Democratic Backsliding and the American Right

The only way to save our freedom is to destroy it.

The six weeks thus far of Russia’s brutality against the people of Ukraine have had a silver lining: a reigniting of the Western alliance. The most powerful economies on both sides of the Atlantic have stepped up to supply military aid to Ukraine and combined forces to impose crippling sanctions against Putin and his cronies. NATO is as strong as it’s been in decades, with even the long-lagging Germans showing resolve and pledging to radically increase its investment in collective defense.

Alas, it hasn’t all been peaches and cream, however. There has been a shocking amount of pro-Putin sentiment from right-wing elements in America and Europe. And democratic backsliding is quite possible.

The NYT reports that French President Emmanuel Macron’s efforts to negotiate a peace deal may actually cost him his job.

The diplomatic attempt to end the war in Ukraine has been time-consuming for Mr. Macron, so much so that he has had little time for the French election, only to awaken to the growing danger that France could lurch to the anti-immigrant right, with its Moscow-friendly politics and its skepticism of NATO.

Marine Le Pen, the hard-right leader making her third attempt to gain power, has surged over the past couple of weeks, as her patient focus on cost-of-living issues has resonated with the millions of French people struggling to make ends meet after an increase of more than 35 percent in gas prices over the past year.

The most recent poll from the respected Ifop-Fiducial group showed Ms. Le Pen gaining 21.5 percent of the vote in the first round of voting next Sunday, almost double the vote share of the fading extreme-right upstart Éric Zemmour, with 11 percent, and closing the gap on Mr. Macron with 28 percent. The two leading candidates go through to a runoff on April 24.

More worrying for Mr. Macron, the poll suggested he would edge Ms. Le Pen by just 53.5 percent to 46.5 percent in the second round. In the last presidential election, in 2017, Mr. Macron trounced Ms. Le Pen by 66.1 percent to 33.9 percent in the runoff.

“It’s an illusion that this election is won for Mr. Macron,” said Nicolas Tenzer, an author who teaches political science at Sciences Po university. “With a high abstention rate, which is possible, and the level of hatred toward the president among some people, there could be a real surprise. The idea that Le Pen wins is not impossible.”

Édouard Philippe, a former prime minister in Mr. Macron’s government, warned this past week that “of course Ms. Le Pen can win.”

This notion would have seemed ridiculous a month ago. Ms. Le Pen looked like a has-been after trying and failing in 2012 and 2017. Mr. Zemmour, a glib anti-immigrant TV pundit turned politician with more than a touch of Donald Trump about him, had upstaged her on the right of the political spectrum by suggesting that Islam and France were incompatible.

Now, however, Mr. Zemmour’s campaign appears to be sinking in a welter of bombast, as Ms. Le Pen, who said last year that “Ukraine belongs to Russia’s sphere of influence,” reaps the benefits of her milquetoast makeover.

Mr. Zemmour may in the end have done Ms. Le Pen a service. By outflanking her on the right, by becoming the go-to candidate for outright xenophobia, he has helped the candidate of the National Rally (formerly the National Front) in her “banalization” quest — the attempt to gain legitimacy and look more “presidential” by becoming part of the French political mainstream.

Granted, the far-right has come close many times over the years at taking power in France and has always fallen short. But the notion that Putin’s aggression is actually helping their cause is a stunning thing, indeed.

Meanwhile, Hungarian autocrat Viktor Orban looks to have cruised to another term precisely by running against “Europe.” AP:

“We won a victory so big that you can see it from the moon, and you can certainly see it from Brussels,” said Orban, who has often been condemned by the European Union for democratic backsliding and alleged corruption.

“The whole world has seen tonight in Budapest that Christian democratic politics, conservative civic politics and patriotic politics have won. We are telling Europe that this is not the past, this is the future,” Orban said.

To be sure, Orban’s opposition was hampered by voting rules rigged in his favor and the fact that he controls state media. Still, Putin’s invasion clearly played a role in his win.

While Orban had earlier campaigned on divisive social and cultural issues, he dramatically shifted the tone of his campaign after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, and has portrayed the election since then as a choice between peace and stability or war and chaos.

While the opposition called for Hungary to support its embattled neighbor and act in lockstep with its EU and NATO partners, Orban, a longtime ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has insisted that Hungary remain neutral and maintain its close economic ties with Moscow, including continuing to import Russian gas and oil on favorable terms.

