Sunday, February 05, 2006

 

Razing Kaine

If my friends on the far left want to understand why the liberal blogosophere has little or no credibility outside its own echochamber, they should look no further than the ridiculous and despicable attack that some prominent liberal blogsites leveled this week against Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, the Democratic responder to the President's State of the Union address.

To much of the Democratic Party, Kaine is a hero these days, having found a way to win the governorship in a large Southern state this year as a smart, progressive man of faith who could credibly defend his opposition to the death penalty. That is why he (and not a Washington insider) was chosen by the party's leadership to give the rebuttal to Bush's speech Tuesday night.

But to the folks at MyDD and Americablog, among other liberal bloggers, Kaine is a horrible homophobe -- not my word, theirs. "On the unlikely chance that you thought there was any value left in the Democratic party after today," wrote John in DC on Americablog last Monday, "we have a homophobe giving the Democratic response to the State of the Union tomorrow.

And what, pray tell, did Kaine do to deserve this extreme judgment? As best I can tell from John in DC's confusing rant, Kaine did not oppose a sweeping anti-gay state constitutional amendment vociferously enough for the angry activist base's liking. There was no offensive slur on Kaine's part, no cynical political ploy. Just no purity.

This conclusion seemed absurd to me on its face, but I thought I would do a little checking on Kaine's record to see if there was anything I was missing.

It turns out that Kaine, like the clear majority of Democrats in Congress and I suspect almost the entire state of Virginia, is opposed to gay marriage. But he has publicly and consistently objected to the amendment that the Virginia Senate approved this week, and which will be put on the ballot in November as a referendum, because it goes far beyond outlawing same-sex marriages to substantially restrict the legal rights of gay and lesbian citizens.

In case you are curious, here is what the amendment says: “That only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this Commonwealth and its political subdivisions. This Commonwealth and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage. Nor shall this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions create or recognize another union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage.”

As I learned, Kaine has no ability to veto a proposed constitutional amendment, and had no obligation to speak out on the subject. Thus the cheap and easy thing for a Democratic governor in a red state to do in this situation was to keep his mouth shut, especially if they were opposed to gay marriage as Kaine is. But Kaine actually had the courage to stand up, expend a little political capital, and say the amendment went "too far" and could prevent gays and lesbians from entering into legal contracts and void existing ones.

Oh, as I also learned, in his first official act as governor this year, Kaine, who has a long and strong record on civil rights, signed an executive order prohibiting state agencies from discriminating against people based on sexual orientation. This wasn't a bill he was forced to sign, or some meaningless symbolic gesture. It was an affirmative act of leadership and an actual legal protection.

Yes, this man is clearly a homophobe.

I wish this pathetic little episode could be written off as an isolated incident of fringe lunacy. But I am afraid it is becoming endemic to the Democratic Party's activist and increasingly cannibalistic base. Indeed, there seems to be a prevailing assumption that if you do not agree with the angry activist base's dogmatic views with absolute consistency, you must be a corporate sell-out and/or an unreconstructed bigot -- and thus should be cast out of the party.

In this case, many on the left equate opposition to gay marriage with homophobia. That is on its face an indefensible proposition, not to mention grossly unfair. The fact is, there are millions of Americans like Tim Kaine are comfortable with homosexuality but at the same time uncomfortable with the prospect of radically changing a core social and religious institution for multiple millennia overnight. Many of them are people of faith who see marriage as a holy sacrament not to be tampered with, whether it's on behalf of someone gay or straight.

Now you can argue reasonably that this position is short-sighted, unjust, and even morally-flawed; as someone with a gay sibling who recently got married in Massachusetts, I have made some of those same arguments myself. But you cannot reasonably argue, in light of the deeply-ingrained social and religious forces at work here, that opposition to gay marriage must be on its face motivated by hate (and hence homophobic). To do so is to practice the very same narrow-minded prejudice that the angry activist base is ostensibly protesting.

Even worse, by showing such moral arrogance and disrespect to those on the other side of this deeply-felt issue, the far left is badly hurting the cause of gay rights -- and the long-term interests of progressives generally. Indeed, their strategy of indiscriminately insulting those Americans of good conscience who disagree with them is just producing more conflict and controversy and moving us further from any kind of consensus. Moreover, it is hardening the impression that the Democratic Party is hostile to faith and the people who practice it -- which Tim Kaine ironically had effectively counteracted in his race -- and in turn deepening the values deficit that is helping to make us a minority party.

On the heels of Coretta Scott King's passing, I can't help but note the contrast between the angry activist's base tactless tack on gay marriage and the compelling approach that MLK took in fighting racial injustice. Rather than using accusatory rhetoric, Dr. King rallied the country with moral suasion. He didn't tell the silent white majority they were bigots, he showed them, using the Bible as his evidence, why segregation was inconsistent with God's commandments, as well as America's ideals. The primary name he called was that of Christ.

If we as Democrats hope to beat back homophobia, and ultimately win back the trust of the American people to lead this country, we would be wise to learn from MLK's successes, as well as Lincoln's, and appeal to the better angel's of our fellow American's nature, rather than treating them like they are the devil.

A good place to start would be for the folks at MyDD and America Blog to apologize to Tim Kaine for slandering him. But that's not going to happen. So the next best thing would be for the leaders of the Human Rights Campaign, known for being a class organization, and other prominent gay rights groups to issue a statement denouncing the ugly, totally unwarranted attack against Kaine's character.

We Democrats like to believe we are better than the neanderthalish conservatives who run and rule by dividing and excluding. Maybe we should think about practicing what we preach.

Comments:
I couldn't agree with you more. I thought it was a great move having Kaine give the response. He's kind of like, bulletproof.
 
But what about his eyebrow lifting up all the time. It made him look like a freak!
 
America has really lost it sense of law.
The many many couirt ruling show this to be true.
Today our court room have become full of Judges who think they have the legal right to
make law.What we have today is judges full of pride and quest for power,they think their words are mightier then the pen of our founding fathers.
lawsuits
 
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