewell to optimism and my hello to hope.
What is the difference? Optimism is a prediction, hope is a virtue.
My hope rests on this: the truths to which I’ve dedicated my life, both professionally and personally, are too important to ignore, too foundational to be abandoned, to much a part of reality to be lost forever.
Do not abandon politics. It is one important means to create culture–that is to name our shared reality.
But we need as well a next generation of culture creators, of storytellers, with the credentials to name reality: empirical social scientists, novelists, poets, preachers, filmmakers.
We need donors to invest in building the networks and communities through which such voices are born, flourish and give meaning to the lives of millions.
The future belongs to those of us with enough hope to rebuild on the ashes of optimism, a new American civilization: uniting sex, love, babies, mothers and fathers in this thing called marriage.