Thursday, February 13, 2014

Dare to discriminate

Note: This is a companion piece to “Traitorous brand.”

The Democrats were reeling from the heavy losses handed to them by the tea party in 2010, so they changed course. Rather than defend Obamacare, rather than run again on class war, they moved the game to another playing field, where the anti-progressive, tea party alliance has less in common.

President Obama’s “evolution” on marriage in early 2012 was an ingenious political move. Not only was it insincere—he always was a marriage redefinitionist—not only was it red meat to energize his base, but it split the tenuous binds that held together the opposition. He split them on social issues.

One side of the tea party sees social issues through the lens of license, the other side through the lens of preserving the civil society from change agents. In libertarians, liberals have natural allies in weakening pressure from society and the state to conform to cultural standards. Drugs. Prostitution. Pornography. Divorce. Contraception. Public displays of religion. And, most visible of all, marriage. Politically, libertarians look upon them with an undiscerning eye, preferring relativistic neutrality where, before progressives rose to power, there was sensible public initiative.

Their reaction against government as a social engineering apparatus is good-natured, but they take their objections too far in erasing the public interest from the law. At best, they are indifferent, but usually they lean towards uprooting civil traditions if it means symbolically less government or less discrimination.

“Discrimination” has a bad rap. In the civil rights movement’s glory years it meant racial prejudice, discrimination of like objects, like skin pigment. Lately that negative connotation has reverted onto unlike objects, like right and wrong. The moral postulates that form the backbone of our civilization make clear distinctions. Their alternatives are not equal and thus are not intended to be treated alike.

Golden Rule libertarians object to accommodating these distinctions in law, even if they make use of them in their daily lives. The distinctions they are reliably capable of are “leave me alone” and the plus or minus result of a cost-benefit analysis.

Opposition to Obamacare is as strong as ever, but a divided opposition will not overturn it. With distrust of the other side rising in the tea party’s ranks, with enthusiasm dampened, liberals carried 2012, and they carried Virginia in 2013, the only place where it mattered. They look poised to cash in on the same formula in 2014, and continue to peel off libertarians—not to mention establishmentarians—from the tea party.

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