Identity politics and “the first gay president”
Newsweek chose to reward President Obama for his gay marriage “evolution” with a cover declaring him “The First Gay President.” Not only that, but he’s actually depicted as a saint, with a rainbow-colored halo.
The internal hagiography, by the deranged Andrew Sullivan – who spent years implying that Sarah Palin is not truly the mother of her son Trig – explicitly compares Obama’s gay marriage position with his racial identity: “He had to discover his black identity and then reconcile it with his white family, just as gays discover their homosexual identity and then have to reconcile it with their heterosexual family.”
This is as clear a celebration of totalitarian identity politics as a major American print magazine has ever produced. Obama’s political evolution to an essentially symbolic position, which Sullivan and Newsweek support, actually transform him into a gay person, much as Bill Clinton was transmogrified into “The First Black President” thanks to his politics. The gay marriage movement loves to compare itself with the civil rights crusade… a card they might be on the verge of overplaying, to the annoyance of black voters. What will those voters – who strongly favor traditional marriage, and have been vital players in the passage of traditional marriage protection, most recently in North Carolina – make of Sullivan’s “identity” voodoo?
It’s an interesting contrast with the way Sullivan savagely attacked Palin for years, attempting to re-write her identity as a mother because he disagreed with her politics. This is a common trope of the Left. It’s one of the reasons moralizing Left-leaning voters will cheerfully re-elect horrible people over and over again, and it’s also part of the explanation for why their class-warfare instincts completely shut down when they contemplate high-living millionaire liberal politicians, actors, musicians, and even certain capitalists.
Politics define identity to the totalitarian mind. People like Warren Buffett and George Soros receive a total pass from anti-capitalist hatred because they embrace the proper ideology. Obama instructed his supporters to hate corporate jet owners with white-hot passion, but they are perfectly comfortable with the Class-Warrior-in-Chief flying to thinly-veiled campaign events and fundraisers in the most magnificent corporate jet ever created. They don’t even mind paying for the fuel in its tanks.
Note that Obama’s transubstantiation into the First Gay President required no actual policy shift. His stated position is a personal embrace of same-sex marriage ideology – which, embarrassingly, he now admits he lied about at his political convenience. He also said he’s content to let the states settle the issue… and they have been overwhelmingly and decisively settling it in favor of traditional marriage. Everyone following the issue knows it was primarily a financial decision, as Obama’s big-money donors left him little choice but to drop his previous “conflicted” charade, while Hollywood cash has flowed freely into his coffers since his big announcement last week. There isn’t a lot of meat on the bone he threw the gay-marriage crowd… but it was good enough to earn him a complete identity upgrade. Disagree with the Left, on the other hand, and your sexual or racial identity will be erased.
Of course, not all identity politics are celebrated by the media. Analysts are still trying to gauge the political costs and benefits of Obama’s gay marriage embrace. It is generally supposed that traditional marriage voters will rally around Mitt Romney, who might otherwise have encountered a bit more trouble assembling social conservative support. Newsweek will not celebrate the leaders who organize this revitalized sense of social conservative identity, or put halos over their heads.
Romney himself hasn’t done anything overtly political with the marriage issue thus far. He has merely restated his support for traditional marriage, most recently in a commencement speech at Liberty University over the weekend, where he said:
The American culture promotes personal responsibility, the dignity of work, the value of education, the merit of service, devotion to a purpose greater than self, and, at the foundation, the pre-eminence of the family.
The power of these values is evidenced by a Brookings Institution study that Senator Rick Santorum brought to my attention. For those who graduate from high school, get a full-time job, and marry before they have their first child, the probability that they will be poor is 2%. But, if those things are absent, 76% will be poor. Culture matters.
As fundamental as these principles are, they may become topics of democratic debate. So it is today with the enduring institution of marriage. Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman.
This was the sum total of his commentary on marriage. Liberty University is an evangelical college, and the rest of Romney’s commencement address dealt with the importance of family, religious faith, and high personal standards to a healthy society.
Nevertheless, as reported by the Washington Times, Romney’s simple declaration of support for the traditional definition of marriage prompted Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director of gay Republican organization GOProud, to snarl that Romney was “pandering to big government theocrats,” warning that “if Governor Romney hopes he can alleviate these concerns and unite the conservative movement by grossly engaging in the culture wars, as he did today at Liberty University, he is sadly mistaken.”
See how that works? Adopt a position contrary to identity-politics ideology, even if it’s thoughtful and stated without rancor, and various negative identities are automatically stapled to your hide. And that’s coming from someone on Romney’s side of the partisan divide! His dedicated partisan opponents will have even more gruesome costumes for him to wear, the same way they generally impute hatred, fear, and a fascist desire to crush human rights to same-sex marriage opponents.
There’s no way to honorably disagree with a political position when dissent is equivalent to a declaration of war against everyone who holds it. It doesn’t even matter that not every gay person supports the re-definition of marriage. Gay marriage has been fused with gay identity, so that opposition to the former is automatically equated with hatred for the latter. That’s how identity politics, and totalitarianism in general, operate. Obedience is virtue, while resistance to righteous aggression is a sin.
Update: For a further demonstration of identity politics voodoo, enjoy Newsweek contributor Michelle Goldberg comparing Ann Romney to Hitler and Stalin, enitrely because she celebrated motherhood a bit too enthusiastically for Goldberg’s taste in a Mother’s Day op-ed. (Hat tip: NewsBusters.)