At his final campaign rally Friday, Orban claimed that supplying Ukraine with weapons — something that Hungary, alone among Ukraine’s EU neighbors, has refused to do — would make the country a military target, and that sanctioning Russian energy imports would cripple Hungary’s own economy.

“This isn’t our war, we have to stay out of it,” Orban said.

The president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, on Saturday depicted the Hungarian leader as out of touch with the rest of Europe, which has united to condemn Putin, support sanctions against Russia and send aid including weapons to Ukraine.

“He is virtually the only one in Europe to openly support Mr. Putin,” Zelenskyy said.

It wasn’t just the literal war in Ukraine though but also the culture war:

Orban — a fierce critic of immigration, LGBTQ rights and “EU bureaucrats” — has garnered the admiration of right-wing nationalists across Europe and North America. He has taken many of Hungary’s democratic institutions under his control and depicted himself as a defender of European Christendom against Muslim migrants, progressives and the “LGBTQ lobby.”

Along with the election to parliament, a referendum on LGBTQ issues was being held Sunday. The questions pertained to sex education programs in schools and the availability to children of information about sex reassignment.

Ultimately, as much as I lament democratic backsliding in Europe, what most distresses me is the fact that there are a significant number of Americans who seem positively giddy over it.

Steven Taylor noted this from American Conservative columnist Rod Dreher last night:

Aside from being completely bonkers as an assessment of the state of play, it’s simply a bizarre stance by someone whose Twitter profile declares themself a “conservative” and “Europhile.” But, apparently, owning the libs is the highest value now.

And, apparently, something about the gays:

In a column published early this morning, Dreher is more measured, arguing that Orban was against the invasion but simply trying to keep Hungary out of the fight, a politically popular position.

It is not often that the head of a right-wing party gets to run for re-election as a peace candidate, but that’s what Orban did, and it paid off. Over and over, talking to people in the streets, in pubs, in taxi cabs, I heard the same thing from people: however ready they might be for a change in government after twelve years of Fidesz, this opposition is incompetent, and besides, nobody wants to change leadership in a time of national crisis.

And then there was the LGBT media law referendum. Last summer, the Fidesz-controlled Parliament passed a law prohibiting certain expressions of pro-LGBT information aimed at minors. It caused a huge uproar among European leaders, who called it rank bigotry. Orban decided to put the questions to voters in a referendum yesterday. Hungarians were asked to approve or disapprove of the following questions:

1. Do you support the promotion of gender reassignment treatments for minor children?”

2. Do you support the display of media content showing gender reassignment to minors?

3. Do you support the unrestricted depiction of sexual-themed media content to minors that affect their development?

4. Do you support holding sessions on sexual orientation for minor children in public education institutions without parental consent?

It was a smart political move, because it meant that those who agree with the government would be more likely to turn out to vote. The opposition, knowing that they would lose the referendum, called on its voters to spoil their ballots, knowing that the referendum would be non-binding if fewer than 50 percent of eligible voters cast ballots.

In one sense, the opposition strategy paid off. Though 90 percent of those who voted in the referendum sided with the government, just under half voted for the referendum, making its result invalid. Practically speaking, it doesn’t matter, because the law remains in effect. Now, though, European leaders know that the government’s policy has strong popular support. And, for an opposition that loves to claim that Orban undermines democracy, urging people to void a national referendum via spoiled ballots was not a good look.

That the questions were ridiculously stilted, such that not even the staunchest believer in LGBTQ rights, could say Yes to any of them, is beside the point, I guess. And, naturally, Orban has drawn a roadmap for American Republicans.

What does this mean for American conservatism? You have to be careful not to overdraw the lessons. Hungary is a small, ethnically homogeneous country, with a particular history that sets the boundaries on politics here.

