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Americans Are Becoming More Liberal On Social Issues

Right Way Wrong Way

A new Gallup poll seems to be the strongest indication yet that Americans have become much more accepting of things that used to be considered “taboo” than they used to be in the past:

Americans are increasingly taking their laissez-faire attitude outside of the marketplace and into the moral arena.

A new Gallup poll released Monday found the numbers of Americans that believe cloning humans, polygamy, having extramarital affairs, and suicide are “morally acceptable” are reaching record highs.

Nineteen percent of respondents said that suicide is “morally acceptable,” tied for the highest percentage since Gallup began asking in 2001. Likewise, 16 percent of respondents said the same of polygamy and 15 percent of cloning humans, both record highs since the survey.

Though at one point in 2002, 9 percent of those surveyed said extramarital affairs are “morally acceptable,” the number stayed at 7 percent or lower up until this most recent survey. Now, 8 percent of Americans say extramarital affairs are OK from a moral standpoint — the most minor increase of any of the behaviors surveyed.

Millennials were found to be the most tolerant of the aforementioned behaviors. Only extramarital affairs polled at less than 20 percent among the age group.

On certain matters, baby boomers aged 50 to 64 were the least permissive, though more boomers found suicide morally acceptable than respondents from generation X.

Only 18 percent of seniors ages 65 and older said that pornography and sex between teenagers are morally acceptable and less than 10 percent of them said polygamy, cloning humans and extramarital affairs are as well.

These numbers are part of a larger survey that Gallup does annually regarding American public opinion on moral and ethical issues. We’ve already seen some of the results of that polling in the report last month that public acceptance of same-sex marriage had passed the 60% mark for the first time in the two decades and that a majority of Americans identified as “pro-choice” on the issue of abortion for the first time in seven years. There is also a marked increase in the number of people who support physician assisted suicide and find it to be morally acceptable Beyond those specific issues, though, and beyond the “taboos” that are making headlines today, the survey found clear evidence that Americans attitudes on a wide variety of social and ethical issues have moved decidedly to the left over the past fifteen years:

Americans are more likely now than in the early 2000s to find a variety of behaviors morally acceptable, including gay and lesbian relations, having a baby outside of marriage and sex between an unmarried man and woman. Moral acceptability of many of these issues is now at a record-high level.

This latest update on Americans’ views of the moral acceptability of various issues and behaviors is from Gallup’s May 6-10 Values and Beliefs survey. The complete results for each of the 19 issues tested in this year’s survey appear at the end of the article. Gallup has tracked these moral issues in this format since the early 2000s.

The upward progression in the percentage of Americans seeing these issues as morally acceptable has varied from year to year, but the overall trend clearly points toward a higher level of acceptance of a number of behaviors. In fact, the moral acceptability ratings for 10 of the issues measured since the early 2000s are at record highs.

Americans have become less likely to say that two issues are morally acceptable: the death penalty and medical testing on animals. But Americans’ decreased acceptance of these practices actually moves them in a more liberal direction.

These results reflect the same type of shift evident in the public’s self-reported ideology on “social issues.” More Americans now rate themselves as socially liberal than at any point in Gallup’s 16-year trend, and for the first time, as many say they are liberal on social issues as say they are conservative.

(…)

Americans are becoming more liberal on social issues, as evidenced not only by the uptick in the percentage describing themselves as socially liberal, but also by their increasing willingness to say that a number of previously frowned-upon behaviors are morally acceptable. The biggest leftward shift over the past 14 years has been in attitudes toward gay and lesbian relations, from only a minority of Americans finding it morally acceptable to a clear majority finding it acceptable.

The moral acceptability of issues related to sexual relations has also increased, including having a baby outside of wedlock — something that in previous eras was a social taboo. Americans are more likely to find divorce morally acceptable, and have also loosened up on their views of polygamy, although this latter behavior is still seen as acceptable by only a small minority.

This liberalization of attitudes toward moral issues is part of a complex set of factors affecting the social and cultural fabric of the U.S. Regardless of the factors causing the shifts, the trend toward a more liberal view on moral behaviors will certainly have implications for such fundamental social institutions as marriage, the environment in which children are raised and the economy. The shifts could also have a significant effect on politics, with candidates whose positioning is based on holding firm views on certain issues having to grapple with a voting population that, as a whole, is significantly less likely to agree with conservative positions than it might have been in the past.

