Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Inoffensive Cause

In the past week, we've gotten rare insight from David Sirota and Michelle Goldberg- not rare at all from them, simply insight that has come from perhaps no one else.

Sirota writes of the political confluence of gay marriage and economics; Goldberg speaks of the confluence of gay marriage and abortion.     Both arguments, however, provide greater understanding of the increasing acceptance of same-sex marriage and the related influence of corporate power.

New York Governor Mario Cuomo, to the delight of most liberals/progressives, pushed through a bill legalizing same-sex marriage.     However, he is not as favorably inclined to efforts by Democratic legislators to increase the state's minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.50 an hour, despite popular support that far outstrips that for gay marriage.       Sirota, a supporter of both, explains

As the New York Times reported, despite lukewarm public support, Cuomo was able to get the state legislature to legalize gay marriage after Wall Street financiers dumped cash into the campaign for equal rights. Knowing that marriage doesn’t threaten their profits, these moneyed interests opted to help their ally Cuomo notch a strategic win — one that allows the governor to preen as a great liberal champion to the state’s left-leaning voters, all while he simultaneously presses an anti-union, economically conservative agenda that moneyed interests support.

Now, of course, the situation is reversed. With New York’s recession-battered voters supporting a minimum wage hike, the greed-is-good crowd is firmly aligned against the initiative. Why? Because unlike gay marriage, which requires no corporate sacrifice, the modest minimum wage boost may slightly reduce corporate profits — and that’s something the fat cats in the executive suites never permit without a fight.

Knowing this, a hack like Cuomo — a guy who asks “how high?” when his campaign contributors say “jump” — is using his power to undermine the popular minimum wage initiative. In this case, he is cooking up a self-fulfilling prophecy about the measure being a political non-starter.

Alex Macgillis, writing in The New Republic of the sharp decline in support of hedge fund managers who had supported Barack Obama in 2008, quoted Barney Frank lamenting that so many, "after playing a pivotal role in supporting gay marriage in New York, are now shoveling money to help elect people 'who are making gay people miserable.'"

Sirota's post is not intended as a diatribe against New York's governor, whom rumor has it is a Democrat, given that it is becoming a clever strategic gambit of a portion of the privileged class.   Sirota identifies Colorado governor John Hickenlooper as a supporter of "same-sex civil unions, all while he loyally shills for oil and gas corporations" and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein as Human Rights Campaign’s national spokesman for gay marriage while "failing to acknowledge" wrongdoing by the financial service sector.

While lamenting "bought-off politicians (who) employ social issues as an excuse to ignore economic justice," Sirota can be excused for not observing that the gay community tends to be well-educated, affluent, and not averse to voting.  

Those factors are largely absent with the community of individuals who have undergone abortions.      On Sunday's Up With Chris Hayes (video of segment, below), the host pondered the (gradual) decline in support of abortion rights (drastic decline in identification as "pro-choice") with that of the dramatic increase in support of same-sex marriage.    Goldberg, who has demonstrated an understanding of reproductive rights issues second to almost no one, responded

Part of that is that gay marriage ends in something to celebrate, a wedding once you kind of...get under, over the kind of underlying bigotry, there's, you know there's kind of just it's just good, whereas an abortion isn't something to celebrate, right, it's much more morally fraught and so it's not just I think kind of bigotry against women or patriarchy that makes people uncomfortable with abortion- the reason, my suspicion for why the numbers are going down in terms of identification with being pro choice, especially since they're not going down on a policy level.   It's not that more people want to criminalize abortion. We're so far away from illegal abortion in this country, you know, one reason I feel so strongly about this is I've spent a lot of time in countries where abortion is illegal and I've spent a lot of time in hospitals that are full of victims of botched abortions. For most people in this country, that's something lost to the mists of time.   They hear the question, do you like abortion, not do you want abortion to be criminalized...

One thing that the polling, the polling I think can't quite get at this, I think you're right that people have this idea that there are women out there having abortions, kind of willy nilly or as a form of contraception as they want to express their disapproval of this.  There will be exceptions for those women, people who do abortions or work in abortion clinics, will often say that everybody believes in three exceptions, rape, incest, and me. You often see people in clinics saying I don't really believe in abortion but you have to understand my situation.

Goldberg went on to argue there are "many women who have been arrested and imprisoned all over the country for trying to end pregnancies illegally."   But, she pointed out, "these are marginal peoples" and "the people going to prisons now are at the margins of society."

They are therefore not the subject of empathy for most affluent Americans and contrast sharply with gay friends and relatives.    Goldberg, in another segment, observed that, unlike that for abortion rights or women's rights, the thrust for same-sex marriage does not threaten the power structure.     It accounts for a portion of the recent success of the latter movement, and one that should give the left pause in its enthusiasm.


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