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June 04, 2006

Somebody Get a Camera Before Prejudice Loses

By Neil the Ethical Werewolf

It's nothing unexpected, but the historical polling data on gay rights is fun to look at.  In 1977, Americans wanted gay people to have equal rights in employment by a 56-33 margin.  By now, the lead has risen to 89-9.  In 1982, the margin against considering homosexuality an "acceptable alternative lifestyle" was 34-51.  (The phrase "alternative lifestyle" has always struck me as a bizarre way to describe homosexuality -- is my preference for women of very fair skin also an "alternative lifestyle"?)  Now things have swung the other way, and 54% are accepting of homosexuality while only 41% are not. 

Take a look at these very comprehensive numbers from Pew as well.  From 1999 to 2006, support for allowing gay people to marry, adopt, and serve in the military has increased substantially.  As you'd expect, support is strongest among young people.  The 18-29 age group supports adoption by a 58-38 margin and military service by a 72-23 margin.  As people think about the issue and open-minded kids grow to voting age, we win. 

We're not ahead on everything yet.  At this point, a slight majority supports a constitutional amendment denying gay people the right to marry.  And a larger majority opposes the right to marry when you don't ask them to write prejudice into the Constitution.  But while we're still behind on some issues and Republicans think they can win at the polls by hating on gay people, we should make sure to get as many GOP rising stars on the record about these issues as possible.  Decades from now when they're trying to make the tax code more regressive or start dumb wars or privatize the national health insurance system, we'll want to get them out of office.  It might be nice to remind the wise voters of the future how firm these Republicans used to be on the side of prejudice.  (Young Democratic politicians who want to be honored in the future as supporters of civil rights would be wise to keep the trends in mind as well.)

Update: I am amused by this graphic, via Pam Spaulding, on the theme of Marriage Protection Sunday. 

June 4, 2006 | Permalink

Comments

It is not said enough how we progressives have consistently been on the right side of history. And yes, we need to remember what is said now and bring it up at opportune times. By "we" I mean the grassroots, although I do hope for a time when the current crop of wimpy Democratic politicians and duplicitous, mercenary "consultants" are gone, daddy gone away.

I do believe it is inevitable that homosexuals will become fully accepted members of our society - at least insofar as that will be possible, given the segments of our society that will continue to be committed to centuries-old prejudice, fear and hate.

Not to beat a dead horse*, but there is a whole region of the country that has worked very hard to preserve an outdated culture/belief system that is based upon stratification by gender and race, along with severe punishments for anyone who dares step outside the boundaries of what the dominant class has determined to be "proper behavior."

*Actually, I love to beat on this particular dead horse. Love it love it love it.

Posted by: Stephen | Jun 5, 2006 1:10:28 AM

My memory of the 1970s is that the words (as I recall them) "lifestyle choice" were an attempt at what we now call "framing", by the gay rights movement itself. An attempt that seems to have gone badly wrong in retrospect, but maybe it served a good purpose for a few years.

Posted by: DonBoy | Jun 5, 2006 1:34:40 AM

DonBoy: I suspect that what has changed from the days of 'lifestyle choice' to 'gender orientation' is that lots of gay/lesbian people (and some scientists, gay and straight) have spent a lot of time thinking about their lives, talking with lots of others in the same situation - more than they could have talked to when most were in the closet, and concluding that they really didn't choose. Many can now talk about signals they missed about themselves at very young ages, before they even were sexually aware. There is a hard shell of denial on nearly everyone about their sexual orientation that make take decades to break through.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Jun 5, 2006 2:36:27 AM

But while we're still behind on some issues and Republicans think they can win at the polls by hating on gay people, we should make sure to get as many GOP rising stars on the record about these issues as possible.

This makes me a bit nervous because I think incumbency is a stronger force than public retaliation against politicians for standing up for unfair traditional values. I'm as angered as anyone by the failure of young and moderate Republicans to stand up against their party's anti-gay tirade, but I'd rather let them leave their personal views on gay rights malleable. The fact of the matter is that those young politicians are more likely to remain in office for a while than get kicked out on account of having opposed same sex marriage and the like. With anti-gay views hardened in young politicians, the practical effect may be that they will still be in office and will be reluctant to change their political positions even if their personal views evolve.

