Back while courts and some legislatures were in the process of using the power of government to redefine marriage, I regularly made the point that the whole movement had the feel of a test case.
The activists treat all contrary arguments as beyond the pale, and the more-moderate people who agree with their goals simply ignore the other arguments. So, the activist said, “only bigots oppose same-sex marriage,” and the more-moderate journalist (or whatever) acknowledged when asked that opposition didn’t necessarily mean bigotry but proceeded not to provide much air time to the non-bigoted arguments. The same dynamic played in the process, too. The activists wanted the definition of marriage changed immediately through the least democratic means available, and the more-moderate folks quietly said that it would be better to let the issue work through society a bit, but they didn’t react much when the change was simply imposed.
Throughout the public “debate,” the narrative promoted wasn’t a clash of two reasonable ideologies, but the tale of the forces of progress and those who weren’t ready for change (probably out of backwards-looking bigotry). In elite circles, same-sex marriage became the opinion you simply had to have. Sure, maybe they were squeamish about the purging of anybody who voiced an incorrect opinion or gave a stray donation, but they started to question why the issue should be so important to anybody as to lose their job over it. Maybe the purged person was weird, after all.
Then, as soon as the Supreme Court established the elite religious view of marriage for the entire nation, this split narrative was hardened. President Obama (who had run for office claiming to support traditional marriage) bathed the White House in a rainbow, and we all had to choose whether we were on the happy side, in support of love, freedom, and progress, or were on… the other side. Most people just want to go about their lives and, to the extent that they pay attention to larger trends, to gather their share of national celebration when it comes around, so there you go.
Rod Dreher picks up a similar feel on the issue of gun control:
… I don’t trust the media at all on this. This issue is tailor-made to suit the biases of the media, especially the media elite. The coverage of the gun control movement since Parkland has been overwhelmingly partisan and cheerleading. We have been here before. The coverage of the gay marriage movement starting over a decade ago went the same way. There was only one side to the issue as far as the media were concerned. If you disagreed, then you were a bad person who lacked empathy and compassion. If you raised issues about religious liberty or other complications, the media said that these were non-issues. And then later, when it became clear that these were actually real issues, the media said that only bigots cared about such things.
The two play books look very similar, and in particular, libertarians should take notice. By and large, they were with the progressives on same-sex marriage. Some weakly voiced concerns about religious liberty, but it was too late. On the large social scale, handling policies and their consequences as if they can be adjusted separately doesn’t work, especially when we’ve thrown away our Constitutional processes.
Even now, libertarians think they’re immune to the same treatment. Writing on Instapundit, “Vodka Pundit” Stephen Green recalls the effects of an assault weapons ban on the 1994 midterms after quoting Michael Graham as follows:
“NRA = Murder” signs were widespread at Saturday’s rally, along with “The NRA Supports Terrorists” and “[Expletive] the NRA.” At least one rally featured chants of “Hey, Hey, NRA—How many kids did you kill today?”
So how does it feel to spend a day being called a child murderer on national television?
“You get used to it,” said Cam Edwards, host of the popular “Cam and Company” show on NRATV. “This is nothing new, maybe just more ramped up.”
Edwards makes the point that the NRA is a membership organization and an attack on it is an attack on the 6 million or so people who choose to send in their $40 a year because they want to protect what they see as a constitutional right.
Yeah, well President Clinton was forced to sign the Defense of Marriage Act when Hawaii’s judiciary jumped the gun on same-sex marriage, too. And a decade ago, some of us in traditionalist churches wondered at the wisdom of calling all of us — around 80 million in the Catholic Church alone — bigots in order to push same-sex marriage. Sure, sure, churches aren’t single-issue organizations the way the NRA is concerned with gun rights, and moreover, NRA members would be more like the more-devout members of a religion than those who identify as believers.
Even so, look how these gun-control marches have been covered. Look at companies ending partnerships with the NRA and recall how corporations did the same to socially conservative organizations a decade ago. The Left is reading off the plays by the book, and anybody who has a preferred liberty or a favorite civil right had better give some thought to a counter-play. I wish I could draw it out on the board, but I’d suggest that Dreher is correct when he writes, elsewhere, that it’s going to require threatening the elites’ access to that which they truly value: status, and the ability to determine it.