A reader (who may or may not wish to identify himself in the comments; with this issue, you never know) writes:
You read Gawker? Looks like they have accepted the characters on ["Here Comes Honey Boo Boo"] as real people.
So how did these poor country folk gain the key to the kingdom, overcoming generations of stereotypes and bad jokes about fatness and toothlessness and incest?
I’ve not seen the show, but this strikes me as interesting nonetheless. A while back I participated in some comment threads where people were trying to tease out how to define things like “conservative,” and what the necessary and sufficient attributes would be for acceptance in the club.
For better or worse, I think I am beginning to agree with you that the gay marriage litmus test is both necessary and sufficient on the other side of the political fence. You can join the team, if and only if you support gay marriage. (I remain stubbornly agnostic, myself.) Yeah yeah, Barack Obama in 2008. Well, nobody believed him. And even if they did, that might as well have been 1908, as fast as this issue is moving.
As much as we talk about epistemic closure on the Right, I am not aware of a single issue that offers the same degree of necessary-ness and sufficiency on the conservative end of the spectrum.
Gay marriage is non-negotiable on that side. And acquiescing is all you need to do to get the secret passwords. Even if you are Honey Boo Boo.
There is no right-wing version of affirming gay marriage as the key to being part of the club. On some parts of the right, being pro-life kind of sort of approaches it, but not really, and besides, not by any means among the people with cultural power in this country. I don’t think it’s too strong to say that among the elite left — especially the media and academic left — if you are foursquare in the gay marriage camp, you’re a made man (or woman), but if you deviate from the received orthodoxy on that issue — Obama’s obviously fake 2008 stance being an exception, because it was plainly a matter of political expedience — you will never be okay. Being pro-gay absolves the revolting Boo Boo clan of all their sins. If the Boo Boos were explicitly anti-gay, they would be seen as mouth-breathing reactionary hicks who represented the worst of America.
Which, as a matter of cultural analysis and history, is pretty fascinating.