Bill Kristol vs. Irving Kristol on Gay Marriage
Bill Kristol is upset with the GOP’s “herd” mentality on gay marriage, he revealed on this weekend’s Weekly Standard podcast:
Has the Republican establishment ever looked more like a herd of, you know, totally conformist, and pathetically running-to-catch-up-with-the-trends minds? They don’t even have minds, maybe, but just political beings trying to … join this parade, as if they’re going to get much credit for joining it at this point. And as if it’s not just going to earn the contempt of, of course, people who believe in defending traditional marriage, but also I think the contempt of a lot of people who are uncertain ultimately where they would come down on this but don’t really like seeing political leaders and alleged intellectual leaders just kind of jumping on the train because it looks fashionable and because some poll shows that it’s now 58 percent popular and five years ago it was only 43 percent popular. There’s something pathetic about it, and I find it really distasteful.
His hardline position on homosexuality has been known for years, so it isn’t exactly a surprise. And advice counseling Republicans to ignore polls is to be expected from someone who consistently advocates for a foreign policy more militaristic than the American people desire.
What is surprising is how his position deviates from his father’s, as Charles Murray recounted at CPAC this year:
“I was dead-set against gay marriage when it was first broached,” Murray said; as a fan of Edmund Burke, he regarded marriage as an ancient and indispensable cultural institution that “we shouldn’t mess with.” He used to agree with his friend Irving Kristol, the late father of neo-conservatism, that gay people wouldn’t like marriage. “ ‘Let them have it,’ ” he recounted Kristol as saying, with a chuckle. “ ‘They wont like it.’ ”
It must have been years ago that the elder Kristol said that, before support for gay marriage was a majority opinion, and yet he said it wasn’t an issue worth going to the mat for. One could take that as an illustration of neoconservative contempt for traditionalists, or as, to borrow his son’s words, “totally conformist” foresight.
In Murray and Kristol, there are two pathways the conservative intelligentsia have taken on gay marriage; one graceful, the other arguably suicidal. In his speech at CPAC, Murray didn’t endorse the idea of homosexual marriages being the same as heterosexual ones, but he did say conservatives needed to respect the value and significance of long-term partnerships. He reached this conclusion after realizing the reluctance of his four children to vote Republican stemmed largely from this issue and abortion. On the other hand, Kristol is saying the views of “some 26 year-old who doesn’t know anything” about marriage should be ignored, as should their foreign policy views. If the upward trend in support for gay marriage was limited only to the young, that might be convincing. Murray listened to his children; Kristol should have listened to his father.