The details of how attitudes have changed over time can be seen quite clearly in this chart:

Gallup Morals Ethics Chart

Some of the biggest changes that we see here, of course, are in areas that deal with private family and sexual matters, such as homosexuality, children born out of wedlock, divorce, and sexual relationships outside of marriage. In each case, I think the reasons behind the change in attitude is fairly easy to figure out. As I’ve noted before with regard to same-sex marriage, Americans have generally become more accepting of homosexuality as they have come to know people who are gay or lesbian and as the media, and especially television, has come to treat the issue far more openly than was true even thirty years ago. Not surprisingly, the younger someone is the more likely they are to support same-sex marriage but the cultural shift here has been near universal to the point where the only demographic groups that don’t show majority support are people over 55 and Republicans, and even that is starting to change. The same is true when it comes to issues such as children born outside of marriage, divorce, and sexual relationships outside of marriage. Thanks largely to the immense cultural changes that took place in the 1960s and 1970s, the taboos that were once associated with all of these things have quite simply melted away and, even in cases such as children born out of wedlock or divorce where one could arguably make the case that these are not ideal situations, the public has clearly come to the conclusion that the subjects themselves do not have the same moral taboo that they used to. As for sexual relationships outside of marriage, that’s something that has been going on since time immemorial. Much like the moral prohibitions against divorce and children out of wedlock, the social approbation that accompanied it was really nothing more than rank hypocrisy. The fact that we are no longer handing out scarlet letters for things that everyone does anyway is, in the end, a sign of progress.

The poll also indicates an up tick in support for controversial medical procedures such as stem-cell research and cloning of both humans and animals, and a decrease in support for medical testing on animals. To a large degree, I suspect that much of this can be attributed to the fact that there has been so much discussion in recent years about how these different types of research could potentially lead to treatments or perhaps even cures for a wide variety of ailments. Stem cells, for example have been discussed as potential cures for Parkinson’s Disease and other neurological disease as well as, potentially, as method of helping the human body from fighting cancer. Cloning remains far more controversial, of course, but even here my assumption is that people are finding these practices more morally acceptable because of the potential promise they hold for helping develop new treatments that could significantly improve quality of life. The drop off in support for medical testing on animals, meanwhile, is likely due largely to success of various popular efforts to publicize this issue by playing on a natural tendency that most people have to be sympathetic toward animals. Personally, my view on the issue that animal testing is acceptable if it is scientifically necessary but in many cases, such as those involving cosmetics, it has been quite clear in recent years that it simply isn’t. Fortunately, thanks to technological advances that include computer systems designed to mimic the human body we may be close to the day when we won’t need to conduct medical tests on animals at all.

On a final note, it’s interesting to see that even as public attitudes are becoming more liberal on some issues, there are still some things that the public finds morally unacceptable. The best example of this, of course, is adultery, where the widespread public disapproval that Gallup found in 2001 remains relatively unchanged. To a large degree, I think that this is because people view extramarital affairs as a trust issue rather than a sexual issue and that the vast majority of the respondents are innately aware of how painful something like this can be to a relationship. Granted, as Jazz Shaw notes, we don’t punish people who have affairs the same way that we used to, the best example of that being former President Bill Clinton. At the same time, though, Americans don’t generally hold serial adulterers in the highest esteem even when they are celebrities, and that I would suggest is largely because they see it as being a separate issue from the generally more liberal attitudes about sexuality that have developed over the last several decades.

For the most part, though, Americans have obviously become more liberal on social issues than they were in the past, especially when it comes to issues involving sexuality and personal relationships. How much further this will got is unclear, though. For example, the new survey shows an increase in the number of people who find polygamous relationships to be morally acceptable, but that is still very much a minority point of view. Whether this trend will continue in the future to the point where a majority believes that multiple partner consensual relationships are acceptable remains to be seen. At the very least, though, what this survey does suggest that politicians who make social conservatism a centerpiece of their platform are going to find it harder and harder to convince Americans to support them.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    @James P:

    So true. We work tirelessly in the cause of deviancy. Are you jealous because we aren’t also working to support serial liars and frauds like you? Is that it?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 4

  2. Tony W says:

    Looking at those lists it’s remarkable to me how, despite the screaming rhetoric from our conservative friends (including Mr. P. above), liberals are truly the champions of personal freedom.

    On issue after issue, Liberals simply want to live and let live, while conservatives want other people to fit in their mold.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 32 Thumb down 4

  3. David M says:

    @James P:

    The margin of victory in North Carolina was due to scheduling the vote for a primary rather than general election.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  4. DrDaveT says:

    @Tony W:

    On issue after issue, Liberals simply want to live and let live, while conservatives want other people to fit in their mold.

    Yeah, I did a double-take at the characterization of liberal positions as laissez-faire. No wonder kids have trouble telling left from right, when “leave ’em alone” is left wing if you’re talking about sex, drugs, or religion — but right wing if you’re talking about business or politics…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

  5. gVOR08 says:

    @Tony W: I believe you have stated a basic difference between liberals and conservatives.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  6. Mikey says:

    @David M: You might as well have written that on your forehead and bashed it onto a brick wall. “James P” is a fraud, a charlatan, and a troll, as uninterested in fact as you are in having your testicles gnawed off by a rabid weasel.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  7. Franklin says:

    Call me old-fashioned, but I’m not quite ready for polygamy. Although I’m not sure it’s a problem with morality so much as practicality. Based on the history, you’d have a hard time convincing me that A) the boys growing up are treated fairly, and that B) the women are truly there of their own choice.

