Senator Rob Portman Comes Out In Support Of Same-Sex Marriage
Senator Rob Portman changes his position on same-sex marriage. Another sign of the times.
Ohio Senator Rob Portman, who was on the short list to be Mitt Romney’s running mate last year, has announced his support for same-sex marriage, a decision he says is motivated primarily by his son’s revelation that he is gay:
Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, has switched his stand on same-sex marriage, saying he now supports it after his son told him he is gay.
Mr. Portman, who had been considered one of the leading candidates to be Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012, told Ohio newspapers that his son Will told him and his wife, Jane, in 2011 of his sexual orientation.
“It allowed me to think of this issue from a new perspective, and that’s of a dad who loves his son a lot and wants him to have the same opportunities that his brother and sister would have — to have a relationship like Jane and I have had for over 26 years,” Mr. Portman was quoted by Cleveland.com as telling reporters in an interview in his Washington office.
“If anything, I’m even more proud of the way he has handled the whole situation,” the senator said of his son, a student at Yale. “He’s an amazing young man.”
His decision to become the only sitting Republican senator to so publicly embrace same-sex marriage comes after President Obama switched his position during the 2012 campaign to support such unions. The president announced his new position as Americans have been steadily shifting their attitudes on the issue, with polls showing an increasing numbers of Americans accepting gay marriages.
Mr. Portman said that when he was being considered for Mr. Romney’s ticket last year, he told the candidate that his son is gay.
While he was not selected as Mr. Romney’s running mate, the senator was a key adviser through his campaign, and played the role of President Obama as Mr. Romney prepared for the presidential debates.
Word of Mr. Portman’s switch on the issue came the same day that a fellow Republican senator, Marco Rubio of Florida, who is considered a likely 2016 presidential contender, appealed to conservatives by defending his stance on key social issues, including his opposition to same-sex marriage.
Portman also penned an Op-Ed in The Columbus Dispatch about his change of heart:
Two years ago, my son Will, then a college freshman, told my wife, Jane, and me that he is gay. He said he’d known for some time, and that his sexual orientation wasn’t something he chose; it was simply a part of who he is. Jane and I were proud of him for his honesty and courage. We were surprised to learn he is gay but knew he was still the same person he’d always been. The only difference was that now we had a more complete picture of the son we love.
At the time, my position on marriage for same-sex couples was rooted in my faith tradition that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman. Knowing that my son is gay prompted me to consider the issue from another perspective: that of a dad who wants all three of his kids to lead happy, meaningful lives with the people they love, a blessing Jane and I have shared for 26 years.
I wrestled with how to reconcile my Christian faith with my desire for Will to have the same opportunities to pursue happiness and fulfillment as his brother and sister. Ultimately, it came down to the Bible’s overarching themes of love and compassion and my belief that we are all children of God.
Well-intentioned people can disagree on the question of marriage for gay couples, and maintaining religious freedom is as important as pursuing civil marriage rights. For example, I believe that no law should force religious institutions to perform weddings or recognize marriages they don’t approve of.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has said he supports allowing gay couples to marry because he is a conservative, not in spite of it. I feel the same way. We conservatives believe in personal liberty and minimal government interference in people’s lives. We also consider the family unit to be the fundamental building block of society. We should encourage people to make long-term commitments to each other and build families, so as to foster strong, stable communities and promote personal responsibility.
I’ve seen some people who have been supportive of same-sex marriage on Twitter and in the blogosphere, such as this blogger, criticize Portman for waiting so long to change his position, or for only doing so after being confronted with the fact that his son is gay. This strikes me as an unfair criticism. For one thing, as we’ve mentioned here at OTB many times in recent years, the change in public attitudes on homosexuality and gay marriage have evolved significantly over a short period of time. It wasn’t too long ago that we saw opposition to same-sex marriage above 60%. Additionally, it’s worth noting that polling shows that the nation is still largely divided 50-50 on the issue, with a slight majority now in favor of marriage equality. Indeed, the President himself was not publicly in favor of same-sex marriage until last April. So, in some sense, Portman’s previous opposition, while a position I disagree with, was certainly not one that was outside the mainstream. Furthermore, I don’t see anything wrong with the fact that a person’s personal interactions with people who happen to be gay, whether they’re family members, neighbors or friends, was the primary influence in a change of opinion on a hot-button issue like same-sex marriage. Indeed, it’s been the case that people have often changed their opinions about minority groups and their rights as they become more exposed to them on a one-to-one basis. Once you get to know people on a personal level, it becomes impossible to reconcile previously held stereotypes to what you know about the people you’ve become close to on a personal level. Finally, it’s worth noting that two years ago he would’ve been 18 years old and just out of High School. Perhaps Portman didn’t want to expose his son to publicity before he was ready for it. The argument that Portman took “too long” to change his mind, then, is really just nonsense.
More importantly, though, I would suggest that Portman’s announcement is another sign that the changes in public opinion on this issue that have been occurring nationwide are impacting the conservative movement as well. Despite the fact that CPAC refused to give space to the gay conservative group GOProud, for example, one of the most heavily attended breakout sessions at the conference yesterday was a panel on growing the right by being more open on issues like gay rights and same-sex marriage. Among the panelists was the co-founder of GOProud, Republican strategist Liz Mair, National Review’s Jonah Gooldberg, GOP commentator Margaret Hoover, and Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin, who has this to say this morning about the Portman announcement:
In the conservative movement at large, a shift is certainly underway. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) wants government out of the marriage business. Foster Friess, the mega-donor who supported presidential candidate Rick Santorum, announced that the party should not “demonize” gays or gay marriage. (Then maybe he should not bankroll the candidate infamous for anti-gay rhetoric?) The question is not whether the GOP comes to terms with gay marriage, but when and how many elections it will lose along the way. Edmund Burke, the conservative icon, would tell us to respect the habits, customs and morals of our fellow citizens; smart politics would tell conservatives not to dawdle in applying that maxim to gay marriage.
Rubin’s piece also has a good summary of the panel itself, which I commend to your attention. At one point, she notes that she said in her remarks that the entire debate over same-sex marriage will be over in ten years. Personally, I think it’s possible that it will be over long before then. The odds seem fairly good that Section Three of the Defense of Marriage Act will be struck down as unconstitutional by June. At the same time, the Court will also be ruling on the Constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, and if that law is struck down it will have a significant impact on legal challenges to laws in other states even if its immediate impact is limited only to California. Change will come slowest, of course, in those states that have written bans against same-sex marriage equality into their Constitution, especially states in the South, but it will come there as well. Senator Portman is only one man, of course, but he’s yet another sign of where public opinion on this issue is headed. The GOP would do well to follow his lead before its too late.
Sh!t on someone until you discover, surprise! that the person you’re sh!tting on is one of your own.
“Oh, wait, this affects meeeeee? Well, then, change of position because I only meant to sh!t on people different from meeeeee.”
Now, what if his son were on welfare. Or food stamps. Or unemployment. Or earning minimum wage. Or any of the other programs republicans want to cut and think are worthless because it doesn’t benefit them personally?
“We conservatives believe in personal liberty and minimal government interference in people’s lives.”
I am amazed that Portman could type these words and not expected to be pointed at and laughed. The conservative party in the US is the party who believes in maximal government interference in people’s lives on all issues (except in the economic sphere).
@michael reynolds: Exactly. He gets maybe 2 points out of 100 for humanity, but otherwise he’s still just another morally bankrupt conservative – if it doesn’t affect me personally, it doesn’t matter to anyone.
Same-sex marriage and gay rights in general are at about the same point that civil rights were in the late 50s. There’s still a long way to go, and terrible bigotry won’t be out of the news for another generation or two.
It may be unfair in this particular instance with this particular case; however, when there is a general inabilty of a class of leaders to go beyond their personal prejudices and viewpoints to see what is good for the general populace, then I do have a problem.
