Maggie Gallagher throws an elbow at me in her recent column, an excerpt of which is on NRO:
This is the same week when Rod Dreher wrote a blog post, ‘The Rout of the Right on Gay Marriage,’ claiming, ‘I know my fellow social and religious conservatives don’t like to hear this, but Daniel McCarthy explains why we can’t win the gay marriage fight.’
Actually, Rod, I understand your pessimism, but please drop the ‘nobody likes to hear this, I’m being brave’ pose. You are among a large number of conservative elites who want to declare the war over and get out of the way. Everyone looking at the wall of hatred coming our way wants to duck, including me.
But the American people have not yet gotten the memo.
The will to lose on gay marriage among conservative elites is palpable. But thankfully, the consequences of permitting marriage to be remade in the image of the Dan Savages of America are now equally clear. When Dan Savage’s side wins, support for gay sex and marriage will not be optional.
This is unfortunate. I don’t know of anybody who has been braver in standing up for traditional marriage than Maggie Gallagher has. People who have never had to put up with the sh*tstorm of hatred some gay activists and supporters throw at anti-SSM activists have no clue how vicious it can be. I have had only a sliver of this from my own writing, and it is extremely unpleasant — some of it threatening my wife and children so directly that my employer generously hired off-duty police officers to guard the house around the clock for three days. If that’s what I’ve gotten for the relatively little I’ve written about this stuff, I can only imagine what life has been like for Maggie Gallagher.
Still, it’s a shame, and it does her absolutely no credit, that she’s chosen to personalize her disagreement with me (and by extension, with TAC’s Dan McCarthy), over the reality of the situation the Right finds itself in on gay marriage. It’s not a question of lacking the will to fight. As Dan pointed out in his recent analysis of the issue, we trads are fighting a battle that was actually lost before anyone ever thought to push for gay marriage. No need to go into that again here; click on the link if you want to see that case.
Maybe Daniel and I are wrong about this; I certainly hope we are. I don’t think we are, and in any case, I don’t see why we should keep quiet about what we really think because it might discourage people. It has been my view since around 2008 that trads should focus all our activism and attention on erecting defensible perimeters for our liberties and the liberties of our institutions in a SSM environment. When the Senate Republicans, in the wake of George W. Bush’s re-election, couldn’t even get the Federal Marriage Amendment out of the Senate — and when our born-again Christian president wouldn’t fight for it, even though marriage trads had been key to the turnout that re-elected him — I knew then that we weren’t going to win this thing in the long run. Study after study confirms what I’ve seen anecdotally in my experience: the opposition to same-sex marriage is heavily concentrated among older people. Young people not only don’t share traditional beliefs on the issue, many of them aren’t even capable (or rather, willing) to take seriously the case for traditional marriage, even to reasonably disagree with it. Again, I urge you to read Daniel McCarthy’s essay, which draws heavily on the 1940s historical sociology of Carle C. Zimmerman. The push for same-sex marriage didn’t come from nowhere.
That may do nothing for Maggie’s fundraising, but I think it’s the truth. I wish it weren’t the truth, because I agree with her that once SSM has been constitutionalized as the law of the land, life will get very difficult for traditionalists. But I see no point in pretending I believe otherwise for the sake of the cause. Of course it’s true that some conservative elites are embarrassed by social conservatives and religious traditionalists, and would be pleased if the gay marriage issue would go away. That’s not where I’m coming from, and it’s not where Daniel McCarthy is coming from. Speaking only for myself, I wish I believed Maggie was right. I wish too I believed that the Republican Party was reliable on this issue. I do not believe either of those things, and see no point in pretending that I do. I am open to having my mind changed, though.
Maggie’s insistence that the only thing standing between trads and victory on this issue is will to win is about the equivalent of those on the Right who say that the only reason we’re not winning in Afghanistan is we really don’t want to win. Anyway, it seems to me that when you’re leading a noble cause whose prospects for success are dimming with the inexorable demographic-led cultural shift, you would do well not to insult the allies you have by calling them cowards for honestly disagreeing with you on strategy.