Mehlman: Conservative case for marriage
October 13th, 2012
Considering that Ken Mehlman is perhaps best known for being George Bush’s campaign manager during his “ban gay marriage” reelection campaign, it’s a bit ironic hearing him now advocate for equality. Nevertheless, the message – in this case – is more important than the messenger. And this is a message that needs to be heard.
“Conservative” can mean adherence to a specific set of political positions. However, it also can also refer to a way of life, an approach to thinking and the manner in which one structures their personal affairs. While “conservative” (in this sense) may have a loose correlation with the political term, a far-left Democrat who has a wife and children, a college fund, and retirement savings invested for the long term is far more conservative than a Republican playboy who throws lavish parties and is invested only in risky schemes.
I suspect that because the terms are the same, many people (especially those who live in conservative areas) believe that while they cautiously plan and prepare and value tradition and family, those liberals out there in San Francisco are irresponsible and wife-swapping and are all divorced and their kids run free like animals. That may be an extreme, but I do think it likely that they genuinely believe that liberal people do not value marriage and family as much as they do.
Which raises an interesting disconnect. What do you do with the gay folk who are clamoring for the right to marry, raise kids, live in a white picket fence neighborhood, volunteer for the local boy scout troop, and march in the Halloween Parade? That’s so… conservative. Those aren’t “San Francisco values”. How can this be?
One answer, the one pushed by those who have an interest in dividing the nation and living off the discord, is that Teh Gheys are only trying to get into marriage – and other conservative institutions – to destroy it! They don’t really want to marry, they hate marriage (because it was designed by God) and they want to bring it to an end.
And if you live in that bubble and are looking for a way to make your conflicting impressions make sense, this is an appealing answer. And besides, it’s championed by people who claim that they are good conservatives, the same people who value tradition and family and morality and decency, so it must be true.
Which makes it all the more important that another answer be heard. And that it too be championed by people who are good conservatives. They don’t want to hear from the people who insist that there be no crÃ¨che at Christmas or those who think it’s better to live together before marriage or those who think that more taxes are the solution to an economy without jobs or the folks who insist that Palestinians have as valid a claim on Jerusalem as the Jews. They don’t trust their judgment and they aren’t going to agree with anything you say.
But a conservative – especially one they trust – well, they’ll maybe at least listen. So I love that Ken Mehlman starts his op-ed this way: (StarTribune)
What do Clint Eastwood, Dick Cheney, Ted Olson, and John Bolton have in common? All are strong, lifelong conservatives. Each has fought on behalf of smaller government. And all support the freedom of same-sex couples to marry.
You may think Eastwood a doddering fool, but they LOVED his speech about the empty chair. You may think Cheney a war-monger, they think he’s a defender of the nation. And John Bolton, well he’s that Fox News guy who stood up to the United Nations or something.
And Mehlman speaks their language.
But this amendment would put a one-size-fits-all government mandate on all private institutions, including our churches, by telling them that any marriage they choose to perform is null and void for the purposes of Minnesota.
As Republicans, we respect the individual and work to empower people to live as they see fit, with as little intrusion by the government as practical. This idea is grounded in an important Judeo-Christian value that we should all treat others as we would like to be treated.
The argument isn’t new. It’s not really that revolutionary. And to those who think conservative lives equals conservative politics, this is an appeal that allows them the ability to hear our appeal and to consider us as maybe, just possibly, a little bit, well, conservative.
This is the message that will eventually win them over. And let’s hope that Mehlman’s appeal will work with voters in Minnesota. (And some day later we can deal with the eventual outcome: the day that conservatives start ranting about how The Gays need to settle down and find a good man and get married and raise a family like decent people and lesbians do.)