Monday, May 23, 2005

If Democrats Had A Philosophy, Would It Matter As Little As The Republicans' "Philosophy"?

I find that if I'm unsure about what to write about for my Sunday column (which is due Thursday at noon), I just read the paper's editorials on Thursday and usually there's something to complain about. But this time I found something to applaud. Here's Bob Schuster's original editorial, and the newspaper link for me as well. "Oafish"? Well, I guess my editor will stretch for assonance when he feels like it.

East Valley Tribune, May 22, 2005

Most of the time I use this space to take shots at Bob Schuster, so it’s only fair to salute him when he gets it right. (Plus, maybe it’ll keep him off-balance for my next attack.)

Last Thursday, The Tribune came out against the initiative to amend the state constitution to ban not only gay marriage, but any sort of second-class civil union substitute. But the initiative wouldn’t stop there; it also would prohibit public employers from offering partner benefits and it would interfere with private citizens’ rights to designate their agents for healthcare or child-rearing decisions or the beneficiaries of their wills.

This is pretty extreme stuff, and The Tribune rightfully opposed it, based on their support of Arizona’s libertarian tradition of letting people live their own lives. The editorial quoted the late Senator Barry Goldwater, who was our last prominent pro-choice Arizona GOP politician.

Quoting Goldwater, however, is a sign that in today’s Arizona GOP, you’re losing the argument. These days, Arizona Republicans still quote Barry, but follow his actual beliefs about as often as electing a Hispanic or black Republican. That is, basically never.

I’m definitely not a Republican, but this marriage amendment cuts across each of the party’s core beliefs. Republicans are supposed to be for lower taxes, smaller government, and a strong military, and this anti-gay stuff is contrary to all three.

Our national defense suffers, because despite a chronic shortage of Arabic speakers in our military (and 130,000 of our troops in Iraq, desperately trying to win hearts and minds), the Defense Department is discharging perfectly capable troops solely because of homosexuality. Our current all-encompassing “war on terror” is rather peculiar, if things are so serious that America needs to use interrogation techniques we used to consider as torture, but not so serious we should stop drumming out qualified gays from the military.

Getting rid of good soldiers and competent linguists doesn’t make the military stronger. (Neither does torture, but that’s a topic for another day.)

Lower taxes? Well, if you look at the numbers, gays tend to earn above-median incomes while having fewer kids and needs for government programs. Thus, they pay more taxes and use fewer services. I don’t see where “conservative values” get advanced by singling out people to pay more, get less, and serve as scapegoats for society’s ills.

But it’s the “smaller government” bit that really gets a trashing from the gay-bashing. People who refuse to believe that government can operate a competent healthcare financing system or good schools want to use that same government to enforce their own sectarian religious beliefs on everybody else. What’s worse, they’ve chosen two areas -- gays and abortion -- where their demand for “morality” asks nothing of themselves, only of others.

None of the people proposing this amendment plan to enter into a gay marriage. But they are so concerned that other people may do things of which they don’t approve that they insist that the government stop those other people, right now. Then, having made others, by force of law, follow the proponents’ religious beliefs, those proponents can feel pride in their superior, state-enforced morality.

It’s so much cheaper, faster, and easier than out-of-style anachronisms like charity and good works. Such a warm, comforting religion that makes the only morality that matters is getting the state to stop other people from doing things that won’t ever affect you.

Bob’s right -- the amendment is a bad idea. But despite all the Barry-quoting that we’re going to hear, the amendment is a bad idea being pushed almost entirely by Republicans, despite it violating every ostensible Republican core value. Yet unless Sen. John McCain decides opposing these religious extremists could help in 2008, it’ll be tough to find any living Republican politicians brave enough (or with so little to lose) that they’d publicly oppose the anti-gay folks and this awful amendment.

Apparently, some things are just more important than principle. Like winning elections -- for which Republicans need the religious right. (And tribal casino money, too.)

1 comment:

shrimplate said...

Goldwater would be drummed out of the party, were he politically active today. He'd be taking a back seat to Vermont's congressional trio.

But the more I read about him, the more I like him. Unfortunately, I can't think of any other Republicans for which I could say the same.