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The Belief That Absolves Everything

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 bet you can guess. [1]

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.

33 Comments (Open | Close)

33 Comments To "The Belief That Absolves Everything"

#1 Comment By William Burns On October 3, 2012 @ 8:26 pm

The actual test case for this would be someone who supports every aspect of the Tea Party agenda, including a pro-life position on abortion, but also supported SSM. I don’t know if anyone actually fits this description, but I doubt if they would be accepted as a liberal solely on their SSM position.

#2 Comment By Surly On October 3, 2012 @ 8:28 pm

How do you know Obama’s 2008 stance was fake? I opposed gay marriage then too. After a lot of soul-searching and reading and thinking I changed my mind. I know a lot of other people who did as well.

#3 Comment By Fran Macadam On October 3, 2012 @ 8:36 pm

Apparently this obsession with celebrating homosexuality became the overriding concern against all others in ancient Sodom, as well, with materialism a close second.

Nevertheless, we should recall that Jesus did say that the right wing Pharisees’ sin was even greater than that of Sodom…

…meaning that for any of us, the beam in our own eye ought to be the overriding concern.

#4 Comment By EngineerScotty On October 3, 2012 @ 8:39 pm

There still are quite a few Democrats who oppose gay marriage, FWIW–the party DOES have a significant blue-collar contingent (including many African-Americans and Latinos) who are opposed to it.

That said, many of the national office-holders that used to openly oppose SSM were voted out of office in 2010; and nowadays support for SSM is no longer perceived as a political liability–indeed, the opposite is probably more true.

But were I to proposed a series of litmus tests for Democrats today, SSM wouldn’t be on the top of the list–opposing much of the conservative economic agenda is probably more important.

Opposing abortion is probably a bigger litmust test for Republicans than SSM is for Democrats–the only Republicans who can get away with being pro-choice these days are Northeastern liberals like Scott Brown.

#5 Comment By Patrick On October 3, 2012 @ 8:59 pm

“There is no right-wing version of affirming gay marriage as the key to being part of the club.”

Haha. Tell it to Ron Paul, a man with an extraordinarily conservative voting record who was *banned* from the GOP convention in 2008 because of his foreign policy views.

C/mon: if you’re not a knee-jerk supporter of bellicose foreign policy, you’re relegated to the pages of The American Conservative and treated as a “closeted leftist” and “probable anti-Semite” by everyone else on the right.

#6 Comment By Noah172 On October 3, 2012 @ 9:09 pm

There is no right-wing version of affirming gay marriage as the key to being part of the club

If you are talking about the mainstream right (i.e., excluding AmCon, Steve Sailer, VDare, etc.), you are incorrect. Consider:

Tax cuts are always good.

Free trade is always good.

Strong national defense = big military budgets, many overseas bases, and military interventions.

Israel is Our Closest and Most Important Ally in the World.

Joseph Lieberman, Christopher Hitchens, and (on again, off again) Michael Bloomberg were admitted to the right-wing club based on their affirmations of some or all of the above.

AmCon exists because of its founder’s expulsion from the club, based on his strenuous denials of the above.

#7 Comment By JonF On October 3, 2012 @ 10:39 pm

Re: There is no right-wing version of affirming gay marriage as the key to being part of the club.

Sure there is. Tax cuts now, tax cuts forever. David Frum and Bruce Bartlett were both anathematized with bell, book and candle for calling that dogma into question.

#8 Comment By Mr. Patrick On October 3, 2012 @ 11:11 pm

So uh, I guess effete social elite liberals love Dick Cheney, by this metric? After all, it is {the} one, single, all important key.

#9 Comment By Tyro On October 3, 2012 @ 11:14 pm

I know I’m getting up there in years — almost 40– but I still remember 2004 pretty well, and as I remember, Democrats were running away from gay marriage as fast as they possibly could.

Liberals’ desire to “bring people into the fold” and accept them because of their beliefs about social issues is actually somewhat of a weakness: we’ll be willing to hear you out about your desire to cut taxes on the rich, get rid of unions, and go to war if you can at least claim to have civilized views about gays and ethnic minorities. And for all the claims that SWPL wouldn’t want anything to do with “the wrong kind of white people”, isn’t this counter-evidence? “Just don’t try to claim you’re superior to my gay friends and family members, and we’re cool,” is what they seem to be saying.