This goes beyond gay marriage. It is the inabililty to have empathy for the poor, the uneducated, the merely unfortunate and then to demonize them for having those attributes. It is the inability to discern others needs and wants and desires and view the world through a specific lens that renders others invisible. Only when it is personal do people like Portman look up and pay attention.
Yes, I’m glad he has come around. But when people like him wake up and see the world as it is will he get a lot a sympathy from me.
Just another bigoted, hypocritical, and ultimately selfish Republican.
You make the case perfectly well yourself:
Once you get beyond your predjudices you can do what’s right.
Until then you are a Republican.
Just imagine if Portman (or Romney or Ryan) knew any of the 47%….
Good for him. I will not demonize him for not “evolving” until he realized this was his son he was talking about as others are. I have “evolved” on many issues myself since I reached adulthood in 1976.
I have long maintained that the essential intellectual difference between conservatives and liberals is that conservatives lack a capacity for imagination. They lack the ability to imagine themselves in different circumstances, or to extrapolate, or to imagine the future as anything different from the past.
This explains why there are so few conservatives in creative fields. And why you have to hit them with a brick to get them to open their eyes and look around.
Harvey Milk argued that every single gay person should come out of the closet. He argued that staying in the closet only perpetuated the demonized caricature of gay people. The more people who realized that they knew someone who was gay the more people would realize that their perceptions of gay people was wrong.
This story and the shift in attitudes in the past twenty years shows he was right.
How is that different than the conservative “Liberalism is a mental disorder” meme?
It differs by virtue of being true.
Come, come, you act as though Mitt Romney has never spoken to his maids or gardeners. I’m sure he knows some of them by name.
Look, I agree that we should welcome all converts with open arms. But really it would be nice if these people evolved a capacity for empathy. It would save a lot of pain.
As has already been pointed out in this thread as I was typing, this entire episode shows that the “conservative” position on gay marriage (and welfare, and food stamps, and healthcare reform, and tax policy, etc etc etc) is rooted entirely in a fundamental lack of empathy for people they are not personally acquainted with. It is only when they are personally affected by the consequences of their bigotry that they “see the light”.
I’m sure Michael Savage would say the same.
Actually Michael…funny you should say that.
@Al: Because it’s backed up by evidence and, unlike “liberalism is a mental disorder”, it’s not projection.
If it’s a mental disorder it’s one that conservatives end up catching 20 years late. Civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights. . . conservatives get there, eventually, but only after they first cause enormous pain and profit from causing that pain. Then they reluctantly accept what we’ve been telling them. And of course eventually they lie about the past and pretend they were on the right side all along.
Like I said: they lack the capacity for imagination. Only when something becomes concrete and personal can they finally figure it out.
Doug, we’re not critical of Portman for changing his position late. We’re criticizing Portman because, as Atrios put it this morning, http://www.eschatonblog.com/2013/03/as-it-always-is.html his attitude is,
@michael reynolds: First name anyway.
Portman pulls a Cheney and for that he gets a chapter in Profiles in Courage? Color me cynical but it looks like the kid’s getting his legacy prepped and polished.
It’s almost the same. One considers the lack of empathy to be a mental disorder while the other considers empathy to be a mental disorder.
And let’s be clear…it’s not just that they are bigoted, or hypocritical, or selfish.
It’s the arrogance with which they take these positions that ultimately…as Portman in this case proves…are just plain flat-out wrong.
Why do we have to keep dragging these fools into the future…with them kicking and screaming and proclaiming they are the only ones that are right all the way???
Name the topic…AGW, Gun Control, Abortion…they have these staunchly held views based on total nonsense and yet they are convinced they are the only ones that can even be taken seriously on the topic. Not that the other side might have a point. That they are unequivically correct…and the other side is not only wrong but evil…marxist…nazis.
I’d love to be generous and give Portman a pass on his self-centered conversion…if I wasn’t just so tired of the incessant Republican hubris.
Ya know, that criticism may be uncalled for (seeing as Portman is now on the “right” side of things here) but it’s not unfair.
Nearly everyone who had a change of heart on this issue (the president included) are basically admitting that they didn’t think this one through. It’s one thing to indulge in the GOP’s anti-gay nonsense if you’re a true believer.
It’s another to do so without thinking it through.
This. I should feel happy to see someone taking the right position on the issue but I just feel disgusted. This is not about values or doing what is right, just what is expedient for this individual at this point of time.
-Michael Reynolds, 9:49am
-Michael Reynolds, 10:25am
You really have no idea how ridiculous you are, do you?
I’m not going to criticize anyone for making their way to the other side of a civil rights / fairness issue, even if they have to be dragged there. As Al noted this exact situation is a perfect example of why coming out is so important, and I think that the reason why gay rights has advanced fairly quickly is precisely because we’ve been able to negate our “otherness” in view of mainstream America in a way that racial and ethnic/religious minorities have not.
I’m more interested in how Senator Portman can be useful in reaching other GOP types than in criticizing him for how he got here. The fact that he’s decided to do a public position switch and an op-ed indicates that he’s willing to be useful in facilitating the conversion of the GOP, which is comendable.
You know, it’s actually possible to abandon stereotypes without having to know people on a personal level, through moral empathy and sympathy and the ability to imagine yourself into someone else’s shoes.
I am glad that the Homosexual Recruitment Campaign has been targeting the children of Republican senators — the efforts of this campaign of seduction are beginning to pay off.
And the previous campaign aimed at Republican congress critters themselves was such a complete failure… I have to admit when I am wrong, and this is one of those times. Teaching homosexual techniques in grade school works.
I don’t have any strong feelings about gay marriage but I believe in freedom, and because of that belief, I think that gay people should be allowed to get married. This u-turn by Rob Portman make me question if he knows what he was elected to do. He made the u-turn after his son came out as gay, if he didn’t have a gay son, he would have stuck to his previous position against gay marriage. But what about the other gay people in Ohio that he represents in the US senate and gay people throughout America. If he takes positions and make decisions without considering everyone he represents, then he doesn’t know what he was elected to do. Same goes with all politicians who take this approach in decision making.
With President Obama, I always just assumed he was flat-out lying when he said he wasn’t in favor of gay marriage until recently. I’m from the same general educational/work/background etc. cohort as Obama, and of the hundreds and hundreds of similarly situated Ivy League NY/LA/Chicago/Boston professionals I know, I literally cannot think of one who is not in favor of gay marriage. And certainly not any HLS-educated lawyers who were constitutional law professors.
I agree it would be nice if Republicans could ever change their positions on social issues because it is good for Americans, instead of just for members of their families.
However, I won’t say too little, too late on this one. Portman didn’t wait until he was no longer in government like that chickenshit Dick Cheney and others. He’s still a senator, and a fairly young one at that. He can actually back up his words with action. We’ll see if he does.
Apparently you don’t either since you don’t make the case.
Is there a problem saying, 1) I can’t believe how long it takes these clowns to get it, and also, 2) But now that they’re with us, good?
No, there is no conflict.
Yeah, I’m with you. I never believed Obama evolved, I believe he waited until the polls looked good. So not so much dumb as cowardly.
@michael reynolds: I’m looking forward to the conservative commentators of tomorrow reminding us that “Dems were the real bigots on LGBT issues”, mentioning Clinton signing DOMA and implementing DADT and then mentioning like 2 elected Dems who were notably anti0gaty but switched over decades prior.
Well that and telling us that Dem’s want to cut Affordable Care (it wont be called Obama care in a decade, no one calls Social Security- “Roosevelt Retirement” continued identification with a iconic figure from the other side will be too detrimental) while the GOP just wants to reform it and preserve it for future generations.
When I first saw the headline I gave it a “don’t care,” but I’ve got to admit the “conversion when son suddenly gay” is a bit much.
