Sunday, May 24, 2009


From the New York Times, columnist Frank Rich on gay rights and the majority party:

La Cage aux Democrats

But when Congressional Republicans try to block gay civil rights — last week one cadre introduced a bill to void the recognition of same-sex marriage in the District of Columbia — they just don’t have the votes to get their way. The Democrats do have the votes to advance the gay civil rights legislation Obama has promised to sign. And they have a serious responsibility to do so. Let’s not forget that “don’t ask” and DOMA both happened on Bill Clinton’s watch and with his approval. Indeed, in the 2008 campaign, Obama’s promise to repeal DOMA outright was a position meant to outflank Hillary Clinton, who favored only a partial revision.

So what’s stopping the Democrats from rectifying that legacy now? As Wolfson said to me last week, they lack “a towering national figure to make the moral case” for full gay civil rights. There’s no one of that stature in Congress now that Ted Kennedy has been sidelined by illness, and the president shows no signs so far of following the example of L.B.J., who championed black civil rights even though he knew it would cost his own party the South. When Obama invoked same-sex marriage in an innocuous joke at the White House correspondents’ dinner two weeks ago — he and his political partner, David Axelrod, went to Iowa to “make it official” — it seemed all the odder that he hasn’t engaged the issue substantively.

“This is a civil rights moment,” Wolfson said, “and Obama has not yet risen to it.” Worse, Obama’s opposition to same-sex marriage is now giving cover to every hard-core opponent of gay rights, from the Miss USA contestant Carrie Prejean to the former Washington mayor Marion Barry, each of whom can claim with nominal justification to share the president’s views.

Click here for the rest.

Right. Rich's theory is that the Democrats simply need to be prodded by a persuasive and well regarded individual in order to do the right thing, and he may very well be right about that, but this point of view begs the question: why the hell does the "liberal" party need to be pushed toward taking a liberal policy position?

If you've read Real Art for any time at all, you can probably guess my answer. Yeah, that's right. The Democrats aren't the liberal party. I mean, there are certainly liberals in the Democratic Party, but in no way do the progressive coalitions in the House and Senate wield the same kind of influence that their counterparts in the Republican Party have over their comrades. That is, the Republicans are definitely a conservative party; the Democrats, however, are not the Republicans' opposite: the Democrats are the party of non-Republican conservatives and everybody else along the political spectrum who don't self-identify as conservative. For that matter, a lot of Democrats who wouldn't ever call themselves "conservative" consistently take conservative positions on multiple issues.

There isn't any one reason that the so-called "liberal" party chronically defies its ideological reputation in deed, but retains it in mythology--much of it has to do with the successful right-wing pulling of the political center ever towards itself over the last thirty years or so, making today's "liberal" equal yesterday's "conservative" in national discourse. But whatever the reasons, the Democrats' "liberal" fiction continues as a reality today in spite of the Republican implosion.

How long will it take for the donkey butts to realize that their enemies have destroyed themselves, that it is now safe to begin considering ideas that would have gotten them tarred and feathered a decade ago? Have the Democrats crossed a threshold of no return? Do we have to wait a generation until the wild right-wing politics of the Reagan revolution are forgotten?

I hope I live long enough to see.