[…]

Nevertheless, there are some lessons to be drawn. The first one is already underway in the US. Orban does not shy away from fighting the culture war. In Hungary, gay couples have the legal right to form civil partnerships, and there is broad tolerance of gays and lesbians. But most people here reject transgenderism, and they especially reject the gender ideology propaganda liberal elites and their supporters in schools and media direct towards children. In my six months here in Budapest over the past year, whenever I talk to Hungarians about what has become routine in the United States regarding media, educational, and woke-capitalist indoctrination aimed at kids regarding transgenderism, they visibly struggle to believe that what I’m saying is true. But of course it is true. As we know from Christopher Rufo’s publication of videos from an internal Walt Disney Company session, Disney has been inserting pro-LGBT messaging into its children’s programming for years, and plans to double down on it.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s new law forbidding propagandizing children aged nine and under in schools with this stuff is a pale shadow of Hungary’s law, but it’s similar — and it is very popular nationally, even among Biden voters. Last week the Biden administration released new federal health guidelines on transgender “care” for children — and in them, openly laid the groundwork for the possibility of the state seizing children from their families to submit them to hormones and surgeries.

Orban has shown now that going against elites in the media, corporations, and foreign governments to protect children is a big winner. It is time for Republicans to be more faithful to the people they claim to represent than to the donor class on this issue.

This is just a loony-toon characterization of the state of play. While I’m not a religious man, I’m pretty conservative socially. I’m broadly supportive of trans rights but more than a little squeamish about how far we should go in affirming the confusion about very young children about their sex and sexuality. And, beyond that, generally think the public schools shouldn’t proselytize on controversial social issues. But the notion that there’s some broad conspiracy to turn our kids gay and trans is absurd.

But Dreher actually thinks it’s worse than that!

I have been saying for the past year that US conservatives should come to Hungary to learn from Orban and Fidesz. Orban is not a small-government Anglo-Saxon conservative. He believes in using the power of the state to strengthen families, the basis of any health society. But the most important thing US conservatives can learn is how to use political power to fight the culture war — and not in the most obvious ways, such as with the referendum. Orban is a country boy who knows very well how the Left dominates culture here in Hungary, especially cultural institutions. And he understands, in ways that elude American conservative politicians, how the soft power wielded by the Left in those institutions changes society in progressive ways. This is why for all the political victories the GOP has racked up over the past few decades, the broader society and culture has continued its accelerating drift leftward.

As I wrote last month, quoting the political scientist Eric Kaufmann and his research on American society, conservatives absolutely cannot afford to be complacent here, and mindlessly observe the old liberal habits of keeping the government’s hands off of non-political matters. As Kaufmann pointed out, the younger generation in the US is so far to the Left, and so hostile to old-fashioned liberal values like free speech and tolerance of diverse opinions, that if conservatives don’t find a way to stop or reverse these trends, there will be no place for us to exist in the America of the near future.

The call now among some Republican commentators for the state to take action against Disney, to revoke its special privileges on copyright to retaliate for its indoctrination of American children, is a pure Orban move. We need to see more of it. Republicans have been so prostrate before Big Business that they have sat there like idiots while Woke Capitalism organizes to turn conservative values of faith and the traditional family into pariahs among the young. Either we on the Right will learn from Viktor Orban how to use politics to fight this, or we will be defeated.

That’s right, folks. The left is so hostile to free speech and tolerance of diverse opinions that the only recourse is to use the power of the state to squash their speech and steal their property. Because America.

FILED UNDER: Democracy, Europe, Religion, World Politics,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Cheryl Rofer says:

    You are much too kind to Dreher. He has been a religious nut for some time and has now given up the pretense of being merely Fascist-adjacent.

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  2. James Joyner says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: I honestly haven’t read him more than a handful of times in years, precisely because it’s All Religion, All the Time. Ross Douthat is too religious for my tastes but at least has broader concerns.

    6
  3. SC_Birdflyte says:

    Joe McCarthy used to warn against cover Soviet infiltration incessantly, trampling on the Bill of Rights in the process. Kevin McCarthy is apparently okay with Putin and his admirers openly undermining our democratic republic.

    3
  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    1. Do you support the promotion of gender reassignment treatments for minor children?”
    I support you minding your own business.
    2. Do you support the display of media content showing gender reassignment to minors?
    WTF are you afraid of Rod?
    3. Do you support the unrestricted depiction of sexual-themed media content to minors that affect their development?
    WTF are you even talking about?
    4. Do you support holding sessions on sexual orientation for minor children in public education institutions without parental consent?
    Again? WTF are you fear mongering about?

    Rod Dreher has a projection problem. Wait for it, in the near future he’s gonna pull a Caitlin Jenner and come out as trans. It happens every time with these culture warriors. Whatever they are obsessed with turns out to be the very thing they struggle so very hard to bury.