    Similarly, I’m against the death penalty for practical, not moral reasons.

    But seeing as how the survey asks if these are “morally acceptable,” I might actually say yes to both, even if I prefer them to be illegal.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  8. C. Clavin says:

    Until 1967 (and after it became legal, I’m sure) people like James P. Troll thought inter-racial marriage was deviancy. These folks are slow on the uptake, obviously. No need for us to wait for them. They’ll either come around to everyone being free, or they will die angry and bitter. No impact to me either way.

    I’m far more concerned about the limited edition $700 Grateful Dead box set being released, than I am about James P. Trolls xenophobia.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  9. LC says:

    Is Jazz Shaw the only writer you read, Doug? He’s linked to in tons of your posts, and as best as I can tell, is not very bright.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  10. superdestroyer says:

    Once again, another poll indicates that the U.S. is on the path to being a one party state and no one even notices. Is there really a need for two political parties when the only disagreements is over the funding of the entitlement state and where each special interest block fits in the political correctness pecking order.

    If there are not relevant disagreement over social issues that are significant enough to affect politics, policy, or governance, then maybe the U.S. can finally begin to think about how politics will work in the future rather than paying attention to irrelevant conservatives.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 9

  11. Ben Wolf says:

    @DrDaveT: The right-wing position on business and politics is not “leave ’em alone”, it’s “transfer more power and wealth upward.”

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

  12. C. Clavin says:

    @superdestroyer:

    another poll indicates that the U.S. is on the path to being a one party state

    and the broken record continues to spin….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  13. Neil Hudelson says:

    @C. Clavin:

    I’m far more concerned about the limited edition $700 Grateful Dead box set being released, than I am about James P. Trolls xenophobia.

    Man…that’s a really expensive way to fall asleep :-P.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  14. Surreal American says:

    People may tell pollsters they are liberal on social issues, but that’s not how they vote. If people were liberal on issues like homosexual “marriage” it would not fail so SPECTACULARLY almost every time it is on the ballot.

    Because it’s moral to lie about how you feel about social issues.

    P.S. I loved how same sex marriage failed SPECTACULARLY in the Irish referendum.

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  15. gVOR08 says:

    As a long term Democrat and liberal, and proud of it, on this list of sixteen items, only three strike me as liberal/Democratic political issues: stem cell research, abortion, and the death penalty. The rest are just progress. Even gay marriage is not so much a Democratic cause as something Democrats go along with. Democrats aren’t campaigning for out of wedlock childbearing, or divorce, or more gambling, or people having affairs.

    Many of these issues have advocacy groups, P.E.T.A for instance, that could be classed as “liberal”, but they’re fringe. Some of these items will create issues, and those issues will have to be dealt with by politicians and judges, but liberals aren’t generally pushing this stuff. Evven the three items I listed are not high priority causes, or wouldn’t be if conservatives didn’t keep pushing abortion to the top of the agenda.

    The important liberal v/ conservative issues are economic, environmental, and foreign policy, not social issues. We need to keep eyes on balls and not think we’re winning because gays can marry and more people are OK with doctor assisted suicide.

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  16. wr says:

    @michael reynolds: I’ve always been liberal, but as I get older I find that my interest in judging people’s personal, emotional and sexual lives has dwindled to zero, and now find myself outraged only by those who feel they have the right and the power to dictate what anyone else should do.

    As long as there is no coercion involved and no horses end up getting frightened, why should it make any difference to anyone what you do in your personal life? Why are we so obsessed with other people’s genitals?

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  17. stonetools says:

    @gVOR08:

    I would disagree with you on gay marriage. Conservatives, and Republicans , definitely used the gay marriage issue as a wedge issue against Democrats in 2004 and the Democrats deserve full credit for advocating for first gay civil unions, then gay marriage, since 2004 at a time when conservatives were dead set against it and were exploiting hatred of gays for political gain.
    Let’s remember that it was Bill Clinton way back in 1992 who madethe first big move for gay equality by trying to get rid of discrimination against gays in military. He took a big hit for that too-which is something that those whohlate the Clintons for not being liberal tend to forget.And of course, if you read Rod Dreher, marriage equality is the harbinger of the doom of the West. So, gay marriage is a liberal/Democratic victory.

    Otherwise, fully agree with your post. One thing Obama has said about gay marriage is that gay marriage is the easy part of the struggle for gay equality. The hard part-economic and employment rights-is still ahead

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  18. Scott says:

    Call me old-fashioned, but I’m not quite ready for polygamy.

    I’m certainly not ready. It sounds exhausting and makes me want to take a nap.

    Actually polygamy is quite biblical and I’m surprised social conservatives have not taken up the cause.

