Has anti-gay movement peaked?

by on August 25, 2010  •  In Uncategorized

In an article called "The New Battle: What It Means to Be an American," writers at Politico argue that President Obama not only promised to end baby-boomer culture wars, he's done it — only to see "an even more visceral values debate about whether he's moving the country toward socialism and over the very definition of what it means to be American."

At a moment that finds the right energized and seemingly ascendant, the battles over morality-based cultural issues such as gay rights, abortion and illegal drugs that did so much to drive the conservative movement and dominated the political conversation for more than 30 years have abated, giving way not just to broad economic anxiety but to a new set of emotionally charged issues…

In the view of National Review editor Rich Lowry, that sense on the right of a fundamental shift has helped turn the role of government into a cultural issue, filling some of the emotional space formerly occupied by the traditional hot-button issues…

The article points to various reasons and signs: the growing support in the polls for same-sex marriage; the death or retirement of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and James Dobson; Glenn Beck's ridiculing the question of whether gay marriage threatens the country; and Rush Limbaugh's new friendship with wedding singer Elton John.

Do all these add up to a shift in the focus of the right wing, away from issues more linked to sexuality? Maybe. First abortion, then it together with gay rights have had a 35-year run in dominating the domestic paranoia market – it has to fade sometime. 

There are other signs as well. In the Kagan confirmation hearings, I noticed that the questions posed by Republican senators concerned gay rights more often than abortion, but they concerned gun rights far more often than those two topics put together.

The Politico piece may be on to something, but it's too simplistic and narrow, imho. It's narrow because it, like virtually all journalism coming out of DC, has a shortsighted focus on upcoming elections – even if the writers think they are taking the long view because they consider the 2012 election in addition to the one three months from now.

I also think it is simplistic to imagine that the so-called "cultural issues" will be neatly superseded by something else, even if a considerable amount of right-wing energy shifts to anti-government organizing. What is far more likely is that the different segments of the right will continue to compete among themselves for resources, attention and foot soldiers. I'm guessing that the share to be gotten by anti-gay forces will ebb and flow, but overall move in a downward trajectory.

That's good news, but full civil equality is still a long ways away.


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