Perhaps he’ll review corn subsidies when he raises a farmer.
Anyone remember when conservatives excoriated Obama for saying that one trait a Supreme Court judge should have is “empathy?”
Lindsay Graham called that “absurd and dangerous.” Seems that Portman has evolved on this, at least with regard to members of his family. I’m hoping he’ll extend his circle of empathy beyond blood kin. Keep evolving, Senator.
For what it’s worth, I think you did score a weak ding on Micheal.
Of course you have to ask yourself if that was ultimately constructive. When the partisan response is ankle-biting, that means there isn’t much else there. I mean, you did not step up to the principles embodied in Portman’s position last week, or now.
Perhaps you know they are both equivalently hollow, and so … kick a hippie.
Good for Portman. It doesn’t matter one whit how he got to the right side of this issue. For some people, it just takes a more personal involvement to push them over. Slamming him because “he doesn’t care until it’s his son” misses the point entirely. What’s important is his willingness to admit he was wrong before and his willingness to use his position as a senator to enlighten others, rather than try to protect it by remaining silent.
@michael reynolds: Politically smart, I think forcing for example Gays in the Military in 2009 through executive order would’ve polarized the electorate and given the GOP a much better chance to prevent the eventual repeal of DADT- if anything I think the last few years vindicates Obama’s concillatory approach, not in that its gotten stuff done (other than the 2010 lame duck session) but because its exposed just how extreme and unserious the GOP is– there’s a reason the public views Obama as the responsible adult in the room. The one area where this approach has possibly backfired was HCR, and even then its debatable given that for the GOP and certain conservative Dems it was never about policy so much as it was about pissing off liberals (witness Lieberman’s about face on Medicaid as a quasi-public option for those in their 40s and 50s) , well that and appointments where-in the Senate is broken and other than eliminating the filibuster nothing can really be done (there is no one who is not a Bolton equivalent–that is to antithetical to the very existence of said institution– who the GOP will allow cloture to be invoked for that could be nominated to head the CFPB) a fact which when combined with the recent judicial activism on the DC court for recess appointments effectively allows nullification of elections results by a small minority.
@Dan: I think the change in prizes from toaster ovens to Kindles is what did it.
Portman is a great guy. Stellar resume. Should have been the veep candidate last time around. And that’s not merely hindsight. A political icon in Ohio? Electoral College 101. Portman also would make for an excellent president. Unquestionably he’s one of the top-10 politicos in the entire federal government. And that’s not a case of damning him with faint praise. This guy is the goods. You’d want him as the CEO of your own business.
Alas, with this announcement, quite unfortunately, given the horrible demographics of the GOP’s primary selectorate, along with the related issue of the likes of South Carolina and Iowa having far too much influence in presidential politics, the inescapable conclusion is that Portman no longer has a chance to a national GOP candidate. Not in ’16. Not ever. Sad but true. And the various layers of irony would be lost upon large segments of the right-wing chattering classes.
Well, now we know why he did not get the VEEP nod.
Indeed. And 20 years from now, when enough old people in the South have died and gay marriage is the law of the land, conservatives will be saying , “They were always for gay marriage” and that the only reason gay marriage came so slowly was because of “Democratic foot dragging”.
I can already remember Log Cabin Republicans attacking President Obama for not moving quickly enough on abolishing DADT-while ignoring monolithic Republican opposition.
Did he internalize that he was wrong, or did he just do the necessary PR to move from position A to position B?
Well, the question is whether Senator Portman was able to extrapolate from the difficulties of his son to the difficulties of other gay people. He’s now officially on record as approving SSM, period. So I give him a thumbs up. Took him some time to get there, but he’s there.
He’s definitely not as bad as the anti-abortion idiots who are absolutely against abortion in all circumstances….unless it affects them. The picketing pro-lifer who has an abortion and who is back on the picket line the next week, smugly moralizing because the picketer herself is a “good girl” and getting pregnant was a horrible mistake and she DESERVES to have an abortion, but for every other woman in the the clinic “those sluts shouldn’t have gotten pregnant.”
Second… it’s relatively easy to empathize when it’s your own son. Funny, but I saw what Bob Portman could not *before* I knew anyone I cared about was gay (turns out I have a gay nephew).
So, while I’m pleased to see more of our leaders evolve on the issue, it’s striking to me how many do so in this manner: when suddenly they realize they’re demonizing/discriminating against their own.
This is human nature, and it’s present in all of us to an extent. But it’s hard for me to disagree with Reynolds here.
@OzarkHillbilly: ” I have “evolved” on many issues myself since I reached adulthood in 1976. ”
What people are criticizing is that he ‘evolved’ when it became about his family, and not one second before that. And on a zillion other issues he’ll be a right-wing tool unless and until a given issue impacts his family.
Well, no, it kind of does.
We have to share this planet with 7 billion people. As Americans, we have a lot of the resources, and how we chose to allocate them makes a great deal of difference to a great many people. And what we have is a huge percentage of the county who literally care about no one but them and theirs. And Portman, like all Republicans, is one of those people. Those kinds of people are worse than useless at dealing with a huge variety of problems, because they lack the ability to even see a problem if none of their own is affected.
But his story demonstrates that you can’t enlighten others; at least not Republicans. Portman wasn’t enlightened; probably a hundred people told him about wanting their gay sons to be happy and equal, and Portman didn’t give a damn. He only change his mind because his family was being hurt.
Even then it’s never a sure thing.
Take Paul Ryan for example. He got to where he is in life depending on the government the whole way. Now, he wants pull the ladder up behind him as he doesn’t think he should have to pay for others like himself. Ryan is an oppritunist that wants to make sure he is living the high life, and making sure he doesn’t have to pay it forward to anyone else.
Then you have people that Craig T. Nelson, who is obviously not alone in this thinking, that said that sure he was on food stamps and other assistance. But, did anyone help him out? No! He did it all himself.
It all boils down to selfishness. If it doesn’t effect these types of people in a positive way, they do not care. If it affects them in a negative way(and helps others in a positive way), they are against it. And even when they get where they are due to government assistance, some how they did it all themselves.
@swbarnes2: You know, you’re right. You make good points and I generally agree. But I think in the bigger picture, it’s irrelevant, and here’s why.
We can slam Portman’s character all day long, call him selfish and parochial and ask why he didn’t care until it was HIS family. And we’d have good points and good questions.
But what matters is RESULTS, and in this case the RESULT is a prominent, relatively young Republican in a position of power has come out and said he’s on the right side of this now, and I don’t care how he got there, because the RESULT of him speaking out is: a lot of other people who might be on the fence are going to get pushed off it. I think it IS possible to enlighten people–it just sometimes takes the right person saying the right thing.
Do I wish everyone was like us, understanding early on that allowing gays to marry is the right thing to do simply because they are human? I certainly do. But everyone ISN’T like us, and so if it takes an up-close-and-personal slap in the face to get them to see the light, I’m not going to hold it against them. Everyone has their path in life, everyone relates to the world through the filters of their own circumstances and upbringing. Sometimes that means they carry very firm preconceptions and misconceptions that aren’t challenged until someone very close to them comes out. And sometimes, not even then, sadly.
So I’m going to cut Portman a lot of slack, say “Welcome to the good side,” and push on.
We all see problems that effect our group, and tend to not see problems that don’t effect our group. The key thing is expanding what is seen as “our group.” Family -> Clan -> Tribe -> Nation… and possibly someday -> Species.
That’s a bit simplified, but you get the idea. The way to improve matters is to expand the scope of who “us” includes.
So Portman saw the light, because a family member showed him. It’s possible that’s it, end of story. It’s also possible that there is now a wedge in the door of his mind and it can be opened wider.