    Can group marriages a la “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” be far behind?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  19. dmichaelwells says:

    “Granted, as Jazz Shaw notes, we don’t punish people who have affairs the same way that we used to, the best example of that being former President Bill Clinton.” The best example, really? The Republicans certainly tried to punish Clinton, led by serial adulterer Newt Gingrich (during the impeachment, having an affair with the women who is now his third wife while married to his second wife, after cheating on his first wife, with the women who would become his second wife…man, this can get confusing.) In the last go round, Newt was a Republican presidential candidate. Newt would have been succeeded by Bill Livingston as majority leader except that Bill L was having sex with a woman not his wife and that finally allowed the ascension of Dennis Hastert. Remember him? The one who paid more than a million dollars to silence a male minor student with whom he had sex when he was in a position of authority as a teacher?

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  20. humanoid.panda says:

    @David M: And polls consistenly showed that the ban was winning.. Amazing that a guy with an imaginary PhD would lie like that, but here we go.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  21. humanoid.panda says:

    @Scott: There is an old Jewish joke about a guy asking his rabbi’s permission to have a second wife, so that he could tell wife A he s with Wife B, Wife B that he is Wife A, and then take a nice nap.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  22. PJ says:

    If three or more people want to marry each others and they are all adult and consenting, why care?

    Now, I doubt that it, even for consenting adults, would be a good idea for many reasons but why should I, or anyone else, get to be arbitrator of what other consenting adults are allowed to do?

    And we are long way from polygamy being allowed anywhere outside of Muslim countries (and in those countries only polygyny is allowed (one man marrying many women), and not polyandry (one woman marrying many men)).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  23. Tyrell says:

    These things go through cycles and phases. We remember the ’60’s with President Kennedy’s programs that were liberal for that time and then Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” and “war” on poverty (we lost). If Johnson came back today, he would be aghast and shocked the millions on food stamps and other welfares. Nixon came along and actually did some progressive things: EPA, visits to China and Russia, and some other initiatives.
    What goes around comes around.
    “I fell in to a burning ring of fire” (Cash)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 8

  24. Deserttrek says:

    @michael reynolds: insults are not needed .. what he said was true as homosexual marriage lost in california too .. the courts are against the will of the people

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 8

  25. Kylopod says:

    @gVOR08:

    The important liberal v/ conservative issues are economic, environmental, and foreign policy, not social issues. We need to keep eyes on balls and not think we’re winning because gays can marry and more people are OK with doctor assisted suicide.

    If you look at public opinion polls, we would appear to be winning on those economic issues as well. Indeed, in the past the GOP seemed to have more of an advantage when it came to public opinion on various social issues (SSM, school prayer, flag burning), and that’s why they would use them as “wedge issues” to attract certain voters who might otherwise be turned off by the GOP’s economic agenda. Libertarian-types like Doug like to imply that the GOP’s social issues serve as a distraction from a broadly popular economic agenda. That is not so. What these shifts in public opinion really signify is that the GOP is losing one of the tools it has long used to distract from the unpopularity of their economic platform.

    The trouble for progressives is that winning public opinion polls does not equal “winning” the issues, not when our whole political system is skewed to give disproportionate representation to the wealthy and powerful, and when an entire generation of voters is deeply misinformed about how much they’re getting screwed by those they vote for.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  26. EddieInCA says:

    @wr:

    @michael reynolds: I’ve always been liberal, but as I get older I find that my interest in judging people’s personal, emotional and sexual lives has dwindled to zero, and now find myself outraged only by those who feel they have the right and the power to dictate what anyone else should do.

    As long as there is no coercion involved and no horses end up getting frightened, why should it make any difference to anyone what you do in your personal life? Why are we so obsessed with other people’s genitals?

    THIS!

    I’m at exactly the same point in my life and evolution. I’m wondering, WR, if the industry we both have made our living in for a long time has something to do with that evolution. When I first went to work at one of the three networks in the very early 80’s, my co-worker in the next cubicle over was as flamboyantly gay man as you could ever find out in 1982. Add to this that he was about 5’3″ and weightlifter, which means he was ripped, but super short. Oh, and he was black – from Detroit – and now working in the publicity dept of a major TV network. Coming from a poor neighborhood in East Los Angeles, where everyone was hispanic and Catholic, and NO ONE knew any gay people, this might as well have been Mars.

    First two months on the job, I was filled with the “ick” factor. I was 22, and completely homophobic. Gradually I realized a couple of things:
    1. He talked about his weekends exactly the same way as my friends did, except instead of Heather, or Mary, or Beth, he was talking about Steve, Michael, or Ben.
    2. Outside of who he was attracted to – men, not women – he was exactly like me; hardworking, diligent, professional.
    3. He had the same universal problems that most 20-somethings have.
    4. Most importantly, I wasn’t gonna catch “the gay”.
    5. There were ALOT of gay people in Film and Television Production, Publicity, Marketing, Distribution, and Development. They had mortgages, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, medical appointments, and the rest of life’s components. What they didn’t have was equality under the law

    Bill and I became great friends. I stayed on that job almost 4 years. When I left, Bill was still there. Unfortunately, having lots of random sex in the early 1980’s was a death sentence to many – including Bill, who died of AIDS in 1988. But I’ll forever be grateful to him for challenging me directly about my homophobia, and for answering so many questions about his life – many of them deeply personal and graphic.