It strikes me that this is the opposite of epistemic closure: we’re willing to hear you out, as long as you can accept certain social realities about a civilized modern society.

By contrast, just about every Republican presidential candidate I can think of had something in his past that gets him accused of being a RINO: you had to accept the whole package for fear of being seen as a heretic.

#10 Comment By Josh On October 3, 2012 @ 11:22 pm

It could, of course, just be that the arguments against same-sex equality are so obviously lacking, and so out of step with the promise of the American experiment, that (1) it’s a joy to see that understanding appear even in the unlikeliest places, and (2) it’s nearly impossible not to see those arguments as superficial cloaks for bigotry (or, more generously, a de facto endorsement of theocracy).

And always nice to see a fellow Christian refer to other human beings as “revolting.” Such a breath of fresh air, compared to the godless liberal media.

[Note from Rod: Bless your heart, don’t be so prissy. — RD]

#11 Comment By Samn! On October 3, 2012 @ 11:59 pm

Or, if you’ve spent any time with the lumpenproletariat, it’s clear that issues like out-of-wedlock preganancy, gay marriage, and what have you are at this point deeply bourgeois concerns….

#12 Comment By Church Lady On October 4, 2012 @ 12:09 am

Okay, this is just dumb. Tons of conservatives and Republicans and non-liberals support SSM. Liberals certainly like people who support SSM, but it doesn’t make them a liberal to do so.

Another plain fact is that a lot of white trash Honey Boo Boo types vote Democratic, and have liberal views. I know! It’s almost as if people can’t be reduced to stereotypes!

However, it may be also true that if someone supports SSM, a lot of conservatives revoke their club membership card. Getting behind teh gays is going to get a lot of people labeled as “liberal” by both sides, when it simply isn’t so. Rod may even be one of those people. Or does he acknowledge that some conservatives are in fact pro-SSM?

#13 Comment By TTT On October 4, 2012 @ 5:59 am

Right wing mandatory club belief: It is always 1980 and always time for Reagan who was exactly what we needed then, now, and forevet. His aging acolytes carry on about him in a manner more pertinent to the “gay marriage” comparator than they would probably like.

#14 Comment By KSW On October 4, 2012 @ 7:51 am

This probably should be directed at the reader you referenced, but if they had followed some of the links in the article they would have seen that gawker has been reviewing, in an entirely positive way, the Honey Boo Boo show from day 1.

The reviewer seems to view the program as some sort of fun tongue-in-cheek freak show, with the HBB family being in on the joke.

As some of the other readers have commented, SSM is an issue that has supporters in both parties.

#15 Comment By Don Quijote On October 4, 2012 @ 8:15 am

Right wing mandatory club belief: Unions bad & evil, Public Service Unions worse and even more evil.

Unless you are trying to get votes from the Teamsters, in which case you stop bashing Unions and just go out of your way to screw them as much as possible.

And then there is the Tax Cut thing:

The economy sucks, time for a tax cut…
The economy booms, time for a tax cut…

And last but not least:
Green technology (Solar, Wind) just plain evil, an attempt by government to steal people’s money… Coal, Oil good, the more we use the better…

#16 Comment By Matt in TX On October 4, 2012 @ 9:18 am

There is no right-wing version of affirming gay marriage as the key to being part of the club.

Every single one of those Republican primary candidates on stage said they would turn down a hypothetical deal that involved a 10:1 ratio of tax cuts to new spending. Your fixation on gay marriage is blinding you to reality.

#17 Comment By reflectionephemeral On October 4, 2012 @ 9:36 am

And always nice to see a fellow Christian refer to other human beings as “revolting.” Such a breath of fresh air, compared to the godless liberal media.

There’s a version of Christianity out there– eager to identify and dismiss out groups, untouched by any of that “love your enemy” stuff– that seems to spring from the same psychological orientation as does disdainful atheism. Both appear to be devoid of moral or ethical content.