    Either that or he’s just nutty as a fruitcake.

    15
  5. Kylopod says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Wait for it, in the near future he’s gonna pull a Caitlin Jenner and come out as trans.

    A while back Alex Jones’ computer was spotted opened to a trans porn page. I suspect that’s the likelier equivalent of the old “gay-basher is gay himself” trope (trans bashers are secretly attracted to trans people, not that they’re trans themselves)–but I haven’t seen enough examples of it to have any real idea how common it is.

    4
  6. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Kylopod:

    IIRC, Andrew Vachss referred to men attracted to transitioning women as ‘Tranny Chasers.’ So yes, Jones, Dreher and others very likely fall into that catagory.

    1
  7. Kathy says:

    Why are imaginary dangers treated as worse than real ones?

    While these people are busy spreading hysteria about nothing, millions lie dead of a disease they’ve been trying for two years to dismiss as nothing.

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  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kylopod: Whatever is behind it, it’s obvious that Dreher is absolutely terrified by the idea of trans. It’s got to be personal.

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  9. Slugger says:

    It is hard for me to understand the popularity of Orban. Hungary spent 45 years under domination by Moscow. In 1956, Hungarians were throwing Molotov cocktails in the streets of Budapest against Russian tanks, and some of those people must still be around. Ethnonationalism must be a stronger drug than I imagine. Of course, the Hungarians did join NATO and the EU which means that they are not as proRussian as Serbia.
    I am not sure about the contagiousness of the Hungarian ideas. Ireland and Spain have clearly stepped away from the Catholic church. However, it does appear that people can be moved by fear of a tiny fraction of unconventionally gendered folks. The trans person I have seen the most is Amy Schneider on Jeopardy; not scary at all.

    1
  10. KM says:

    @Slugger:
    1956 is a long time ago and people have short, short memories.

    Every few years the rot re-manifests to seek out folks with grievances, anger or feel disempowered. The search for identity and the lure of offered superiority means people fall for the same BS over and over again. Meet the new boss, same as the old – nostalgia for the Old Days will inevitable include the Bad Old Days for some.

    1
  11. drj says:

    Make no mistake: #ViktorOrban is the leader of the West now

    * Hungary’s electoral districts are heavily gerrymandered.
    * There are few independent media left, and all state media is controlled by Orban’s party.

    And that’s the country that Dreher wants everyone else to live in.

    Because in such a country, he (and his ideas) would have more power than in an open democracy. And that’s all that counts: “Me, me, me!”

    Everybody else just can get fucked.

    @Slugger:

    It is hard for me to understand the popularity of Orban.

    Gerrymandering and media control.

    Basically the GOP playbook. Except that the GOP has to be a bit more subtle (for now) about the media control.

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  12. James Joyner says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: @Sleeping Dog: I see no value in baseless speculation along these lines.

    5
  13. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner: Of course not. I suppose you’d rather just act as tho his obsession springs out of nothing.

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  14. MarkedMan says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: He also revealed himself to be literally terrified of black people during the BLM riots. Still, I don’t think he is likely to come out as African American…

    4
  15. grumpy realist says:

    I’ve noticed also that quite a lot of Putin-supporters a.k.a. “no, no, it’s impossible that the Russian Army committed war crimes it must have been the Ukrainians” have been posting over on Dreher’s columns and TAC in general

    And because Dreher’s the gatekeeper for what gets posted as comments to his column, he’s obviously not caring how nutty such individuals sound. Or how nutty they make TAC sound.

    In fact, the entire community over there has been working themselves into hysterics and blaming The Evil Left for everything. (So much for your integrity, Mr. Live-not-by-Lies.)

    3
  16. Kylopod says:

    @James Joyner: Just to be clear where I stand, I make no speculations about Rod Dreher. I’m just making general observations about what may or may not underlie obsessions like his. I’m not even one of those people who every time they see an obsessive homophobe thinks “Definitely a closet case.” But that is a real thing, and I believe there’s an equivalent with transphobia. I just think it’s likely a more complex phenomenon. For instance, what animates TERF women like JK Rowling? She says it’s because she was once sexually assaulted. By a cis man. But she thinks trans women are men posing as women to gain access to women. Sorry, I have to call bullshit. The reasoning is circular. It doesn’t seem to lead where she thinks it leads.

