culture warrior

Amiable and Approachable Danger

U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO04) speaks at a rally in Littleton, Colorado, 29 September 2014.  (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

Three paragraphs from Stuart Rothenberg to mark the date by. This could be very important:

Though I took notice of Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner’s endorsement of Sen. Marco Rubio for president, I didn’t immediately think about Gardner as a possible running mate for Rubio — until a CQ Roll Call colleague dropped that pearl of wisdom in my lap.

But there are plenty of reasons why Gardner needs to be on any Rubio shortlist of possible running mates, even this early in the 2016 election cycle.

In a party full of elected officials who look and sound angry and bitter, the Colorado Republican invariably is cheerful and optimistic. That doesn’t mean that Gardner is happy with the direction of the country or defends the status quo, but it does mean he is amiable and approachable. Not surprisingly, that makes him appealing to many voters, particularly those who are less ideological and less partisan.

This is an interesting, and even potentially terrifying notion. Sen. Gardner is a proper culture warrior. Amiable and approachable is one thing, but consider the story of how he got to the Senate.

In 2010, Republicans ran a former Weld County prosecutor named Ken Buck for U.S. Senate. Mr. Buck, it turned out, suffered a vital weakness; as prosecutor he refused to charge a confessed rape, telling the victim she bore guilt in her own rape, and telling the public he did not think the good people of Weld County could convict a confessed rape. Democrat Michael Bennet won by a narrow margin.

In 2014, incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall faced re-election, and Republicans feared another Ken Buck run. Instead, the Congressman from Colorado’s Fourth stepped up, and Cory Gardner became a Senate candidate. While he was not a rape abettor like Mr. Buck, Mr. Gardner faced exposure for his sponsorship of an anti-abortion bill attempting to curtail the human rights of women. So he denied his support for the bill, but refused to remove his name as a sponsor. This was good enough for the people of Colorado, and in the Fourth Congressional District they sent the rape abettor, Mr. Buck, to fill Mr. Gardner’s seat in the House of Representatives.

Amiable and approachable is one thing, but that speaks nothing to statecraft, or the quality and efficiency thereof.

As a vice presidential nominee, Mr. Gardner would simply be an amiable and approachable face of danger.

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Image note: U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO04) speaks at a rally in Littleton, Colorado, 29 September 2014. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

Rothenberg, Stuart. “Cory Gardner for Veep? Don’t Laugh”. Rothenblog. Roll Call. 3 November 2015.

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The Point: Supremacy ≠ Equality

Rowan County, Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis shows emotion as she is cheered by a gathering of supporters during a rally on the steps of the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort, Kentucky, Saturday, 22 August 2015. Davis spoke at the rally organized by The Family Foundation of Kentucky. The crowd of a few thousand included churchgoers from around the state. Davis has been sued by the American Civil Liberties Union for denying marriage licenses to gay couples. She says her Christian faith prohibits her from signing licenses for same-sex couples. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Yesterday, Brian Beutler laid out a case for why Kim Davis should face jail for contempt of court; the article for The New Republic recalled:

What was rendered as a call for pluralism, though, was really a counterbid to keep the old formula: when disputes arise between same-sex couples and religious people like ourselves, the state should side with us.

Today, Ms. Davis, the Clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, was ordered to jail by U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning; Steve Benen reminds, for msnbc:

Just so news consumers are clear, if you hear that Davis was jailed for her opposition to marriage equality, this is incorrect. She was taken into custody because she deliberately, brazenly ignored a court order. Davis was bound, not only to perform her official duties, but also to follow the law. She refused and is now in contempt of court.

This is important. But what neither Beutler nor Benen ever quite cut to―indeed, the larger discourse seems to avoid―is the basic functional reality. And perhaps there is a reason for this, but it comes down to something like we shouldn’t have to spell it out so simply, which is clearly insufficient since this really is the moment, and really is the argument.

Equality is equality. Functionally speaking, what Ms. Davis demands is that her “equality” requires her “superiority” and others’ “inferiority”. In theology, one of the practical limitations of God is inherent contradiction; even the Almighty cannot, by the classic example, fashion a square circle.

By definition, supremacy is not equality.

The functional reality that these Christian conservatives need to deal with is that equality is equality. This has been going on for a long time. As we have considered of Ms. Davis, the underlying device is the same as the library book argument. It’s also the same one we heard about pop music in the 1980s; the one that brought us the little black and white warning labels on heavy metal and rap albums. It is a traditional plea of the privileged, that another’s rights stop at the convenience or inconvenience of the privileged; one’s rights are violated as long as another’s are intact.

This is the functional reality: All Ms. Davis is asking is that her equality allow her supremacy.