#18 Comment By sdb On October 4, 2012 @ 9:38 am

A lot of folks are focused on what the parties will accept among high profile candidates. The interesting thing to me is not what powerbrokers in the DNC vs GOP set up as shibboleths, but rather what cultural brokers set up. Gawker seems to be willing to embrace people it would otherwise only notice as an object of ridicule based on their acceptance of SSM (and watch out if you are a beauty queen who questions the wisdom of enshrining SSM into law).

Is there an equivalent among conservative cultural trend setters? I’m not sure that there are equivalent rightwing cultural trendsetters to the People/US/Gawker/TMZ axis, but the evangelical subculture (ChristianityToday+CCM publishing juggernaut) may serve as a proxy. Their willingness to embrace Mel Gibson (many of whose films are not exactly family friendly) and U2 (whose political views are not exactly aligned with the GOP) based on a “secular” star who positively presents Christianity seems roughly analogous to me.

Among political types, it isn’t clear to me that Rice’s or Powell’s pro-choice views have hurt their popularity with the GOP base (there are other reasons that Powell may not be so popular any longer of course). Cheney’s standing with the GOP hasn’t been hampered by his support for SSM. Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit), Ann Althouse, and Megan McArdle seem to be quite popular with the right even though they have been consistently pro-choice and pro-ssm (and pro-afirmative action in the case of Althouse). I think the difference between the esteem they are held in by the right compared to certain other pundits (Bartlett, Friedersdorf, Sullivan) is that they aren’t vitriolic. They don’t claim that pro-lifers just want to keep women in the stone age, that anti-ssm types are Christianist homophobes, or that opposition to AA=racism. The criticism of the right by Bartlett et al. on the issues they care about has been far less measured.

#19 Comment By Charlieford On October 4, 2012 @ 9:39 am

Contemporary American conservatism isn’t about “issues.” Even questions of rights–as in those of the unborn–can’t dominate (or animate) the movement, because that issn’t it’s fundamental orientation.

The “right” is waging the war of the haves against the have-nots. That’s its core. Everything else is secondary, or tertiary–certainly optional.

And that’s why “There is no right-wing version of affirming gay marriage as the key to being part of the club.”

#20 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On October 4, 2012 @ 9:48 am

Re: Another plain fact is that a lot of white trash Honey Boo Boo types vote Democratic, and have liberal views. I know! It’s almost as if people can’t be reduced to stereotypes!

I was actually discussing on a Facebook group, the other day, what party the Honney Boo Boo’s family likely votes.

#21 Comment By c matt On October 4, 2012 @ 9:50 am

I don’t know that Rod is “pro” SSM as much as he is resigned to its inevitability froma legal perspective. But i don’t presume to speak for him.

As for “conservative” litmus tests, I would have to agree that foreign policy bellicosity is at least as much of a litmus test that SSM is for the left.

#22 Comment By Someone Else On October 4, 2012 @ 10:10 am

This piece should never have seen the light of day.

#23 Comment By Glaivester On October 4, 2012 @ 10:50 am

I was actually discussing on a Facebook group, the other day, what party the Honney Boo Boo’s family likely votes.

Do they bother to vote?

#24 Comment By Sam M On October 4, 2012 @ 11:58 am

Regarding foregn policy bellicosity and/or taxes, people have already mentioned people like Ron Paul (who was leading the Republican primaries for a bit) Frum, Bartlett, etc. I would add Derbyshire on the foreign policy front, almost all the people at Cato, the whole crew at the American Conservative, etc.

These seem like pretty big exceptions. No, they are not running the National Republican Party, but they EXIST, and they exist within the “right wing” intelligentsia. Can anyone name similar exceptions to the SSM rule on the other side? Maybe they exist. I don’t know. If they do, please point them out.

Yeah, I know all about rank and file union guys. But we are not talking about rank and file. We are talking about people in the political and/or cultural chattering class.

I don’t know how to compare apples to apples. Ron Paul equals what on the left? A Dennis Kucinich? OK. Is there anyone at the DK level who openly opposes SSM?

#25 Comment By William Burns On October 4, 2012 @ 1:32 pm

Jon Tester, Dem senator from Montana, opposes SSM.

