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The 'bigotry' canard: The last refuge of the 'culture warriors'

by Jeremy Hooper

In a new piece for The National Review, conservative writer Charles Krauthammer continues the false victimization meme that has come to define right and far-right-leaning politics in the era of Obama. Here's a snippet as it pertains to gays and Prop 8:

Note what connects these issues. In every one, liberals have lost the argument in the court of public opinion. Majorities — often lopsided majorities — oppose KrauthammerPresident Obama’s social-democratic agenda (e.g., the stimulus, Obamacare), support the Arizona law, oppose gay marriage, and reject a Ground Zero mosque.

What’s a liberal to do? Pull out the bigotry charge, the trump that preempts debate and gives no credit to the seriousness and substance of the contrary argument. The most venerable of these trumps is, of course, the race card. When the tea party arose, a spontaneous, leaderless, and perfectly natural (and traditionally American) reaction to the vast expansion of government intrinsic to the president’s proudly proclaimed transformational agenda, the liberal commentariat cast it as a mob of angry white yahoos disguising their antipathy to a black president by cleverly speaking in economic terms.
As for Proposition 8, is it so hard to see why people might believe that a single judge overturning the will of 7 million voters is an affront to democracy? And that seeing merit in retaining the structure of the most ancient and fundamental of all social institutions is something other than an alleged hatred of gays — particularly since the opposite-gender requirement has characterized virtually every society in all the millennia until just a few years ago?
The Last Refuge of the Liberal [NRO]

And while Krauthammer presumably thinks he's putting a professional intellectual's mark on this "we're the ones being mistreated" meme, the reality is that his assessment serves to further expose the inadequacies and offenses of this brazen script-flipping! Let's examine.

Let's hone in on marriage in California, since that's our fight: In 2008, the state Supreme Court determined that same-sex couples do have the right to civilly marry under state law. In 2010, a federal district judge determined in a 136 page decision that denying gays' this right is unwarranted and unconstitutional. Other figures with crucial insight into the matter, from the governor to the state attorney general to fair-minded legal experts, have also come down on the side of basic civil fairness -- a concept that cannot and should not be rolled back by majority whims. And in every step in this legal process, the anti-marriage equality side had every opportunity to weigh in. They had the same chance to present their best case.

Now, the conservative development that came in between all this was one single, highly divisive, bare majority referendum in which 13,402,566 valid votes were cast (constituting 79.42% of the state's population, with 340,611 additional votes tossed out as either invalid or blank), and where a relatively small margin of 590,602 separated the two sides. A vote that was not bound by deep constitutional understanding, perjury laws, church/state separation, respect for all citizens, or anything other than personal feelings and (often faith-based) motivations. But yet in Krauthammer's mind, those who cast the vote against these court-tested civil rights are somehow the victims, and those who were deeply hurt by the vote are the ones who are supposedly "preempt[ing] debate and giv[ing] no credit to the seriousness and substance of the contrary argument"?! A position that he justifies by acting as if everyone who has spoken out against Prop 8 automatically resorts of "bigotry" claims?! How anti-intellectual can you get?!?

So many in the modern conservative commentariat are acting as if they should be above all accountability beyond their own "but I want it this way"-iness. It goes like this: If multiple courts go against them on issues like same-sex-unions, then don't focus on the jaw-dropping inadequacies of your own legal defense -- instead attack a judge's activism mixed in with crude innuendo about his sexual orientation. Or if a converted Burlington Coat Factory is to become a center meant to foster interfaith peace, don't look at the strip clubs, liquor stores, deli carts, and assorted other American peace-givers that are also in the neighborhood, or clue people in to how great distance two Manhattan blocks really is -- instead place a "Ground Zero Mosque" label on the project and spin up a frightening national fury (while simultaneously claiming that the evil Vaughn Walker is stomping on your "religious freedom"). The goal in both situations is rage. On the socially conservative side, there's such a desire for rage that's wholly independent of fact. Rage that disregards the fellow citizens that are tangibly hurt in its rhetorical wake. Rage that punches other people right in the souls, but delivered by folks who turn around and theatrically fake their own hits. Rage that continues to foster the same old divisions, then acts as if those who are so willing and ready to apply the Band-Aids are the ones who are causing the wounds.

The bottom line: If you want to write me off as second-class, then go ahead and do it. But you will not blame me for refusing to spend a lifetime looking at the back of your head. And you will not put "bigotry" claims in my mouth, when "you are flat-out wrong under civil law" is the line that I am actually using. This goes for the Prop 8 voter. This goes for Charles Krauthammer. This goes for everyone, from the least powerful person on this planet that we know to be round, to the most powerful person in that office that we know to be oval.

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