This strategy may work better on issues other than family values. For example, public opinion on the Iraq War and the PATRIOT Act is more volatile and votes for those can be used for political effect against Republicans more quickly.

The strategy also tends to hurt the chances for gay friendly positions among Democrats too. Thus, Dem rising stars like Barack Obama were forced to come out clearly against same sex marriage in 2004, a view which may prove politically difficult for Obama to change should he change his mind later.

Posted by: Joseph Hovsep | Jun 5, 2006 9:18:09 AM

...rising stars like Barack Obama were forced to come out clearly against same sex marriage in 2004...

Nobody forece Obama to do anything. He wants power and is afraid an unwilling (according to you) to stand up for his principles. His weakness will leave us twisting in the wind should be move up the food chain.

Posted by: Fred Jones. | Jun 5, 2006 10:23:47 AM

It is not said enough how we progressives have consistently been on the right side of history.

Only the successful campaigns are remembered. The liberal calls in the sixties for drug legalization went South, but is never brought up. Same for all of the calls for decriminalization of other "victimless" crimes. The peaceniks in the beginning of WW II were also terribly wrong bay all accounts.And just how do you think PETA will be remembered in the history books?

I think you have a very selective memory.

Posted by: Fred Jones. | Jun 5, 2006 10:44:42 AM

He wants power and is afraid an unwilling (according to you) to stand up for his principles.

I'm not suggesting Obama is insincere in his opposition to same sex marriage. He may or may not be. My point is just that the political strategy of forcing everyone to take a clear position on evolving issues like gay rights makes it hard for politicians whose personal views might moderate over time to actually change their public positions.

Posted by: Joseph Hovsep | Jun 5, 2006 12:01:55 PM

Only the successful campaigns are remembered. The liberal calls in the sixties for drug legalization went South, but is never brought up.

Fred, have you ever heard the expression "might makes right"? I'm sure you have. I hate to break it to you, but it's not always true.

And for the same reason, it's also not always true that success = correctness. The calls for legalization failed so far, but that doesn't mean they were in the wrong. And it's not just The Left (TM) who thinks so, either. I've never heard of anyone who approves of both the intent and the execution of the war on drugs. P.J. O'Rourke, John Cole, Radley Balko... those are just the first names that come to mind of the many decidedly right-of-center people with brains who think outlawing the more harmless drugs is a failure if not a mistake from the get-go.

The peaceniks in the beginning of WW II were also terribly wrong bay all accounts.

I see we've got a real brain trust here. The "peaceniks" in the beginning of WWII weren't on the left. Between the people who thought the Nazis had some good ideas and the people who were isolationist in general, everyone opposed to U.S. involvement in that war came from the reactionary right.

But we're the ones with selective memory, not you. Got it.

Posted by: Cyrus | Jun 5, 2006 1:54:49 PM

Decades from now when they're trying to make the tax code more regressive or start dumb wars or privatize the national health insurance system, we'll want to get them out of office. It might be nice to remind the wise voters of the future how firm these Republicans used to be on the side of prejudice.

I agree...but I don't think it'll work, based on the parallel example of civil rights. Opposing the Civil Rights Act didn't damage the chances of Ronald Reagan or George Bush (for example), even though it should have.

Posted by: Tom Hilton | Jun 5, 2006 2:10:30 PM

Fred, have you ever heard the expression "might makes right"? I'm sure you have. I hate to break it to you, but it's not always true.

Let's review the original statement for "Einstein's" benefit.....and here it is:

It is not said enough how we progressives have consistently been on the right side of history.

Now, don't you look like a schmuck!!

Posted by: Fred Jones. | Jun 5, 2006 4:00:15 PM

Err...maybe you're reading that in a different language, Fred, but in English that says "...the right side of history"--not "...the winning side of history."

