Tuesday, November 9

Deep Thoughts - I've really not felt compelled to do a complete soul-searching on last Tuesday's election results. Although I've thought about it plenty, I don't seem to have the energy to sit down and write a comprehensive, well-reasoned essay on the topic. Instead, here's some random commentary in no particular order.

  1. Karl Rove played the card Gavin Newsom handed him. Gay marriage, by itself, would not have been a deciding factor in this election. Most conservatives in the heartland could have lived with the Goodridge decision in Massachusetts, sealed off as it was in the liberal Northeast. What freaked them out was not activist judges, but activists mayors. Not just in San Francisco, but in Portland and New Mexico and upstate New York. Somewhere I read that conservatives voted not so much for "moral values" as against "moral anarchy." That sounds right to me: There's a grudging popular respect for the judicial process across this land, but the specter of any old officeholder taking the law into his own hands spooks even everyday people. Maybe rightly so. (I'm not convinced, however, that this issue influenced the election except at the margins.)
  2. Plus ça change. I can't get terribly worked up about the outcome of the presidential or even the congressional races. (See below about the initiatives, however.) This election was by and large about things not changing. Four more years of the same is just that, and we've survived so far. Although I voted for the new guy, I can't say I didn't have some trepidation about what a Kerry administration would really be like, nor even a perverse sense of relief that we won't have to find out. There are plenty of Cassandras out there predicting a steep descent into religio-fascist darkness. Forgive me for not buying what they're selling.
  3. The return of Jim Crow. The most unfortunate result lies in the state constitutional amendments, most of which go far beyond "defining marriage" and do severe harm -- at least on their face -- to the legal status of gay couples. (I'd feel sick if I lived in Ohio right now.) These vague laws present the unpleasant prospect of judicial Russian Roulette: Draw the wrong judge and you're at the mercy of an arbitrary and capricious result. While they are going to be hard to overturn down the road, one bright spot may be that these state amendments lessen the "logic" behind a much more irreversible Federal Marriage Amendment.
  4. Darkest before the dawn. I'll claim one other reason to be hopeful. It is a hallmark of an ancient bigotry in decline when it becomes necessary to dress it up in legalistic garb. For centuries there's an unspoken compact relegating the disadvantaged group to inferior, persecuted status. It's only when that social code begins to break down that the guardians of tradition feel compelled to codify an apartheid that was once universally understood. So maybe it's good that Gavin Newsom et al. provoked this outpouring of statutory overkill now. If a backlash was inevitable anyway, then let's get it over with.

Well, that's my opinion on the subject, anyway.