    Since then, in my business, I’ve been surrounded by gay and lesbian. So much that it’s not even on my radar any more. It used to be, “Oh my god, he’s gay?” Now it’s “meh… who cares.”

    The USA isn’t becoming more “Liberal”. It’s becoming more tolerant – and it’s the Dems leading the way, which is ironic, given which party spouts “Freedom!” more.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  27. michael reynolds says:

    @Deserttrek:
    He’s not being insulted for what he’s said here, he’s being insulted as one of very few people ever banned from this blog for sheer assholery. There’s history.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  28. michael reynolds says:

    @wr: @EddieInCA:

    I have never understood the obsession with sex. It’s fun and can be used to make babies. I’m not getting where the conflict is there. I’m not getting why it’s something we should all be worrying about. Is this some evolutionary imperative? Do people not realize that homo sapiens is pretty much past having to worry about keeping the population growing? At better than 7 billion of us, I really think we can handle some non-reproducing gay people.

    I’m left to assume that people obsessed by the nexus of sex and politics have some personal sexual issues they need to work through. It’s so embarrassingly juvenile.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  29. Tyrell says:

    Polygamy is in the Bible: some of the people in the Old Testament had several “wives”, such as King Solomon. But the Bible condemns that practice, clearly.
    I am surprised about the cloning figures. This is something that could be totally misused, such as developing “designer” children. But I will freely, honestly, and bravely admit that I hope to see the wooly mammoth brought back through cloning, dinosaurs too ! And my favorite, the sabertooth !
    I would like to see what the result would be for acceptance of : porn, dressing like a pirate, becoming a zombie, voodoo practice, marrying animals, robotic police, and lab created food.
    I wonder about this survey. How many people would participate and be willing to share their answers ? The results would be fsr different. Just like all these people who get that “Shades of Grey” book and read it in a closet or bathroom. I guarantee you that few people would put that thing out on their coffee table.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  30. Pinky says:

    @Franklin: What that sounds like to me is that you’ve given in to the slippery slope. That’s basically what Doug is writing about, and what the Gallup poll shows. Conservatives have been saying that the erosion in public ethics has consequences, but each time they do, they’re laughed at. So ten years ago, if you said that civil unions would lead to gay marriage, you were told you were wrong. Now, you’re told of course it would, that’s just part of rights – but if you say that gay marriage will lead to polygamy, you’re laughed at, even though the data and the hard-core activists themselves are pointing toward it. If you want to make the argument that each of these things is good, feel free. But no one can make the argument that the next one is unforeseeable.

    Of course, the existence of contradictory positions doesn’t mean that any one person is a hypocrite. Some people may see these issues as one-offs, and some others may believe that each one is a step toward an ultimate goal. But the evidence remains that each issue brings us closer to the next one. The slippery-slope argument is correct in this case.

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  31. wr says:

    @Tyrell: ” Just like all these people who get that “Shades of Grey” book and read it in a closet or bathroom. I guarantee you that few people would put that thing out on their coffee table.”

    Dude, I’ve seen more people than I can count reading it in airports and on airplanes. For God’s sake, they used to sell it at my local Ralph’s. (That’s pretty much the same as Piggly Wiggly, only the name isn’t as good…)

    You know, if you ever stuck your nose outside of 1974, you might learn something…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  32. Tyrell says:

    @wr: Well the local public library won’t carry those books, but I know for certain a few people who have read it: and they are women !

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  33. Lit3Bolt says:

    @michael reynolds:

    It’s the conservative position that if they’re wrong about this, they might be wrong about anything and everything.

    The Cognitive Dissonance shield must be maintained, even as most of the base dies off.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  34. Kylopod says:

    @Pinky:

    But the evidence remains that each issue brings us closer to the next one. The slippery-slope argument is correct in this case.

    The problem is that arguing that “X will pave the way toward Y,” whether correct or not, is not a very good argument against X if X can be defended on its own terms.

    If you’ve ever read the Lincoln-Douglas debates, you find Douglas arguing that if slavery is abolished, next thing you know blacks will be granted equality with whites. Lincoln vehemently denied that this was the case. As we know, Douglas was sort of correct on this point (albeit off by more than 100 years). But that doesn’t mean we were wrong to abolish slavery.

    Are SSM opponents correct when they say the next step will be polygamy, or man-on-dog relationships? Maybe, maybe not. But why not consider each issue on its own terms? I personally have mixed feelings about polygamy, but I think sexual activity between humans and animals probably constitutes animal cruelty. But I’ve heard other liberals say stuff like “I think it’s gross, but whatever floats your boat, man.” Will my opposition to bestiality prove as short-sighted and prudish as the SSM opposition from the past? Maybe, maybe not. I accept the risk that my views will be proven wrong in the future, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to start denying gays their freedom and happiness in the present. Why should you be any different?

