The politics of 'just enough'
I hear it all the time. We all hear the comments, and ourselves ask the questions. Things like:
"Don't they realize they've lost?"
"Can't they see that young people are against them?"
"Why won't they accept that marriage equality is the way of the future?"
And that air of inevitability is understandable. And right. And certainly a bright, aspirational spot to get us through the darker stretches of tunnel. Happily, we are a movement that both understands and cherishes our senses of hope and optimism.
But these lines can also be limiting. Politically disadvantageous. Dangerous, even.
I personally believe that if every single citizen was biologically required to vote before he or she could take an election day breath, then we would've won every last equality vote to come down in the past decade or more. I truly do. We know that apathy is what kills us at the polls, since we are facing one of the most highly-motivated opposition movements in all of politics. The other side shows up in incredible, purpose-driven, fear-of-God numbers, and we really do not. We get outplayed on election day, plain and simple. So if all things were equal and voting was some sort of a life requirement, I think we could quite easily capture what I too believe to be our inexorable future.
But sadly, here in this world, voting doesn't sustain our lives. So the opposition doesn't need every last one of their supporters to show up. They need just enough. Just enough, coupled with more moderate voices who will give in to heterosexism or simply the (perceived) status quo, is just enough to deliver a win for their side. A slim win, but a win nonetheless.
Just enough is also enough to pay the bills. The opposition groups don't need a 75% supportive public to keep the lights on, not with the deep pockets and reliable church networks that sustain them. Over time, sure, they might feel the crunch (and we have seen layoffs with some). But overall, right now, few of the groups that toss around the words "family" or "values" are in any real danger. That's why they'll just shut us out of the debate on their heavily moderated forums. That's why they'll ignore our direct, undeniable repudiation of their facts. That's why they'll talk about us one way during campaign season and another when speaking to like-minded crowds. They don't care what we think: They care what that "just enough" thinks. They still have just enough that will buy what they're selling without question, as well as write off anything we say as being born out of some pesky "homosexual agenda."
So when we see a poll that shows us with a bare majority of support? In my head, I can almost hear one of the group presidents laughing at our naivete.
When we write off an obviously well-connected group as "fringe"? I hear someone like Tony Perkins laughing himself all the way to the cable news studio that's booked him on that given night.
When we talk about "Glee" and Gaga and the chancing tide? I hear Maggie Gallagher, resting comfortably in the knowledge that referenda are much less fun than Kurt Hummel.
The fact is that our opposition has just enough of a structure in place to survive for much longer than any of us on the equality side care to continue to fight this contrived fight. Longer than I want to fight it, at least. And unless we make some real changes -- deep fundamental changes in the way we view, support, strategize, and engage in our fights -- then our cockiness can, does, and will continue to come at the peril of our own advancement.
If we don't take the needed hard looks,reconsider our own structure, and think about the purposeful value attached to each of our allotted resources (which, like voters, are harder to rally on our more ragtag side), then I think we can dock those boats of inevitability for quite some time. Forget calm waters -- the other's side's got just enough life left to keep a majority share of our lifetimes on the battlefield of contention instead.
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