[funny, I was just ranting against utopianism recently and now I go all optimistic. Sue me]
Claiming that you welcome a convert with open arms 36 minutes after you called him a cretin is ridiculous, and deserves to be called out. If you were intellectually honest, you’d call him out, too.
As for Portman, I believe that the Republican party is big enough to accomodate people who support SSM, just like it accomodates people on both sides of other social issues. He’s allowed to have a position on SSM that differs from the majority Republican position, and he’s allowed to come to that position based upon his personal circumstances.
I think you’re nuts. I think most Republicans aren’t on any sort of a fence at all. And they’re not going to be unless they have the exact same experience that Portman did. They’re going to need to get smacked in the head with the reality hammer to realize that TEH GAYZ are actual human beings.
Well, you’re not the first…
Perhaps. Maybe I’m viewing things too optimistically, and most Republicans are as hard-headed as you say.
But at the same time, when someone like Portman, who has earned a great deal of respect in the GOP, speaks out in favor of gay marriage, it makes it more acceptable for others. So I’m still hopeful.
Emphasis on “this”. There are a million other important issues facing Americans, and Portman doesn’t give a damn, because he doesn’t give a damn about other people, and never will. Republicans never will.
We can’t run a country, or a planet, if the people setting policy care about no one on the planet except their own.
WAht evidence do you have to base this conclusion on? Did Cheney’s example make Rob Portman change his mind? You know that it did not. So why will Portman’s example change anyone else? What Republican will think that changing policy so that some other guy’s son doesn’t get hurt is the right thing to do?
You say that, but the evidence is clearly showing the opposite. No one’s words change Rob Portman’s mind. It was the harm to his family that changed his mind.
You are saying that all the gay couples who have suffer real, tangible harm because of Portman’s policies shouldn’t hold him responsible for that? We as a country and as part of a planet full of people simply can’t accept politicians who operate that way! We simply can’t fix any of the world’s problems, if so many of the people with the power to help are excused from doing so unless they are directly affected!
It is the responsibility of sentient people to fix those errors in judgment, and that is infinitely more true for those who choose to be in positions of power over others.
What you are saying is that we should all be fine with Portman totally failing at the job of begin a politician, and a human being. Sorry, I will never agree to that.
I know you’re excited because you think you scored, but you’re wrong.
If I were dealing with Mr. Portman directly I’d say “welcome to the club.” Because that would be politically smart. But I’m talking about him behind his back with friends. So I think it makes perfect sense to say, “Guy’s an idiot, but we should welcome him just the same.” I do welcome him. With open arms. The cretin.
The one is conversation and analysis, the other is practical politics. I don’t think you can really insist that the two be identical in word choice. I’m pretty sure that in the realm of politics there are more than a few eye rolls when some recalcitrant ninny sees the light. It’s like when my teenaged son manages to convey some programming concept to me: he’s glad I figured it out, and he thinks I’m an idiot. Both are sincere.
Amen. I would also point out that empathy is also being patient toward those who don’t “evolve” as quickly as we do. I’ve evolved from being against, or indifferent to , gay rights to being wholeheartedly in favor of gay rights. Part of that evolution had to do with having a gay relative who came out. We don’t always get to the right place in the same way, or at the same time.
I would offer that this is a pretty old trend with our Republican friends. You may recall after the Reagan assassination attempt a certain advisor to St. Ronnie took the brunt of the impact and ended up with serious and permanent disability from his brain injuries. James Brady ended up a spokesperson for gun reasonableness going forward.
Mark Twain wisely noted that travel is fatal to prejudice – this is the same phenomenon.
I think the record makes it pretty clear that Obama was way to the left on this issue, as far back as the 90s, and that his fallback to civil unions when running for national office was an act of political calculation (I’d probably say realism, instead of cowardice, and it’s totally fair to say he was lying to the electorate).
Obama back in ’96: “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight effort to prohibit such marriages.”
He’s also been publicly calling for doing away with DOMA since its inception.
In any case, my personal opinion is that his public support, as president, for marriage equality occurred when it still was a risky political unknown, and many in the pundit class argued it would cost him the election. I guess an argument can be made that his public support (the issue being woven into his reelection campaign, the party platform, etc) seems to have had a real impact (especially democratic constituencies) on public support for marriage equality, and so after factoring in that movement in the polls, perhaps he should have “evolved” much earlier in his presidency? I wonder what effect that would have had on the DADT repeal effort.
@Mikey: I agree. Early in this thread I commented on those who lack empathy for those outside their circle. I still believe that. That also means I have empathy for Portman and other like him and will not slam him for ultimately doing the right thing.
I know there are those who will disagree with me. However, I am one of those turn the cheek Christians and that is where I’m at.
I think Drum has this about right.
My first, gut reaction was that of Reynolds (and Jonathan Chait, who has a solid post up basically arguing what Michael is arguing). But Drum’s right: this is how we win and it’s best if we’re gracious about it. IMO.
@Rob in CT:
To a point. We can’t make it too painless to be so wrong.
They had their Come to Jesus moment. Good for them. If they feel shame…..oh well. They kinda should.
It’s funny though…..we’ve have several of these high-profile “I’m no longer officially anti-gay” moments on the right. Has the reverse ever occurred? Has a marriage equality person ever suddenly woke up homophobic?
When someone with Portman’s influence speaks out, others hear, and it becomes more acceptable for them to speak out. People keep silent because they think everyone else feels a certain way, and when it’s suddenly demonstrated that everyone else doesn’t feel that way, it’s easier for them to speak out too.
(It occurs to me my fence-sitting metaphor was inapt; such people aren’t really fence-sitting, just fearful of speaking out.)
I think his heart was in the right place. Bt he didn’t lead in the sens eof getting out in front on the issue. He timed his moves with great precision for political effect. I think “courageous” describes people who stand up for what’s right even when the politics are against them. That’s not what Obama did, as witness the ease with which his “evolution” was accepted. It ended up helping him in the election.
I have nothing against practical politics. It’s how we get things done. But just as I eye roll at Mr. Portman suddenly discovering that gays are people, too, I give an eye roll to Obama’s poll-assisted evolution.
And by the way, I’m equally critical of myself when I’ve been slow to recognize something. I was an idiot on Iraq. I welcome my conversion, but I was still an idiot.
I’ve got a kid who’s life may be put at risk if there are further cuts to community mental health services. I would really like to see a few Republicans go to bat for him – but I’m not holding my breath.
@Rob in CT:
Gracious is good up to a point. What I’m hoping is that conservatives will see the broader picture in which they’ve been on the wrong side of every civil rights issue since the dawn of time. I’m hoping they might broaden out to think, “You know if I was so completely full of it on this civil rights issue, maybe I should pause before leaping to the wrong side on the next one.” It would be nice if they got it before they ruined a bunch of people’s lives.
See? I’m a giddy optimist!
He’s not being slammed for doing the right thing. He’s being slammed for having a personal and political ideology like a broken clock; because its based on selfishness and ignorance, Portman will only support the fair and just thing when his family stands to directly benefit from it. He’ll support all kinds of horrible policies that harm other people, because he just doesn’t care about them. And that it’s not just Portman who thinks like this. All Republicans and conservatives do. The only Republicans to enthusiastically support the VAWA; women. The only Republicans who occasionally suggest that maybe Republicans shouldn’t be so overtly racist; the racial minorities, and a few Republicans married to minorities.
Sorry, but there isn’t a lot of virtue in opposing legislation that hurts your family. There is a decided immorality in supporting legislation that pointlessly hurts other people’s families, and that’s what Portman did for years, and will continue to do for years in other spheres of policy that don’t directly affect him and his family.
It’s difficult to reconcile the fact that someone in a position of influence is taking the correct position on an issue that is important to you with the fact that the influential person is a slimeball about it. I feel the same way.
There is a report that the bartender who made the famous “47%” video of Romney had encountered the Mittster previously when tending bar at a fundraiser.