#26 Comment By Beyng On October 4, 2012 @ 3:40 pm

Sam M. is right. There is emphatically not a consensus on foreign policy in the contemporary Republican party. The Ron Paul phenomenon during the last primary season should have been adequate proof of that. Abundant proof, in fact.

#27 Comment By Sharon Astyk On October 4, 2012 @ 4:35 pm

What you say may well be true for the white left, but among non-white Democrats is manifestly NOT the case. I’m surprised to hear you say this, Rod, since you’ve written so often about African American and Latino democrats who don’t believe in gay marriage.

#28 Comment By Church Lady On October 4, 2012 @ 5:45 pm

“Can anyone name similar exceptions to the SSM rule on the other side? Maybe they exist. I don’t know. If they do, please point them out.”

Well, until a few months ago, Obama himself would have been one of those “exceptions”. And let’s be clear, until very recently, almost every major Democratic politician was not in favor of SSM. Kerry certainly wasn’t back in 2004, nor Obama in 2008. Even now, most Democratic candidates in moderate districts or swing states are neutral on the subject, and many are at best in favor of civil unions. The speed of the SSM movement is very sudden, and very new, and a lot of Democrats have yet to join the bandwagon. In most places it is not at all some kind of litmus test.

Likewise, there’s a whole lot of Democratic voters who are not in favor of SSM. As others point out, blacks and latinos have yet to join the bandwagon en masse, and neither have black or latino politicians. The movement in that direction is strong, but it’s hardly become some universal requirement for Democratic candidates.

You give too much credit to Democrats having some kind of lockstep membership dogma. What will Rogers once famous said remains true: “I belong to no organized political party. I am a Democrat.”

#29 Comment By Mike On October 4, 2012 @ 11:26 pm

Opposition to SSM is tolerated in the Democrats party. There is far from unanimity inside the Black and Latino caucuses. Others have very weak support. And no one is being tossed out. The reality is that for most members, there are significant enough presences of LGBT voters to push the agenda. It’s why the sole Republican who backs SSM represents Southern Miami down the keys to Key West. She can’t win without backing LGBT issues.

Pro-life issues are much more a stranglehold for the GOP. Giuliani, Rice, Powell, Lieberman all had their chances on the ticket torpedoed over pro-life activists saying Nyet.

#30 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On October 5, 2012 @ 12:36 am

Obama should have declined to say anything about marriage, for the very good reason that the Constitution authorizes the President of the United States to do nothing whatsoever about marriage. Its up to the states.

Unfortunately, Americans of all stripes have a tendency to expect our presidents to use the White House as a bully pulpit on every controversy under the sun. We need a president who refuses to do that.

#31 Comment By Andrew Gilbert On October 5, 2012 @ 12:39 am

Rob, this is definitely a silly post. Many old lefties like Alexander Cockburn certainly aren’t (or, in AC’s case, weren’t) SSM supporters, and the fact that many conservatives support or don’t oppose SSM doesn’t magically transform their ideological identify in the eyes of liberals (though it’s true that accepting or not fighting the fully legitimacy of gay and lesbian relationships is widely appreciated in homophile circles).

#32 Comment By Rob On October 5, 2012 @ 6:43 am

“If the Boo Boos were explicitly anti-gay, they would be seen as mouth-breathing reactionary hicks who represented the worst of America.”

It is unclear what Rod means by “anti gay” Substitute “gay” with “black,” and the statement would be pretty clear and we would understand the meaning.

No doubt the “anti gay” would argue there is no equivalence between race and sexual orientation (which they would call “preference”). So fine, substitute “Catholic,” or “Christian” for “gay.” Still sound pretty awful.

There MIGHT be reasonable, non-bigoted rationales for defining marriage that place SSM apart, but can’t for the life of me see why being “anti-gay” becoming unacceptable is even remotely a bad thing or damaging for our society.

Seems that opposition to SSM is the last acceptable refuge for the “anti-gay.” Fine, but they should be careful with their diction when they freely interchange opposition to SSM and “anti-gay,” lest their true feelings are exposed and they are seen for what they really are.

#33 Comment By Judith On October 5, 2012 @ 10:06 am

Reading this meandering blog entry was worth it, just to see William Burns bring the law of non-contradiction to it.