Posted by: Tom Hilton | Jun 5, 2006 4:51:39 PM

Fred,

The slaves were freed, women have the vote, Social Security survived the most aggressive attack in its history, Medicare was expanded - in a terrible way, but the principle is that government should provide more, not less, services - public schooling is still the norm, unemployment insurance and worker's comp are mandatory, unions are legal while monopolies are not, discrimination based upon gender, ethnicity or religious belief is fully against US law. John Bolton may not believe in the UN, but he goes to work there every day.

The most "conservative" administration in history, while certainly trying to achieve the Religious Right's goals of sexual control in this country, has done nothing to negatively affect the size and scope of the Federal government. Rather, their actions and rhetoric has helped to solidify the idea that, when a group of citizens wants to affect American society, they should go to the government with their grievances and plans.

When the Bush administration is only a bad memory, the liberal idea that government can and should be used to positively affect our society will live on.

Your latest attempt to show the 'superiority' of the conservative movement is as lame as the others. Aside from your complete mischaracterization of those who opposed involvement in WWII, you had to resort to cherry picking some minor, fringe ideas and movements.

Try harder next time.

Posted by: Stephen | Jun 5, 2006 6:03:05 PM

The slaves were freed, women have the vote, Social Security survived the most aggressive attack in its history, Medicare was expanded...

All instituted through a democratic process of the legislative branch. Get the legislature on board so the people actually have a say and I'm on board.

It's called loving democracy more than my agenda. Can you say the same?

Posted by: Fred Jones. | Jun 5, 2006 6:50:07 PM

The slaves were freed [...]

All instituted through a democratic process of the legislative branch

Actually, I thought that bit was more due to a bloody four-year-long war and the Emancipation Proclaimation than to legislative action. Don't you remember that any former Confederate state wanting to rejoin the Union had to endorse the Thirteenth Amendment?

It's called loving human rights more than majoritarian rule. Can you say the same?

Posted by: Maureen | Jun 5, 2006 7:04:56 PM

All instituted through a democratic process of the legislative branch. Get the legislature on board so the people actually have a say and I'm on board.

Maureen's delightful rebuttal aside, you are once again changing the point. Show me how progressives have not been on the right side of history. And yes, I do happen to mean that progressives have been the victors in most of the great battles that have shaped American society. Show me how this is not true. Perhaps universal suffrage was actually a conservative fight?

There is currently a strong resurgence of those who would return the USA to pre-1776 standards of human rights. Women, ethnic and religious minorities all in their place, with the executive branch of the government able to torture, to seize citizens and their property, to ignore the legislature when it wishes, and on from there. But for all their noise and effort, history simply is not on their side.

The good news for you, Fred, is that unlike you conservatives, the progressives who will continue to define American society in the long run will also continue to allow you a place in that society.

Posted by: Stephen | Jun 5, 2006 9:41:28 PM

Isn't it AMAZING that the left has been voted, yes VOTED out of power. The people just didn't buy what you are selling.

Posted by: Fred Jones. | Jun 6, 2006 2:16:52 PM

"The people just didn't buy what you are selling."

And now they have a massive case of buyer's regret for what they actually bought.

Posted by: Hamilton Lovecraft | Jun 6, 2006 6:30:58 PM

When you can sell the voters on your agenda, then it will have some legitimacy. Until then, you are simply the whiney fringe that no one votes for.

Posted by: Fred Jones. | Jun 6, 2006 8:12:44 PM

When you can sell the voters on your agenda, then it will have some legitimacy. Until then, you are simply the whiney fringe that no one votes for.

Posted by: Fred Jones.

That's right. Fred believes the left was the side opposed to U.S. involvement in World War II and slavery was abolished through democracy. But... but... but... Democrats don't win elections!

Saying boneheaded and/or blatantly false stuff all the time and just glossing over it? Check. When all else fails, appealing to authority? Check. Trying to play "gotcha" and failing miserably? Check.

On most blogs I read, the people who represent the other side of the debate often get less respect than they deserve. They may or may not be correct, but still, they don't deserve to be treated like a laughingstock.

This is not the case here.

Posted by: Cyrus | Jun 7, 2006 7:25:56 AM

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