Being a good bartender, he did his research on the guest of honor, and knew in advance what his drink was. When Romney approached the bar, a Diet Coke with lemon was waiting for him.
Romney didn’t acknowledge his server at all.
“He took it and turned and didn’t say anything,” the filmmaker explained. “I presented him the exact right drink that he wanted … Had it there, sitting there on a napkin. He took it out of my hand and turned his back without a ‘thank you’ or anything else.”
Without intending to, Romney neatly summed up the modern GOP with this action. In the process, he may have blown the election.
This is worth a look
Dad’s letter to his gay teenage son
As more evidence behind politician of both stripes being in favor of things which help their immediate family, Kevin Drum on how Congresscritters with daughters vote more favorably towards women
Doesn’t it beg the question of what it means to hold, as opposed to pretend, a position?
Portman’s PR story is that he prayed, and it suddenly came to him that he could have a heartfelt position opposite of the heartfelt position he held a year before.
Serious? Or pull the other one? Or negotiable tokens in identity politics?
John Cole reports that, as is often the case, Charlie Pierce has said what we were all trying to say, but said it a lot better.
I’ve looked at a couple of conservative sites, and Rob Portman’s change is being portrayed one of history’s greatest betrayals, just a step below the reversals of Judas Iscariot and Benedict Arnold. Here is a commenter at American Spectator:
Rob Portman, now revealed as a secret liberal monster. No wonder he thought long and hard before “coming out” as a supporter of gays.
Stay classy, Republicans.
So what? A hell of a lot of Republicans still support anti-equality policies, despite their openly gay friends. And do you really not know the “But my female/black/gay friend is the exception” argument?
What are you talking about? Who says that Portman ever had to expose his son to anything? Portman could have changed his stance on gay marriage in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, or 2012, and never once mentioned that his son was the reason. He didn’t have to mention in in 2013, either. Millions and millions of other people, and a hell of a lot of politicians, support gay marriage, and not because they have gay kids. They just have basic human decency and empathy.
This reminds me of the officers who were reading reports of abuses at Abu Ghraib, and then the pictures came out, claimed that they hadn’t really understood what they were reading, it was only seeing pictures that really brought it home. They were basically claiming functional illiteracy as their excuse for doing nothing about the abuse. You are basically claiming moral obliviousness as an excuse for Republicans.
Good grief, what an awful way to run a 21st century country. Politicians have to make policy on a wide variety of issues. Basically, you are saying that we should just expect sh*tty policies, except from those few politicians whose personal life exposes them to a tiny slice of reality. So we get the situation where Michael Steele can lament Republican racism, and Portman can lament Republican anti-gay animus, but Michael Steele will never care about gay marriage, and Portman will never care about racism, and neither will care about Lily Ledbetter, which a Republican woman cares about.
We have to expect more from people. We have to demand more of politicians. 21st century society will not survive being run by the kinds of politicians you seem happy with; the kinds who live safe in their privileged cocoons, and care nothing about the problems that affect other people.
(lifted from CNN report):
Look, guys–when you send out Gingrich to make comments about Teh Correct Way To Do Marriage…..well, words fail me.
Before everyone starts patting themselves on the back too hard for being all enlightened, empathetic and downright better people, you all do remember that it was less than twenty years ago that most Americans (both Republican and Democratic) were firmly against same sex marriage, right?
To paraphrase the great Mr. Rumsfield, you go with the politics you have, not the politics you wish you had. Lincoln was wishy-washy on slavery and FDR on civil rights, but they eventually did the right things. The political bottom line is that one of the heavy hitters against gay marriage is now on our team. Still, it remains to be seen what he does on other gay rights issues. As late as 2012, he was against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act:
Guess since he wants his son to work for a living, he will now be for his son’s right to sue bigoted “job creators”. Let’s see how that goes.
They were part of the 47% …. Who voted for the losing ticket
@Al: Wrong. Liberals, while supporting gay rights in general, were frankly oblivious to the issue of gay marriage equality until the cynical Karl Rove Republicans, ironically, decided to make it a wedge issue. That strategy has now backfired (as it has many times before with their divisive tactics) and will be yet another contributor to the ever growing irrelevance of the Republican party.
This is just too good. I’m going to steal this from a Commenter on Jonathon Chait’s blog.
I don’t think it can be put any better than that.
I don’t think that’s quite true. 20 years ago I’d never thought about it. It wasn’t on my radar.
Once it became an issue I had to think about I listened to the arguments pro and con. Long story short: there are no rational arguments con. Zero. The anti-gay side had nothing at all but prejudice and animus. So, as soon as I spent 20 minutes thinking about the issue, I supported gay marriage. I don’t recall the exact date, but there was never a time when I opposed it. There was a time when I hadn’t thought about it, and shortly after that there was a time when I said, “Sure. Why not?”
It usually takes a personal experience to get people change their view on controversial issues, and Portman is no different. I am pleased that he now supports gay marriage, regardless of the motivation behind his decision. I wish his son well.
This is the meat of it. They lack the capacity to empathize. They lack the capacity to imagine things as any different than they have always been. It’s like there’s been brain damage.
But of course they take things a step further. It’s not just that they can’t see anyone’s point of view than their own. It’s that they immediately reach for raw political power to shove their opinion down everyone else’s throat. It’s not enough that they don’t like the idea of gays marrying, they insist that it be outlawed.
This goes to the authoritarian heart of conservatism. And to their essential cruelty, their readiness to hurt people for no reason other than a desire to force their preferences on others while maintaining their own privilege.
Every time I hear self described “people of faith” on the right talk about issues such as gay rights, services for the poor, etc., I find myself wondering if they have grasped Jesus’ actual message at all. It certainly seems that love, compassion, brotherhood, and charity have very little to do with the religion they practice.
@Al: “Before everyone starts patting themselves on the back too hard for being all enlightened, empathetic and downright better people, you all do remember that it was less than twenty years ago that most Americans (both Republican and Democratic) were firmly against same sex marriage, right? ”
Yeah, well I wasn’t one of them. So what’s your point?
Meanwhile, Marc Rubio at CPAC:
I wonder if he has a gay relative somewhere?
No kidding. If he ever had any Presidential aspirations, they’re dead now. In fact, it’s fairly likely he’s torpedoed his political career in general by taking this stand. The GOP “base”–the people who come out and vote in the primaries and run the state-level party machines–will never forgive him.
Portman had to reconcile his position on marriage, his son’s sexuality, and his religious beliefs. As a formerly-fundamentalist-Christian, I understand how difficult it is to modify (or, in my case, shed altogether) cherished beliefs. For me, it was leaving the cocoon of religious home and school and realizing evolution is true and the earth is really billions of years old. For Portman, it was learning his son is gay.
So, having been down a similar path, I empathize with him. Perhaps that makes me too forgiving? I don’t know. I just know I’d want people to do the same, were I in a similar position.
“Civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights. . . conservatives get there, eventually,….” EXACTLY
I watched the Grapes of Wrath with Henry Fonda the other night…there is a scene when the Joad family pulls up to a “Dept. of Agriculture” work camp. It has toilets and running water, fair wages, playgrounds for kids, no police or goon presence etc.
After being beaten, arrested and threatened at their previous other work camps, Tom asks “why aren’t there more of these type camps?”
I exploded at the screen, “BECAUSE OF REPUBLICANS!!!!!!!” And its still that way 70 years later.
I was alive in the 30s and that movie still makes me cry.
Gay rights, gun control, less defense spending, legalizing pot…thank god for the younger generation.
There’s no worse advertisement for Christianity than Christians.
Ah, so the majority of Democrats that were against same sex marriage until the early 2000’s were… what? Uninformed?