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  35. DrDaveT says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    The right-wing position on business and politics is not “leave ‘em alone”, it’s “transfer more power and wealth upward.”

    Sure. But they’re smart enough to know that you don’t have to make that happen — it’s a natural positive feedback loop if you don’t actively work against. (Libertarians are both amazing optimists and really bad at math.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  36. DrDaveT says:

    @PJ:

    If three or more people want to marry each others and they are all adult and consenting, why care?

    Because the legal ramifications are really, really messy. Orders of magnitude more messy than current marriage laws.

    I couldn’t care less if three or more people want to live as if married — but I see strong public interest in restricting marriage-like contracts to non-overlapping pairs of people.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  37. An Interested Party says:

    the courts are against the will of the people

    Sorry, sweetie, but civil rights should not be decided by the popular vote…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  38. wr says:

    @Tyrell: I confess: I can’t remember ever seeing a man reading one of them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  39. Grewgills says:

    @Pinky:
    In addition to what Kylopod said, those slopes are only as slippery as people make them. Marijuana became a “gateway drug” because people who smoked it quickly realized that all of the arguments against it they were sold were BS. Knowing those arguments were unmitigated BS, then all of the arguments against harder drugs were suspect. When you and people like you argue that same sex marriage is the same as polygamy and same sex marriage comes along with none of the doom and gloom you prophesy, then people start to wonder if your arguments against polygamy are just as much BS.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  40. stonetools says:

    @Kylopod:

    Moreover, its not clear that polygamy is even on the slippery down slope from gay marriage. After all, there are actually several societies in Africa and the Middle East in which polygamy is legal but homosexuality is illegal, even on penalty of death. That blows to smithereens the argument that polygamy is inevitable on the granting of rights to gays.If anything , historically, that’s exactly backwards: polygamy existed long before the concept of gay rights.Same sex marriage and polygamy aren’t on the same slope: they are on different slopes.
    It’s unlikely there will ever be much interest in polgamy in Western societies.Interestingly, if a movement advocating polygamy develops, it will be able to draw support from appeals to history and tradition. After all, many of the biblical heroes were practicing polygamists and even in the New Testament, there is no explicit prohibition of the practice.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  41. de stijl says:

    @Pinky:

    What that sounds like to me is that you’ve given in to the slippery slope. That’s basically what Doug is writing about, and what the Gallup poll shows. Conservatives have been saying that the erosion in public ethics has consequences, but each time they do, they’re laughed at.

    What has changed is that the era where you could get away with not being laughed at is over.

    There was a long, long time when if you made a moral argument against non-normative sexuality or identity it was just accepted. You didn’t have to elaborate or even actually make a logical case for your statement. “Gay people are icky” was thought to be, was allowed to be, a perfectly coherent political statement. People understood the consequences of publicly disagreeing with that statement.

    Up until recently, being gay or being gay-friendly was not a popular thing. Back when Anita Baker was selling her reconstituted god-bothering crap, I knew it was total bullshit, but saying out loud that I thought that Anita Baker was peddling bullshit is a hard row to hoe in 1977 America (I had to look up the year that happened. Crap! I’m getting old.)

    Back then, you could not get away with saying gay Americans deserve equal rights without social consequences. In my neighborhood, being pro-gay rights was not a popular sentiment. Outside of a handful of area codes it wasn’t a popular sentiment anywhere in America. In fact, that sentiment needed to be actively suppressed.

    That has changed.

    Schoolkids are never going to play “Smear The Queer” ever again. Those days are done.

    We’ve reached “The Emperor Has No Clothes” stage of the struggle.

    I think that the reason that SSM opinion has moved so rapidly is that people who thought they held a minority opinion, and that they would be negatively impacted by stating that opinion, figured out they were actually a sizable view and the Bully Boys only hold power as long as we let them have power.

    Another reason for the inflection may be the internet. Having a platform to anonymously state an unpopular opinion and to see what the reactions is a pretty empowering experience. You realize that your opinions aren’t actually as unpopular as you thought them to be and the social consequences for stating that opinion can be dealt with. Anonymity can be powerful.

    I’m a straight man who has held pro-gay rights views my entire adult life and I should have been more vocal in stating my support in the past when it was unpopular. And I should have been more politically active in ensuring that all Americans are treated equally under the law.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  42. de stijl says:

    @stonetools:

    Polygamy in America will be restricted to the dark corners of cults and cultish religions.