So whatever one might say in rejoinder to Mr. Benen’s reminder, Mr. Beutler’s recollection of recent history is accurate:

Back before the Supreme Court found a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, when it became clear that same-sex marriage would one day be the law of the land in most, if not all states, conservative culture warriors abruptly changed tacks. After organizing for years around the notion that states and the federal government should refuse to recognize same-sex marriages, they decided the time had come for everyone to be accommodating to one another—as if liberals were suddenly making unfair demands.

But liberals were doing no such thing. For generations, when disputes rooted in discrimination against gays and lesbians arose between parties, governments would generally side with discriminators. Liberals were simply demanding that moving forward, the presumption should be turned on its head—beginning with the states themselves, a great many of which refused to recognize same-sex marriages.

Conservatives responded by issuing pleas for mercy, and embraced the concept of pluralism, to wield as a cudgel against gay rights activists. Same-sex marriage might prevail legally and politically, but opponents should not thenceforth be treated like bigots or pariahs or scofflaws.

What was rendered as a call for pluralism, though, was really a counterbid to keep the old formula: when disputes arise between same-sex couples and religious people like ourselves, the state should side with us.

Thus it is worth reminding explicitly: What he is describing is the old formula of supremacism: In order to be equal, Ms. Davis and other Christians should be able to demand and enforce inequality unto others.

Whatever anyone else tells you about freedom and conscience, simply remember that functionally speaking, supremacy and equality simply are not the same, and cannot be reconciled as such. Kim Davis is about to become a martyr and legend; let us always remember why.

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Image note: Rowan County, Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis shows emotion as she is cheered by a gathering of supporters during a rally on the steps of the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort, Kentucky, Saturday, 22 August 2015. Davis spoke at the rally organized by The Family Foundation of Kentucky. The crowd of a few thousand included churchgoers from around the state. Davis has been sued by the American Civil Liberties Union for denying marriage licenses to gay couples. She says her Christian faith prohibits her from signing licenses for same-sex couples. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Benen, Steve. “Kentucky’s Kim Davis jailed, held in contempt”. msnbc. 3 September 2015.

Beutler, Brian. “Throw Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis in Jail”. The New Republic. 2 September 2015.

The Scott Walker Show (Virtue of Citizenship)

Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin, speaks during the South Carolina Freedom Summit hosted by Citizens United and Congressman Jeff Duncan in Greenville, South Carolina, U.S., on Saturday, May 9, 2015. The Freedom Summit brings grassroots activists from across South Carolina and the surrounding area to hear from conservative leaders and presidential hopefuls. Photogapher: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) continues his curious cowardice.

BASH: Earlier this week you said that the Boy Scouts of America should keep its ban on gay leaders because the policy protected children and (INAUDIBLE) scout values. And then your campaign clarified to say that it was really protecting the scouts from the political and media discussion about that.

I’m having trouble understanding that. What―at the end of the day what is your position?

WALKER: I’m not talking about personal protection. I’m talking about―for me the reason why I didn’t have a problem with it is I just think it pulled scouting into a whole larger political and cultural debate as opposed to saying scouting is about camping and citizenship and merit badge and service awards instead of pulling all these other issues out there. And I just hope that they (ph) can (ph) stay focused. That’s all.

BASH: So, but should there be a ban on allowing gay men to be scout leaders?

WALKER: That’s up to the people who run the boy scouts.

One thing that people find unique, I guess, whether you like it or not, is I actually answer questions. People ask me a question, I’ll answer a question―

BASH: You’re not really answering this one.

WALKER: Sure. I said in this case that’s what I thought. I thought the policy was just fine.

BASH: OK.

WALKER: I (ph) was (ph) saying (ph) when I was in scouts it was fine. You’re asking what should the policy be going forward? It should be left up to the leaders of the scouts.

BASH: Do you think that being gay is a choice?

WALKER: Oh, I mean I think―that’s not even an issue for me to be involved in. The bottom line is, I’m going to stand up and work hard for every American regardless of who they are, no matter where they come from, no matter what their background. I’m going to fight for people and no matter whether they vote for me or not.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: On behalf of people is to do that properly you have to understand or at least have an opinion on who they are and where they’re coming from.

WALKER: But again, I think―no I don’t have an opinion on every single issue out there. I mean to me that’s―I don’t know. I don’t know the answer to that question.

So I’m just saying (INAUDIBLE) I don’t know what the answer to that is. And again I’m going to spend my time focused on things that I do know and what I can work on.

There is actually a lot going on in this exchange from CNN’s State of the Union, but the first thing to remember is that the questions come in a week when Boy Scout Leaders voted unanimously to approve a middling policy that lifts the formal ban on gay and bisexual employees and volunteers, reinvesting the question of discrimination at the troop level. Mr. Walker, apparently displeased with this turn of events, explained: “I have had a lifelong commitment to the Scouts and support the previous membership policy because it protected children and advanced Scout values.”

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