Well, never say never. The political ground is shifting so rapidly on gay marriage that I can imagine a Republican presidential candidate coming out in favor of it in a couple of elections. Gay marriage has already moved from a political net positive to a net negative for Republicans running for state-wide offices in blue or purple states. Even folks like Marco Rubio are playing defense on the issue. Republicans running for office now either don’t mention it or soft-pedal discussion of the issue (“Yes, I’m for the traditional definition of marriage but I’m not a bigot and let’s discuss taxes and limited government.”)
Young Republicans say they are for gay marriage and complain that they don’t understand why older Republicans make such a big deal about it. I’d say that Rob Portman will likely not lose his Senatorial seat over this , and may be able to run for President in say, 2024 or 2028 without too much of a problem.
I have to give him credit to the extent that he just deep sided his career in republican politics. It is amazing what having a gay kid or sibling can do for one’s perspective. It’s a shame that it takes that, but often times it does. I was raised in a very Christian family. When I came out to my folks, they never saw it coming. Mom dealt with it fairly well, but it was hard on my dad. He and I didn’t have a normal conversation for a year. Got a call one night around 10 that he was in the hospital with chest pains. I drove 5 hours and was there by 3 am (I was the closest kid). things changed at that point.
Both brothers took it well, and my red necked brother took it better than I had hoped. In fact, if he and I were out at a bar and someone called me a fag or something, he would probably go in swinging.
At this point, they have not only accepted me, but my partner of 16 years as part of the family. My dad gives him as hard of a time as he does the rest of us.
Bottom line, when it happens in your family, it forces you to re-evaluate your beliefs and convictions. Often times you end up with broken relationships and broken families. He came to the conclusion that his son is still his son, that his love for his son is unconditional, and that his son deserves to be happy.
The more times this happens in the public eye, the more people come to the same conclusion without having someone in their family being gay. It makes it easier for kids to come out to their parents and it makes it easier for parents to accept a gay child.
Also, for any typos or weirdly phrased thoughts in my post, I appologize. Gravity and I had a slight disagreement, and I am typing on my iPad while in bed.
I get a shiver down my spine whenever I watch that scene.
You sure you don’t want to use the word “artistic” instead of “creative”? Its takes great creativity to do cutting edge science, engineering, or math (try it if you think otherwise, you might be surprised by how much imagination it takes), and quite a few of the top ones are conservative. Mind you, its almost always fiscally conservative, socially liberal (almost none are socially conservative) but still conservative.
@Al: The great thing about awareness is that it builds understanding and acceptance. It doesn’t happen overnight but it does happen. In the area of gay marriage, it’s happening faster than I ever dreamed it would. Whether people took time to get to this conclusion, or if they have always been for gay marriage doesn’t matter, it’s that they got there eventually.
@Tsar Nicholas: With gay marriage legal in Iowa for over 5 years now most of the right’s hate speech and bigotry is gone. Van der plaats makes a lot of noise but it doesn’t seem to be a rather large issue here anymore. Once they saw that gays marrying wasn’t causing hellfire and brimstone to rain down on us, they moved back to yelling about abortion.
@David in KC:
In theory, it should. When a morally and intellectual honest person does a 180 on one of their long held, frequently publicized beliefs, they slow down, and re-examine their lives to see what other stupid or immoral things their previously crappy life algorithm led them into believing. But I predict we will not see that from Portman. Because, as everyone has been saying, his life algorithm is simply “Good stuff for me and mine, f*ck everyone else”, and all that shifted is he discovered that one of his “f*ck everyone else” measures was accidentally impinging on his family.
@swbarnes2: True, but he at least got this right. I’ve seen what happens to kids when their parents come down on the other side. His rationale may be selfish, but he still got it right this time, and it may help others get it right in the future.
If Portman is able to learn from this, and realize that his life has been sheltered, and he doesn’t know a lot of people in worse circumstances, AND if he then makes an effort to understand those people and their needs even if they aren’t his immediate family — if he can do that, then I would happily embrace his evolution.
But, until he demonstrates that he is trying to learn empathy, he’s still scum. Just scum who agrees with me on an issue.
@David in KC:
James, Doug, are you proud of where the moral bar is set for conservatives? Portman shows the tiniest scrap of humanity by deciding that he no longer supports pointlessly cruel legislation that harms his family, and that’s supposed to be a great moral advance? One man is on the right side of one issue for purely self-serving reasons? This is nothing to get excited about. No one deserves a cookie because 1% of the policies they support are reasonable.
People keep saying that, but the evidence is plain. Cheney’s extremely tepid support of his daughter did not deflect Portman one iota away from his anti-gay policies. He probably heard of, one way or another, about a dozen parents who loved their gay children, and his policies were what they were. Like Michale Reynolds said, almost everyone inclined to be a decent human being on this matter has already heard 100 times as much information as they need to come to the morally right conclusion. It’s just not that hard a moral question!
So the good news is that Portman is a Republican with a gay child. He’s still in Congress with a completely useless world view, still unwilling to even make an effort to care about the lives of anyone he doesn’t know personally.
He’s still part of the problem.
@David in KC:
I think you’ll find that I agree.
Top scientists conservative?
Odd, considering Republican disdain for science and facts in general.
I guess I’d need to see some back-up to really buy it.
BWHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!! Oh, do tell us about how the GOP accommodates people who are in favor of abortion, against the death penalty, think that climate change is real, oppose the intermingling of government and religion, etc.etc.etc…after all, I’m sure we all could use another laugh…
This is the most interesting divide with Republicans/conservatives…when do the fiscally conservative but socially liberal types cleave themselves from the social conservatives who give their political party/movement a terribly bad name/reputation…
Here’s a link: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2011/02/18/why-are-scientists-so-often-liberal-in-political-outlook/
You’ll note that over half the scientists in the US consider themselves liberal, and about 10% conservative. That’s still a fair number of conservatives. If you did a survey world wide, you’d find an even higher percentage (probably a quarter would call themselves conservative). Why so many, considering how anti-science the Republicans are?
Because conservative isn’t the same as Republican, and most scientists don’t think it is. This is especially true internationally, where Merkel and Cameron would be considered to be conservative (including public health care, low military spending etc), whereas Romney and all would just be considered bat sh*t crazy. The Economist for instance is a conservative magazine. In the US, it would be not be considered such as all by the Republican party.
Self-described conservative scientists and engineers I’ve talked to at conferences make a point of saying they don’t like the Republican party, and what they mean by conservative has very little to do with GOP’ism (which is fiscally irresponsible, not interested in conserving the environment, and generally went off the rails a decade ago).
I agree. But without pain, none of us would ever grow.
No, 10% isn’t a fair number, it’s actually a very, very small number.
Second, why so many, considering how anti-science Republicans are? Well, one reason is that the GOP anti-science drive has intensified over the last 10-15 years. However, not all scientists became scientists in the last decade. Some of these men and women are in their 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s, and became both conservatives and scientists decades at a different time in our history, at a time when you could still be a Republican and be a believer in logic, facts, and rationalism.
What I hear you saying is that Republicanism has gotten in the way of conservatism.
I was thinking about that after I put up my post. I think if Portman were a representative rather than a senator, and had to run again next year, it would be difficult for him, but he’s only a couple years into a six-year senatorial term. The way things seem to be going, you’re probably right, it won’t hurt him in 2016.
When your moral framework is based on religious teachings that insist homosexuality is wrong and marriage is only valid between one man and one woman, it IS a hard moral question, because any answer contrary to those teachings is perceived as contrary to God.
Let us step back 50 years…
So much bigotry is often cloaked in supposed religious teaching…
@An Interested Party:
I agree completely, and the justification of bigotry through religious teaching is part of why I am no longer religious.
But that doesn’t mean it isn’t difficult for others to realize the same of their own cherished beliefs. People will go to unbelievable lengths to rationalize away their cognitive dissonances.