    When you forcibly exclude 99% of the young males from your thang (i.e, 50% of your future followers), you are not on the happy path of having a long-term, on-going concern. Your cult will die. You won’t reach that tipping point where your cult will be viewed as a respectable religion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  43. superdestroyer says:

    @C. Clavin:

    This is just another post where progressive get to echo their chant of “Go Team Blue, we’re going to win, win, win.” I agree with those progressives however, what is amazing is that no progressive seems possible of thinking of what happens in the long when as Team Blue dominates. Too many educated, white, upper class progressive keep thinking that if the whole country will just vote for Team Blue, then everywhere will be just like Burlington, VT (or maybe Seattle). But isn’t it more likely that as the U.S. voter in great numbers for Team Blue and social issues are no longer relevant to politics, that more of the country will become like current day Baltimore than current day Burlington, VT.

    I keep noting that progressive seem to want to model politics on making life great for a freelance writer in Burlington, VT when they should be modeling politics on single mothers living in Baltimore.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  44. superdestroyer says:

    @stonetools:

    However, the legal arguments for homosexual marriage equally apply to polygamy. Or are we legally going to tell people that who they can love is limited to one person? It is just a matter of time until some court rules that polygamy is legal and the fight starts up again. The disadvantage for those who support polygamy is that they are not as affluent, located in urban centers, and as educated as the leaders of the same sex marriage movement.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  45. wr says:

    @superdestroyer: “But isn’t it more likely that as the U.S. voter in great numbers for Team Blue and social issues are no longer relevant to politics, that more of the country will become like current day Baltimore than current day Burlington, VT.”

    No.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  46. DrDaveT says:

    @superdestroyer:

    However, the legal arguments for homosexual marriage equally apply to polygamy.

    No, they don’t. You didn’t even read the comments above, did you?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  47. DrDaveT says:

    @superdestroyer:

    what is amazing is that no progressive seems possible of thinking of what happens in the long when as Team Blue dominates

    No, what is amazing is that you keep repeating this tripe without bothering to go look at the history of what has happened EVERY OTHER TIME in US history that one political party achieved sufficient dominance to eliminate the other(s). I’ll give you a hint — it was NOT stasis. Check out what happened right after the Federalists bit the dust, or the Whigs.

    If the Republicans were to vanish tomorrow, the Democratic Party would immediately split into (at least) a progressive wing, a moderate theist wing, and a fiscal stewardship wing. There would be a massive influx of former Republicans to the latter two. The goalposts would shift, but there would be nothing like consensus or stasis.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  48. anjin-san says:

    @Pinky:

    Conservatives have been saying that the erosion in public ethics has consequences

    If conservatives are really concerned about “ethics”, perhaps they should worry more about putting their own house in order and less about the relationships between consenting adults who love each other.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  49. Barry says:

    “f you look at public opinion polls, we would appear to be winning on those economic issues as well.”

    Americans are very liberal on economic issues, until they’re branded as ‘Democratic’ issues.

    And that’s with Americans not realizing just how polarized wealth and income are in this country – people underestimate that by a long shot.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  50. michael reynolds says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Yep, that reality has been explained to @superdestroyer many, many, many, many times. I think it’s an OCD thing. LIke he has to say “one party state” a certain number of times, then wash his hands six times and check the stove twice or his mother will die.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  51. superdestroyer says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Since you did not address the legal issues, then I did not contradict you. In looking at the legal arguments for same sex marriage, the same arguments apply to polygamy. In addition, the same economic and legal issues of same-sex marriage apply to polygamy including child custody, divorce, government benefits.

    I suspect that tax cheats will find a way to use the cover of polygamy much like the Fundamentalist Mormons do it now.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  52. michael reynolds says:

    @anjin-san:

    Richard Nixon, Tom Delay, Newt Gingrich, Larry Craig, Bob Livingston, Mike Huckabee, Denny Hastert. . . there’s a long list of Republicans very concerned about public morals and ethics. A long, long list.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  53. stonetools says:

    @superdestroyer:

    I keep noting that progressive seem to want to model politics on making life great for a freelance writer in Burlington, VT when they should be modeling politics on single mothers living in Baltimore.

    Again with the demonization of Baltimore. Let’s look at other Democratic-run cities like Denver, Seattle, San Francisco, Atlanta, and Austin, shall we? There are single mothers in those cities, even, but they are all considered highly successful.

    OTOH, let’s look at Republican-led states like Mississipi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Alabama.They are at the bottom of just about every standard of living index there is. And they may be soon joined by Kansas, which has instituted Tea Party economics with disastrous results.

    Us liberals don’t model our politics on Burlington authors or Baltimore mothers, btw.We generally model our economics on reality-what works now, not eighteenth century ideas as to what should work. You conservatives might want to give that a shot.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  54. Pinky says:

    @michael reynolds: That’s a very funny joke about obsessive-compulsive disorder. Nice to know what kind of an empathetic human being you are.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  55. DrDaveT says:

    @superdestroyer:

    In looking at the legal arguments for same sex marriage, the same arguments apply to polygamy.