    The gist I get from transphobes of all stripes is that they are threatened by what they see as the breakdown of traditional categories. That sounds like an incredibly mundane explanation for the cruelty it’s being used to justify. But it circles back to much of the conservative-reactionary outlook on the world. In objective reality, the world is a continuum–there aren’t sharp boundaries between things. When there appear to be, it’s our human mind imposing them on the world. A great deal of conservative rhetoric involves resisting any recognition of this fact, and an insistence that the categories are absolute–human vs. animal, baby vs. embryo, man vs. woman, and so on. The very concept of a continuum is so alien to them, that’s how they reach their confused pronouncements about how it’s “scientific fact” that life begins at conception or that gender and sex are an unbreachable binary, so that therefore it’s progressives who are the ones questioning “science”–and what they mean by that word is the doctrine of category absolutism they mistakenly equate with science. Their entire worldview is built on this absolutism, and they’re willing to go to any lengths to protect it.

    8
  17. EddieInCA says:

    @grumpy realist:

    As someone who has followed Dreher since his “Crunchy Con” days at National Review, it’s quite amazing to see the transformation from what was a straight mainline Republican to a religious zealot with an obsession with trans rights. It’s been quite a jour

    I’ve worked with a woman for 9 years, and only found out she was trans about six months ago. I had no idea. None. Turns out she transitioned 20+ years ago. I had zero idea. She was just “Gabby”* I don’t understand, and never will, people’s preoccupation with what other people are doing nor how they live. As long anything anyone does doesn’t directly affect me, and they’re not hurting other people, why would I even care about whether someone is gay, trans, asexual, etc?

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  18. Jay L Gischer says:

    The phrase “gender reassignment treatments” works here a lot like “weapons of mass destruction” did.

    I mean, do I support hormone blockers in some cases? Yes! Do I support telling families, including children, how they work? Yes! Do I support giving them to children after a thorough screening? Yes!

    So, what about bottom surgery? Do I support that for minor children? Absolutely not. That is going to have to wait.

    But both of them are “gender reassignment treatments”.

    At its core, that’s the problem with these questions. But you don’t get to counter-interrogate a ballot.

    6
  19. Kathy says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    If these people cared even a little about children, they’d be up in arms against the practice of surgical alteration of intersex children shortly after birth.

    5
  20. Sleeping Dog says:

    @grumpy realist:

    In the Times coverage of the atrocities this morning, in one village, survivors noted that the Russian troops had been replaced by a Donbas militia. These survivors noted the Russian’s were mostly benign, simply confused conscripts who didn’t know why they were there. The militia was another matter and those villagers blamed the atrocities on the militia members. So it is possible that Ukrainians were involved in killings, and under Russian command.

    1
  21. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy: Also: When the fuck did conservatives ever care about women’s sports prior to this?

    9
  22. KM says:

    @EddieInCA:

    As long anything anyone does doesn’t directly affect me, and they’re not hurting other people,

    Here’s the thing – this reasonable-sounding statement simply does not mean the same thing to us as it does to them. Trans folks “directly affect” haters the same way any Other does – by existing and challenging the status quo. When someone doesn’t conform to the binary worldview you’ve got etched into your brain, they directly affect you by making you deal with questions. It’s why “when did you decide you were straight or cis?” is such an unanswerable, anger-induced query to them – you are making them ponder fundamental meta questions about reality.

    Trans folks “hurt other people” by offering another perspective that may result in changes spiritual, mental, social and physical – harm if you view your way as the only correct way. The idea of physically transforming the outside to match the inside has always frightened some, even if it is something as mundane and temporary as a hairstyle or type of clothing. It implies that one’s inner beauty and self is more important then socially imposed standards. There’s also the inherent sexism that transiting shows how society mistreats one gender; one is either weirdly choosing to suffer from unfair treatment for life or being uppity by escaping from their place in the hierarchy. You’re hurting them by usurping their natural position in life.

    2
  23. Gustopher says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    So, what about bottom surgery? Do I support that for minor children? Absolutely not. That is going to have to wait.

    This is going to bring up a lot of hard questions, as simple answers to complex questions often do.