10% of a large number (hundreds of thousands of scientists world-wide) is still a large number.
And even in terms of percentage, in most contexts 10% is not very small. If you told me that 10% of the bolts you were supplying for bridge construction were faulty, I (and every other engineer I know) would look for a different supplier.
If conservative meant what the GOP thinks it means, there should be zero (absolute number, not some percentage) scientists who are conservative. Instead, there are tens of thousands of conservative scientists around the world – because what the GOP is pushing has only passing resemblance to conservatism. Ask Merkel if she thinks what the GOP is calling “conservative” is anything like what she considers it to mean. Most of the world disagrees with the GOP, and despite the GOP’s endorsement of American exceptionalism, I’d go with the world-wide definition and not the new perversions put onto the word by the Republican party.
I think what you are saying is that you have 10% hold-outs, who hope that the Republicans don’t really define conservatism.
10% may be non-zero, but it is hardly a healthy minority.
But in the context of a board about American politics, defining conservatism this way is the road to equivocation, because empirically, in America, conservative = Republican.
If all those “conservative” scientists are not Republicans then it is wrong to call them “conservative” on this board. Being all Platonic about the “real” definition of conservative is not helpful to analyzing American politics as it actually is.
@john personna: That quote by Santorum was far more revealing about the ‘modern’ social conservative wing (base) of the Republican Party than he intended or would admit. Freud would be proud of Rick.
I get the point about the American context, but the problem is, they call themselves “conservative”. Here’s another example – take Germany’s Merkel. She calls herself a conservative, though she and her party are well to the left of the Democrats in the US. Her party too is called conservative. Or Harper in Canada, who calls himself (and his party) conservative – but supports single payer public health care etc. It seems simpler to accept the labels people use themselves (though again the GOP disagrees, what with RINO’s and all).
In the case of scientists and engineers, you even get American ones who self-describe as conservative, but think the GOP is loopy (the stance on evolution alone is enough to ensure that). Are they wrong about themselves, even though they’ve had the same views all their lives?
So they are labeling themselves stupidly. If you are having a conversation on a board about American politics, and you are talking about a bunch of people who do not vote for Republicans, talking about them being “conservative” is a very bad problem for you, because no one will correctly understand what you mean, and you are setting yourself up to make fallacious arguments using equivocation.
Or, to put it another way, you keep acting as if labeling them “conservative” is meaningful. It doesn’t help if no one knows what “conservative” means, and if you intend to convey that these people do not vote for Republicans, you aren’t communicating that well at all by calling them conservative, because pretty much no one in America uses that word to mean that; they use it to mean the exact opposite.
“Are they wrong about themselves, even though they’ve had the same views all their lives? ”
If calling yourself “conservative” to others causes those others to be 90% wrong about the policy positions you hold, then yes, calling yourself that is wrong.
Now, using words to represent some Platonic ideal, even if the empirical facts completely undermine that Platonic ideal, that’s a conservative outlook in the American sense.
@michael reynolds: how smug and sanctimonious of you. FYI my mother was opposed to marriage equality until she found out I was gay. My father like lots of working class guys enjoyed a good fag joke until he discovered that I, his middle son was queer.
That doesn’t make them shits. It makes them ignorant, and very very human. If Obama gets a free pass to evolve then why not Portman?
You might want to practice a bit of the tolerance you preach.
@Laurence Bachmann: I agree with much of what you say until the end. I am sick ob being told to be tolerant of intolerance by the intolerant. They who do not tolerate others beliefs and actively spout hate have not earned tolerance from others. They have the right to say it, but that doesn’t mean we have to tolerate it.
Let’s remember that an Ohio Senator represents between 5 and 6 million people.
Think about that, and then the idea that you “flip” for your own son.
Kind of takes the wind out of “representative”, doesn’t it?
@Dave: I am not condoning prejudice. I am condemning the arrogant questioning of Portman’s sincerity or his motives. They happen to be the same as my parents, who wanted their child to be treated like everyone else. While I wish they had been more enlightened, I am offended to hear them described as shits because they were not as evolved as the fabulous Mr Reynolds.
Reynolds gives Obama a free pass on this issue but excoriates Portman. Bullshit. Obama “evolved” for votes. That is noble? Clinton actually signed DOMA but is excused because it “was a different time.” Double bullshit. I knew I was beingscrewed for expedience sake. He should be ashamed of himself. Portman, like Clinton and Obama has come to the right decision and this queer refuses to follow reynolds’ sanctimonious example and suggest his epiphany is less welcome then other former bigots’.
@john personna: It is called voting your conscience Of course one has to have one to understand voting with it.
Seriously, no. Your story is touching, but the thing about your parents is was that they were blind-sided, and presumably had not spent long hours on questions of political importance. They had no millions (some gay) to represent. They were not professionals.
A Senator? I want mine to vote my and my fellow citizens interests, and not their own. If I want them to think long and hard about anything, it is about what we the voters desire. That is their job.
It is an absolute rejection of the theory of representative government for a Senator to do all that, come up with his political position, and then throw it over when suddenly his life shifts – as many note, as Michael notes – to look a little more like the voters he is already representing.
I witnessed an incredible moment at a girl’s basketball game earlier this week that I wanted to share with you all now that the story seems to have some legs. I’ve never witnessed anything so humbling and powerful at a sporting event. Even though it’s not political, I bet you’ll want to share this link with as many people as you can. http://www.rightmichigan.com/story/2013/3/15/132023/218
It is the very narrowness of this vision that is being criticized here. It’s just the Golden Rule: you should treat other people’s children the way you want your own treated. If you don’t want the law hurting your children for no good reason, don’t pass policies and laws that hurt other people’s children. It’s simply not moral rocket science.
@swbarnes2: So people like Obama and Clinton get a pass for denying people full equality until it is convenient but my parents and Portman are in Reynolds words hypocritical shits, and in yours suffer from narrow vision. How about you apply the same standard to your Democrat friends you do to people like Portman. I’m just saying. Otherwise you seem to be a hypocrite. Albeit an “evolved” one.
No one gives them a “pass”, and let’s not forget who made it inconvenient; all the politicians who oppose equality, because their constituents do.
What’s instructive about Portman’s situation isn’t about gay marriage, it’s about what it reveals about his overall ideology, which he shares with a large # of Americans and American politicians. It’s that they honestly do not give a damn if their policies hurt lots and lots of other Americans. They can literally only understand the harmful implications of their policies if it happens to their tiny circle of family.
Well, we can’t run a country, or a planet with that attitude. But thanks to Republicans and the people who vote them into power, that’s what we’ve got.
Well, what can we say? That they are dandy people for advocating policies that hurt innocent people? My parents advocate policies that hurt innocent people, and I’m not going to defend that. I think it’s rotten, and am glad that their blue state is smarter about that then they are.
But I’m sorry, but yes, if you spend years supporting policies that treat one’s own straight children better than other people’s gay children, it’s hypocritical to be upset when other people demand that their straight children be treated better than your gay kids.
The standard I apply to all politicians is that they should operate off of a moral code more just than “good stuff for me and mine, f*ck everyone else”. Portman’s change of heart still puts him squarely in that ideology, along with pretty much all other conservatives and Republicans. Democrats in general do not operate along those lines. There are many, many Democrats who support equality without gay family members. There are almost no such Republicans. There are many Democrats who oppose overt racism, like the kind on display at CPAC, even though they are not themselves racial minorities. There are almost no such Republicans. There are many Democrats who support policies that benefit women, even though they themselves are not women. There are almost no such Republicans. There are many Democrats who support policies that help the poor, even though they themselves are not poor, or never were. There are virtually no such Republicans.
So stop trying to draw the two sides as equivalent. They are not.
My point is that the majority of Americans being against same sex marriage isn’t some far off thing, it was twenty years ago. To put it another way, you Micheal and myself were were taking a radical position within living memory.
