The Lost Cause

The current controversy over the state of President Obama's "evolution" on same-sex marriage is one of those things that once it happens seems inevitable. After all, most everyone, both conservative and liberal, assumes that in his heart Obama does believe everyone ought to have the same marriage rights, but he thinks it's too risky to make that step before this fall's election. It's not exactly a profile in courage to say that you're in the process of changing your mind, but you haven't quite changed it yet. Perhaps he thought that the same answers he's been giving up until now would be sufficient to put off the time when he'd have to confront the issue more directly, but now that his vice president has put him on the spot and every cabinet secretary is going to get asked for his or her opinion at every interview, he really can't hold out much longer. All of which made me wonder, how does this look from the vantage point of the right?

There's a bit of crowing about Obama being hypocritical, and just some pleasure being taken in the White House's discomfort. But what interests me is what conservatives think about the future of the issue. Because from here, it looks like we all know what is going to happen. Barack Obama may be able to put off coming out for same-sex marriage between now and the election, but we all know he's going to do so eventually, probably sooner rather than later (i.e. in 2013, rather than in the third volume of his memoirs 15 years from now). Support for marriage equality has crossed the halfway point, and no one in their right mind could think there will be some reversal in that trend, both because of individuals being persuaded, and because the generation most opposed to it is the oldest one, meaning the one that won't be around much longer. But where does that leave you if you're a vociferous opponent of same-sex marriage?

To see where, take a look at an exchange between Maggie Gallagher, whom we could fairly characterize as the nation's leading opponent of same-sex marriage, and fellow conservative Rod Dreher. Dreher wrote a post arguing that gay marriage is "a skirmish in a much broader war that we've lost." Then Gallagher responded, "Actually, Rod, I understand your pessimism, but please drop the 'nobody likes to hear this, I'm being brave' pose. You are among a large number of conservative elites who want to declare the war over and get out of the way....The will to lose on gay marriage among conservative elites is palpable." Dreher then responded with more details about why this battle is lost; Gallagher then responded, "I honestly do not understand why predictions of defeat are useful. The future has not yet happened. Today we will win another victory in North Carolina. Should we really have thrown in the towel?" What I find fascinating about all this is that even Maggie Gallagher cannot bring herself to say that the fight against same-sex marriage is winnable for conservatives. The best she can muster is that they should keep on fighting.

I'm sure that it's hard for someone like Gallagher, who has devoted her professional life to opposing marriage equality, to admit to herself that she's lost. And I'm sure it's painful for her to see so many of her political allies tromping off the battlefield. When she can't say she's going to win, you know the war is almost over.

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