    How long? A lot of the surgery and hormone treatments are simpler and have better results with younger people. Is your proposal to use puberty blockers on children until they are 18? Is that safe? How much psychological damage is there going to be in having a body so undeveloped compared to their peers?

    And then there are the darker questions…

    Why are you trying to create prepubescent 18 year olds? If a prepubescent 18 year old produces pornography… Congratulations, you’ve created a new industry.

    Also, the prepubescent young adults are going to be the prey of the worst people in the world.

    I think it’s pretty safe to assume that this creates scenarios that you are not in favor of.

  24. gVOR08 says:

    @Kathy:

    Why are imaginary dangers treated as worse than real ones?

    It’s been my observation that outrage on the right is not a function of an assessment of the actual harm a thing does, but the extent to which it violates their morality. Hence the ability of DeUseless to run on his don’t say gay bill. That teachers would groom little kids would be a horrible offense against their morality. Mine too. But they don’t ask if it actually happens. Similarly, it’s enough to say stealing the 2020 election is an outrage. They don’t have to show that anything like it actually happened.

    Like keeping elephants out of my yard, banning something that doesn’t exist is a pretty easy win.

    1
  25. Gustopher says:

    I think there is a very real possibility that in 2024 we are going to have Republican states denying vote counts, refusing to certify elections, replacing slates of electors, and we are going to have to decide if democracy is going to be a thing we do or not.

    It’s the logical next step after the Big Lie.

    8
  26. Gustopher says:

    @Kylopod:

    When the fuck did conservatives ever care about women’s sports prior to this?

    Women’s beach volleyball at the Olympics. Every four years like clockwork the incel wing of the Republican party complain that the women are too muscular.

    The fear of trans athletes is that they might get a boner for someone who once had a boner and then, just like that, they will be gay.

    These are the same people who complain that the green M&M isn’t sexy enough anymore. And the rabbit from Space Jam.

    (Apparently, searching for “sexy M&M” is not blocked on my work computer… also, the first image is of an M&M that has stripped out of her shell revealing chocolate boobies)

    2
  27. Beth says:

    First, let me say that I am very grateful to everyone for the general tone of this discussion. I have been exhausted and depressed by fuckers like Orban and Dreher. My existence is amazing and it’s so crushing to constantly be grist for the right-wing grievance mill. Thank you all for giving me a tiny raft of hope.

    @James Joyner:

    You and I are in agreement here. I think the accusation that someone who is anti-Trans or anti-gay is either a closet case or a chaser is deeply problematic and somewhat offensive. Like, they can hate us just cause they hate us. Their reasons don’t really matter; the effects of their hate does.

    @Gustopher:

    This is going to bring up a lot of hard questions, as simple answers to complex questions often do.

    I think it’s actually a lot simpler than you think. The point of affirming care and blockers is simply to get a Trans kid some more space and understanding before taking what are radical steps. While I’m fairly confident that regret and detransition are actually quite rare (and mostly caused by external sources like lack of support and the general societal struggles we face), it’s probably for the best to ensure that the kid knows what they are doing. I would guess just about all of them do. It might surprise some (given that I’m fairly vocal and millitiant) I tend to agree that we shouldn’t perform a lot of surgeries on kids (Cis, Trans or Intersex). Blockers, then hormones when appropriate will handle a LOT of issues. I had my skull ground down twice because of testosterone poisoning, effective blockers and age appropriate puberty could have avoided that.

    5
  28. gVOR08 says:

    @Gustopher:

    we are going to have to decide if democracy is going to be a thing we do or not.

    “We” is likely to be six Federalist Society proto -fascists on the Supreme Court. Five if Thomas recuses. (Some days I just crack myself up.)

    3
  29. wr says:

    @Beth: “Like, they can hate us just cause they hate us. Their reasons don’t really matter; the effects of their hate does.”

    What I think of Dreher and Douthat and their ilk is that they are deeply terrified by sex and sexuality. What causes that, what feeds it, what it means — all that is unknowable. But they hate and fear human sexuality and seek to control it or stamp it out.

    It’s easy to leap to the conclusion that “they are actually drawn to it, and so they come out against it loudly,” because it’s easy and it makes sense. But as we who have past our sixteenth birthday all know, what is easy and makes sense is rarely the reality.

    Whatever the underlying cause, it is beyond sickness. A kind of perversion, really.