    You can repeat this as many times as you like, but it will still never be true. There are fundamental structural differences between a 2-party contract that ends with the death of either party, and a multi-party contract that can persist (in theory) in perpetuity. This is obvious to anyone who actually thinks about it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  56. Grewgills says:

    @DrDaveT:

    This is obvious to anyone who actually thinks about it.

    You are asking too much,. SD doesn’t do thinking, he just regurgitates his talking points. He is featured in my OTB drinking game to sometimes disasterous results. Every time he says one party state you have to take a shot. This could lead to an alcohol induced coma on some threads.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  57. James P says:

    @michael reynolds: Bill Clinton, Barney Frank, Hillary Clinton. For every corrupt Republican you name (and Hammer DeLay was not one of them – he got NiFonged) I can name ten Dems.

    _____
    I’m sure you’ll make reference to my degree. It’s because you’re jealous. It bothers you that a conservative can school you.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  58. Matt says:

    Only 68 more to go then..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  59. superdestroyer says:

    @stonetools:

    Of course, what you should be noticing is that Denver and Atlanta are actually different from San Francisco and Seattle. Denver and Atlanta are surrounded by suburbs that are filled with middle class white Republican voters unlike San Francisco and Seattle. What you should also notice is that San Francisco is a city where the black population is going down.

    A really good question is what would happen in Mississippi had the same percentage of whites as Vermont or what would happen to Vermont if it had the same percentage of blacks as Mississippi or Latinos as New Mexico. Do you really think that electing Bennie Thompson (highest ranking elected Democrat in Mississippi) to the governorship in Jackson would really change the economic prospects of the state.

    Once again, you are just reinforcing the idea that progressive build their political models around educate upper class whites who do not have children and who live in urban areas (or college towns) . As can be seen, you can take the same policies of San Francisco and apply them to Baltimore, Detroit, St Louis, Newark, etc and get entirely different results. OF course, progressives refuse to even notice this and thus, are not allowed to think about it.

    What most progressives refuse to acknowledge is that there is only one Wall Street and one Silicon Valley and electing Democrats in Kansas or Mississippi will not recreate those two economic drivers in different locations.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 5

  60. superdestroyer says:

    @DrDaveT:

    If you think of polygyny as one man married to many women, then the contract ends with the death of the man. That is different than chain marriage or chain family which used to be a fetish of many science fiction writers. The legal arguments for polygyny are the same as same sex marriage; that is, the government not telling people who they can love.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  61. superdestroyer says:

    @michael reynolds:

    What is amazing is that everyone keeps writing that politics always divides into two (or more parties) while Chicago, DC, Detroit have been one party states for over 50 years. Chicago has not elected a Republican mayor since 1926. Yet, a second party has not sprung up to take its place. Detroit has not elected a Republican mayor since 1957. And still the place remains a one party state with with a past Democratic Party mayor being in jail for corruption.

    It would be interesting to even find a Democratic Party primary where the black or Latino vote split evenly between two candidates. It is really hard to argue that the Democratic Party will split up when walking away from the Democratic Party means walking away for such a high percentage of automatic Democratic Party voters.

    I do not understand why so many progressives want to deny that Team Blue dominates politics in the U.S. and will have total control of policy and governance by as early as 2023.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  62. de stijl says:

    @Pinky:

    @michael reynolds: That’s a very funny joke about obsessive-compulsive disorder. Nice to know what kind of an empathetic human being you are.

    You’re really going to go there? Pinky as the new Shakesville? Will you demand trigger warnings next?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  63. DrDaveT says:

    @superdestroyer:

    The legal arguments for polygyny are the same as same sex marriage

    Nope, you’re still wrong. Less wrong, but still wrong. For proof, check out those sections of the Talmud that deal specifically with the extra legal problems posed by the death of a husband with more than one wife…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  64. de stijl says:

    @de stijl:

    Back when Anita Baker was selling her reconstituted god-bothering crap

    Anita Bryant, not Anita Baker.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  65. Grewgills says:

    @Pinky:
    Now that I think about it you’re right, but it really all began with women’s suffrage. Once we gave women the vote all of this became inevitable.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  66. superdestroyer says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Do you really believe that if some polygyny lawsuit gets to the courts that the lawyers will not be citing every single court case that legalized same-sex marriage. To argue that it is more complicated than traditional marriage did not work in the arguments against same-sex marriage and will eventually will not work for polygamy. The courts could just argue that it is the responsibility of the legislature to work out the rules (similar to divorce and children custody for same sex couples)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  67. DrDaveT says:

    @superdestroyer:

    To argue that it is more complicated than traditional marriage did not work in the arguments against same-sex marriage and will eventually will not work for polygamy.

    Keep digging, dude. Chinese has to be down there somewhere…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  68. Grewgills says:

    @superdestroyer:

    To argue that it is more complicated than traditional marriage did not work in the arguments against same-sex marriage and will eventually will not work for polygamy.

    How exactly is same sex marriage more complicated than opposite sex marriage?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0