I remember having discussions with people on both sides of the isle that thought I was crazy for advocating that gays be given the right to marry. While liberals and Democrats should be lauded for managing to pull this issue out of the fringe and into the mainstream in an astonishingly short time period, the idea that they were both always there doesn’t hold water. The math doesn’t work.
Sure some of the shift in opinion happened because the old people died. Still, like it or not, a large chunk of people, including liberals, who are for same sex marriage now went through a similar process that Portman went through. They started off against it and through whatever soul searching they did they changed their mind. To pretend otherwise is rewriting history.
But you are conflating two rather different things.
There is a difference between a person in 2001, who hadn’t ever thought about gay marriage, sitting down, thinking for five minutes, realizing that it’s no big deal, and changing their mind, and someone in 2013 who previously advocated treating his children better than other people’s children, and then gets upset when he realizes that that same law actually does the opposite.
In 2013, there really isn’t a large population of people who oppose same-sex marriage only because they’ve never thought about it. Everyone like that has already moved to the reasonable side of the argument. Portman isn’t one of those people, and its dumb to act like he is.
Or to put it another way, it’s a disservice to lump Portman, who has had no change of heart, but has been acting purely out of self-interest from start to finish, with all the people who changed their minds because they really value the welfare of people they aren’t related to. Lots and lots of liberals fall in that latter category, virtually no conservatives do.
The problem with this line of reasoning is that (a) the polling data doesn’t support it and (b) it pretends that there was no discussion on the issue prior to the turn of the century.
At least 90% of the population is wrong when talking about even basic aspects of physics (even about atoms, sadly enough – the majority think of something that looks like a miniature solar system). So are physicists wrong when they use the word atom in a sense other than what the majority of the population means (ie quantum mechanics, orbitals and the whole Standard Model)? According to your concept of language, they are, and should come up for a new word for what they have in mind, since the common usage is quite different.
But if the definition of a word shifts over a few decades because of common usage, language is going to be chaos. That’s as true for ‘conservative’ as it is for ‘atom’, or ‘evolution’, or ‘theory’. If the scientists in question were redefining conservative then I’d agree they were being stupid. However, they’re just holding onto a definition that was accept in the US a couple of decades ago, and still is accepted in most of the world. And if you go by the dictionary definition, they’re correct, and the 90% is wrong.
What do you think the point of communication is? Is it to show yourself to be on an ideological team? Or is it to pass along accurate information? You seem to be arguing that it’s very important for the American “conservative” team to count lots and lots of scientists in their ranks, even though those scientists disagree with almost everything that American conservatives believe and stand for. I’m arguing that people ought to use words so that other people actually know what is being talked about, so if using the word “conservative” makes people be 90% wrong about what you mean, you are doing a piss-poor job of communicating.
So yes, if a scientist is talking to a bunch of laymen for the purpose of educating them, she should not use words which she knows they will interpret incorrectly. It’s just common sense. Obviously when scientists talk to each other, the idea expressed by the word “atom” is correctly conveyed by that word, because both parties understand how the word is used by scientists.
Yes. Welcome to the world as it actually is, not as you Platonically wish it were. It does happen that one person wishes to indicate a 90% loss of their stock to another person, and that this fact is passed from one person to another by means of the word “decimate”, even though that’s not what the dictionary says the word means. Empirically, that works with many, many people, even those familiar with the classical definition of the word. So you can go with what works, with communicating to increase how much accurate knowledge is possessed by different people, or you can pout, and use words as mere social signaling, knowing that they will impart inaccurate information to the people you are communicating with.
No, I’m arguing that the meaning of words shouldn’t adjust themselves over short time periods based on what’s in local fashion. The scientists don’t consider themselves as part of the Republican team, and most make that clear.
Suppose the Republicans decide that ‘scientist’ now means “someone who believes the world is only 10000 years old” (not a bigger shift than what they did with ‘conservative’. Does that mean scientists would have to create a new word for themselves? Do “Arts and Sciences” departments have to drop “Scientists” for that new word? Does a BSc degree now refer to someone with a bachelors in a discipline that believes the world is that young, and it would be stupid or misleading for American scientists to continue to call themselves ‘scientist’, even though in the rest of the world ‘scientist’ would have its old meaning?
Apparently you would argue they should. I disagree.
I think this is a fairer point than others have acknowledged.
As for myself… I’m 36. Growing up, there were a lot of homo/fag jokes. Just normal banter stuff. But potentially hurtful for actual gay kids. It took a while for me to realize that – it simply didn’t occur to me when I was in highschool. That was a failure of empathy. I plead: teenager + culture. Still, failure of empathy. Now I get it.
I didn’t think about gay marriage at all until… gosh, ~15 years ago? It simply wasn’t on my radar. I wasn’t anti-gay and if the subject had come up I think I would have done what I did when it did get on my radar: think about it for a little bit and come to the obvious conclusion that equality is the right move. My first brilliant thought was Civil Unions For Us All. I figured the religious folks might be happy if we left them “marriage” and shifted over to CUs (with all the legal/governmentally-derived rights, privileges and responsibilities of marriage) for the rest of us. Yeah, well. It seemed like a good idea, but it was naive. I realized that during the 2004 election, I think. So from then on I was fully pro-gay marriage. 2004 was 9 years ago. I was never *anti* and I think that matters. But this really did move pretty darned fast.
Too bad. They do. Sorry if your delicate Platonic aesthetic sense is offended. Empirically, if you use the word “conservative” to describe to a bunch of people who believe the earth is old, who believe stem cell research is valuable, who believe that gay people are not monsters, who believe that Iraq never had any WMDs, and that pregnancy and avoiding pregnancy are valid health concerns, etc, no one hearing that will correctly ascribe those positions to those people. I’m sorry if that fact offends your sense of how things ought to be, but there it is.
If you wish to inform people that you do not hold Republican policies, calling oneself “conservative” in America is the exact opposite of being clear.
If they wish to accurately converse with Republicans, then yes, for use with Republicans only. If honest communication is desired, what’s the alternative? Do you not understand that honest, accurate communication requires the use of words where both sides agree on their meaning? You think it is more important for scientists to show that they are on team Reality than it is to communicate accurately? Scientists are empiricists; they go with what actually works, not with what theoretically and ideologically ought to work.
I know this conversation is thread drift, but I think this conversation is germane to conservative politics in general; Republicans say that rapes don’t cause pregnancy, not because they are attempting to pass on accurate information, but because they are trying to posture themselves as part of “team forced pregnancy”, and that claim supports their team ideology. Doug will ask three days in row “Why do Republicans say such stupid things?” He’s not trying to pass on or receive accurate information about Republican motivation; he’s just socially posturing; he’s trying to signal that he disagrees with some of the stupidity he supports with his votes, without outright condemning his “team”.
We are social organisms, so it’s natural for us to act like this, but it’s an instinct that we should repress, in favor of respecting the truth about our world. But it’s definitely a behavior that we should criticize the hell out of when we see politicians who shape our live with their policies indulging in it.
@michael reynolds: So where is the hue and cry against that opportunistic shi! Hillary Clinton who is even a week later than Portman, and clearly endorsing marriage equality out of political expedience, not moral conviction. I waited a day to give you a chance to huff and puff against her self serving motives. But I guess that only applies to conservatives. Hypocrite. Imagine being slower to evolve than Rob Portman and Barack Obama.
Neither of the Clintons did well on this issue. Bill has to live down DOMA. Hillary jumped on the bandwagon late. There are likely many Dem pols who, like Obama, were pro- or at least not anti- who pretended to be anti- so they could win elections. Which is worse? The sincerely wrongheaded or the person who knows the right answer but shies away in exchange for power (even if they rationalize it as seeking power to do good)?
Fair question, IMO. I don’t think there is a universal answer to that.