    1
  30. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Beth:

    You replied much better than I could ever. I deliberately didn’t try to be comprehensive, since the point of my comment was the weaponized ambiguity of the “initiative”.

    Meanwhile, I didn’t address hormone therapy, which, as you say, can be valuable. Trans people vary a lot in how much surgery they want/have.

    I resist demonizing people with lots of feelings about trans people. I’ve had lots of feelings. I worked them out, in private. I had a bit of help. I read some books.

    For instance, I blamed myself. I’m not what you would call a super iconic masculine guy. I thought my daughters nature was “my fault” and it would only make her life harder.

    The “my fault” part is probably bunk, as I’ve come to realize. And while it does make her life harder, there’s a sense in which being trans is kind of a special gift – as the “two spirit” people were considered shamans – how many of us have direct experience of both genders?

    But yeah, I’ve had lots of feelings about it. I don’t expect people to not have lots of feelings. I don’t even expect a strong religious background to mean someone is absolutist about rejecting someone’s trans nature. I know several examples of the opposite, in fact.

    I don’t really have a Grand Unified Theory of why people resist trans acceptance, and I don’t know that I want one.

    I want instead to be an evangelist for trans acceptance, and that means meeting people where they are and nudging them a bit in a helpful, positive way, while listening to their fears, many of which I’ve had myself or had close friends (liberals!) who had them.

    1
  31. Matt says:

    Orban is not a small-government Anglo-Saxon conservative.

    AKA small government white supremacist conservative. Almost any time you see Anglo-Saxon used like that it’s being used as a dog whistle for white supremacy..

    1
  32. Matt says:

    @Matt: Okay that came out wrong entirely and I can’t edit it so I’ll have to use this post.

    I’ve noticed that anglo-saxon is used a lot by white supremacists these days. When someone makes a comment like the above I have to wonder about their views on race..

  33. Gustopher says:

    @Beth:

    I think the accusation that someone who is anti-Trans or anti-gay is either a closet case or a chaser is deeply problematic and somewhat offensive. Like, they can hate us just cause they hate us. Their reasons don’t really matter; the effects of their hate does.

    I lean the other way — the chasers and closet cases are deeply problematic, somewhat offensive, and ultimately helpful.

    I am convinced that lesbian porn did more for same-sex acceptance than any reasoned arguments about human rights or fairness or whatever. There were other “respectable” tipping points, but the groundwork was laid below the belt.

    And the men were just along for the ride. If the courts could have legalized just hot woman getting married, they would have done so a decade sooner.

    I think the shockingly recent collapse of opposition to interracial marriage followed the same pattern with the availability of interracial porn everywhere on the internet.

    We just need to figure out how to make Medicare For All porn.

    It might surprise some (given that I’m fairly vocal and millitiant) I tend to agree that we shouldn’t perform a lot of surgeries on kids (Cis, Trans or Intersex). Blockers, then hormones when appropriate will handle a LOT of issues.

    Your knowledge is way better than mine. I have a semi-distant friend with a trans kid, and they are very happy that this is something they have identified early so there aren’t permanent effects of puberty.

    Whether there will be surgery or not before the kid is 18, I have no idea, but I would assume that after a few years of blockers and then hormones, that kid will have a really good idea of whether this is something that is right for her, and an arbitrary age restriction would do more harm than good.

  34. grumpy realist says:

    As said, I’m hesitant about people changing gender, but mainly because our technology at present is so bad about it and there are so many side effects.

    If we had the equivalent of a pill you could pop, go to sleep, then wake up 12 hours later with a total gender change down to the chromosomes and absolutely no side effect on life expectancy, risk of cancer, etc. etc. and so forth, I’d be much happier about it. Heck, I might try it myself for a week or so to have the experience of “walking on the other side.”

    Somehow I don’t think that Dreher would change his opinion, however. Transgenderism really seems to scare him.

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  35. Beth says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    I want instead to be an evangelist for trans acceptance, and that means meeting people where they are and nudging them a bit in a helpful, positive way, while listening to their fears, many of which I’ve had myself or had close friends (liberals!) who had them.

    I think this is very necessary work, I just don’t think I have the ability to do it much. When every moment of your existence is weaponized against you and other people it gets hard. It’s exhausting.

