Saturday, November 06, 2004

To Matt P.

First, I disagree that the Dems lost because they continue to support the right to choose. I think they lost because they failed to give the American a clear, alternative vision to the America the Republicans and George Bush were proposing. Matt, you're right that many of the issues Dems espouse are moral, but I think the failure was to phrase them as such. More exactly, the failure of the Democrats was not that they are too far to the left, but that they were too close to the right. People who wanted to vote conservative were going to vote as such and vice versa for the liberals. Many of the people in the middle, however, were (and are) extremely dissatisfied with the direction this country is headed but the Democratic party failed to really give them another way. At this point, I think many people in the middle would be willing to try the liberalism of John Kerry over conservatism of George Bush, but they were not willing to try a leader they conceived as unsure of himself (I am not saying Kerry was unsure of himself, just that he was perceived as such). Remember, Kerry did not have to win Nebraska to win, he only had to persuade 200,000 voters in Ohio. A strong message and a clear alternative may have done that.

Second, I wish you would try and avoid an empty buzz word such as "activist judges." It means nothing except that the speaker disagrees with what the courts have done. If we could banish that phrase from political dialogue, it would be fine with me. It's one thing to say that judges are being aggressive in a particular area where you think they ought not tread, the blanket term, to me, is utterly empty and dangerous because it carries a charge. The "impeach Earl Warren" crowd that picketed after Brown and spent the next two decades terrorising "uppity" African-Americans (though, to be fair, they had been terrorizing them for 400 years, so maybe Brown had little to do with it) often complained of the Warren Court as activist. If Brown was the work of "activist judges," I submit we need more of them, whatever they are (n.b. I am not attacking you, personally, Matt--that term really sticks in my craw and I have a personal axe to grind--no offense intended, I think you are brilliant).

Third, I guess I am just ignorant (as I think I admitted earlier) of how you can truly embrace gay people and deny them the right to marry. How do you say to someone "you are like a brother to me and I really think it is great that you and X are in love, but I think that if you two were allowed to enter into a civil marriage, it would undermine the fabric of our society?" I just don't get that.

Fourth, I agree Kerry's position on gay marriage was as disingenuous as his vote for the President's authorization for the war. Ultimately, that disingenuity may have cost him those 200,000 votes that he needed so badly. See First, supra.

Fifth, I take exception to the comparison to pologamy. Homosexuality, Dick Cheney and I believe, is an immutable characteristic. If a gay man cannot marry another gay man, he cannot get married (less he marry a woman an live a lie). Furtherhile there are religions that allow pologamy, I know of none that require it. I get your point that it is a moral line, and I think there is no way to create a legal regime without moral norms underlying it, but I think there is a fundamental difference between telling a person they can marry someone but not some people and denying a person the ability to choose who they want to marry. I see no difference between the latter and the state telling me, if I applied for a marriage license (and I do mean if) that I have made a socially unacceptable choice and must try again.

Finally, I do not think liberals are inconsistent in their views of regulation with respect to social values and the economy. What is important, I think, is externalities. When a company creates polution, it causes harm to things not included in the market price, in effect subsodizing the market. The government, then, plays an important role in forcing the company to internalize the externality (I am NOT saying that present law does this in the best way, just that that is the idea). Gay marriage imposes NO externalities (Yes, I am refusing to count the moral disgust of those that are "grossed out by the whole gay thing"). Of course there is a point at which social activity does create externalities (e.g. expressing yourself by playing loud music at 3AM) and, I think, liberals are glad to allow the government to step in at that point. (The calcuation with respect to abortion is a little more complicated, so I will "duck" the issue for present purposes).