    I also want to applaud you for doing the work. When I came out to my mom, she swore up and down that she accepted Trans and Gay people. What I came to learn was that she accepted them, as long as I wasn’t one of them. Whoops.

    @Matt:

    I suspect the actual Anglo-Saxons (and Vikings) were straight up lunatics and would have absolutely nothing in common with the racists trying to ride their coattails.

    @Gustopher:

    I agree with you, the chasers are a scourge on my community. I do think, however, your porn thesis is defeated by Trans porn. It’s SHOCKINGLY popular, but it doesn’t seem to be helping us. Many, many, Republicans consume it and then legislate against us.

    @grumpy realist:

    The technology is great. The research and the skill is not great, but getting better. As for side effects and life expectancy, I think your worries are overstated. For example, I’ve had an estrogen level of about 900 for the last two years. Which basically means I’ve had the estrogen level of a pregnant woman for 2 years. I also have an elevated breast cancer risk, including a maternal grandmother who had a lump after HRT for menopause.

    I can say with absolute certainty that hormone therapy has greatly extended my life expectancy, since pre-transition it was rapidly approaching zero. That’s even factoring in any side effects or cancer risks from having a 900 estrogen level. If I had to wait to some sort of level of perfection before I could transition, I would have killed myself.

    The funny thing about your pill comment is that EVERY Trans person I know has had that dream; multiple times. It’s one of our low-key markers of Trans-ness. Cis people tend not to constantly think about magic beans that can change your gender.

    And none of this would move Dreher or his ilk at all. Why I continue to fight this battle (especially here) is to move people like you.

    Transgenderism

    retch.

  36. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Beth: I don’t expect you to evangelize for the reasons you describe. I can do it, probably better, and I’m happy to do it.

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  37. DK says:

    @Beth:

    I think the accusation that someone who is anti-Trans or anti-gay is either a closet case or a chaser is deeply problematic and somewhat offensive.

    This was one of my very favorite weeks in clinical psychology grad school.

    25+ years of psychological experiments has established a correlation between homophobia and male sexual arousal. In one of the first studies, a group of heterosexual men were given a long-used, oft-updated questionnaire once called the Index of Homophobia. These men were then hooked up to devices measuring changes in penile hardness and circumference while they watched a series of heterosexual, gay, and lesbian erotica.

    In all the men, penile volume increased in response to heterosexual and lesbian stimuli. But, generally, only higher scores on the Index of Homophobia were associated with penile changes in response to gay stimuli.

    Over the past three decades, studies similar to this have been repeated and refined, reaching the same general conclusion while using various methods and measurement tools aimed at ruling out anxiety or attraction (or both) as the cause of the observed changes in penile tumescence.

    Note: correlation is *not* determinative causation — each individual is different, with different motivations, backgrounds, responses, reasons etc. So, no, this does not mean every queerphobic person is homophobic is secretly queer. It simply means what the data says: research currently shows a pretty consistent correlation between antigay attitudes in hetero men and same-sex arousal. I won’t extrapolate further, but this problematic “trope” is not plucked from thin air.

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  38. DK says:

    @MarkedMan:

    He also revealed himself to be literally terrified of black people during the BLM riots. Still, I don’t think he is likely to come out as African American…

    No, but it would not be shocking for his therapist — if he had one — to discover he had black penis envy, a latent or subconscious attraction to black men or women, or some other psychological turmoil related to black people and sex. A la Strom Thurmond, the congress’s #1 segregationist who turns out had a secret half-black love child the whole time. Over the years, maps tracking the top porn searches have showed more than one former Confederate state labeled with “black,” “ebony” or “interracial.”

    It should not escape notice how much rightwing rage is colored by sex-related obsessions — from the weird smearing of teachers as groomers, to the apoplexy at Madison Cawthorn’s “cocaine orgies” tell, to the desire to enslave women with forced birth, and on and on. It’s not for nothing that so many Republican leaders end up being actual perverts: from former Republican House Speaker and literal child rapist Denny Hastert, to crotchgrabbing Epstein-bestie Trump, to actual teen groomer Matt Gaetz.

    This is not to say Democrats don’t also have their sexual backsliders, Bill “Bimbo Eruptions” Clinton prominent among them. But there is something especially weird about the connection between conservatives’ compulsions and sex repression.