Political Disagreement and Demonization

On Donald Trump’s selection of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate, the Washington Post reports:

Clinton backers criticized Pence as a social warrior. Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a leading gay rights advocacy group, called him “the face of anti-LGBTQ hate in America.”

The governor, Griffin said, “has made attacking the rights and dignity of LGBT people a cornerstone of his political career — not just a part, but a defining part of his career.”

Pence’s gubernatorial tenure has been marked by a law he signed last year that could have allowed businesses to refuse service to gay people — sparking a national firestorm and a backlash from the business and — professional-sports communities that forced Pence to revise the statute.

A bit of perspective here. Griffin is a long-time personal and professional associate of the Clintons, a hyperpartisan who sees his role as funneling LGBT labor, votes and dollars to the Democratic party.

Pence is a social conservative, to be sure. But in Griffin’s view and that of the LGBT establishment, any disagreement with the left-progressive LGBT agenda makes you a ripe target for demonization. This is important, because it suggests that there can be no legitimate disagreement on the competing rights of gay legal equality and individual religious freedom.

The LGBT establishment and liberal media can put all the scare quotes they want around “religious liberty”—the way that social conservatives used to (and sometimes still do) put scare quotes around “gay marriage.” That doesn’t overcome the inconvenient truth that, in America, individuals do (or at least should) have the right not to be compelled by the state to engage in activities that violate their religious faith. And claims by the liberal left that such faith is wrongheaded does not (or should not) rob believers of that right.

Competing rights, in a constitutional system, are not easy to reconcile, and there will always be conflict around them. Demonizing those on the other side—the default position of the progressive left—only makes clear who the haters are, and, increasingly, it’s usually not the social conservatives.

That said, the Indiana religious freedom bill was, in my view, poorly constructed. Legislation to protect the rights of small business owners not to be compelled to provide creative services for same-sex weddings should not single out gay people as a class for whom discrimination is generally permissible. I don’t believe that was the intent of the legislation, but its supporters left themselves vulnerable to that interpretation.

On the wider issue of the 2016 presidential campaign, I’ve made it clear that I’m supporting the Libertarian party ticket of former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and his vice presidential running mate, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld—not because I have any illusions that they’ll win, or even because I agree with them on every issue (I don’t), but because I think supporting third parties whose views mostly align with your own may eventually have a constructive effect on the two major parties, if you believe (as I do) that both have gone seriously astray.

I see Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as untenable candidates, for different reasons. And sure, if LGBT rights is your predominant interest and you feel it is absolutely vital to ensure that the government force owners of small bakeries and independent wedding planners to provide their services to same-sex weddings (because, you know, “Jim Crow”), then of course you’ll be behind Clinton.

But while I find Trump’s nativist appeals and economic nationalism wrongheaded, and his style far beneath the dignity of the presidency, I think Clinton’s foreign policy misjudgments as Secretary of State (especially as regards Libya), her grossly misguided handling of classified e-mails and lying about it, her providing favors for Clinton Foundation donations, her pandering to the teachers unions in opposing vitally necessary public education reforms, and now her championing of the worst ideas of Bernie Sanders as regards entitlement expansion, all make her unacceptable.

I’d like the Democratic party to move back to the center on economic issues, and for the GOP to let go of its opposition to gay legal equality. I support reasonable restrictions on late-term abortions, especially partial birth abortion which seems to me little different from infanticide. Also, I don’t think the federal government should be using taxpayer money to pay for abortion, which a great many taxpayers view as the taking of human life.

And I don’t have a problem with allowing independent service providers to turn down gigs involving same-sex weddings if, in their view, to take those assignments would violate their religious faith (civil servants, as government employees, are different).

I’m sure that, in Chad Griffin’s view, that makes me a “hater.”

More. Walter Olson tweets about Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which Pence backed along with other social conservatives:

Reminder: Indiana RFRA law had fairly moderate content, but sank in part b/c it was seen as pet project of so-con hard-liners around Pence.

It all brings to mind Chris Bull and John Gallagher’s book on the culture wars of the ‘90s, Perfect Enemies, in which they observed: “As some leaders on both sides have discovered, it is easiest to raise money when your opponent is demonized out of all recognition.”

Which, of course, takes us to Everyone I don’t like is Hitler—demonstrated here and elsewhere—and Why everyone we don’t like is not.

29 Comments for “Political Disagreement and Demonization”

  1. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    The LGBT establishment and liberal media can put all the scare quotes they want around “religious liberty” — the way that social conservatives used to (and sometimes still do) put scare quotes around “gay marriage.” That doesn’t overcome the inconvenient truth that, in America, individuals do (or at least should) have the right not to be compelled by the state to engage in activities that violate their religious faith.

    American citizens already have “the right not to be compelled by the state to engage in activities that violate their religious faith.” It just isn’t unlimited.

    Sherbert/Yoder established the “substantial burden”, “compelling governmental interest”, “least restrictive means” formula. Employment Division walked back the “compelling government interest” and “least restrictive means” tests in cases of laws of general applicability. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act characterized Employment Division as “virtually eliminat[ing] the requirement that the government justify burdens on religious exercise imposed by laws neutral toward religion” and reinstated the Sherbert/Yoder test for (1) federal laws of general applicability, and (2) state laws of general applicability”. Bourne declared that the federal government could not impose the Sherbert/Yoder test on state law, but affirmed RFRA with respect to federal law. In the aftermath of Bourne, a number of states enacted state-level RFRA laws that replicated the federal RFRA; other states did not.

    Since Obergefell was decided in 2015, several hundred bills have been introduced in Congress and state legislatures under the guise of “religious freedom”. A very few have replicated RFRA (“substantial burden”, “compelling interest”, “least restrictive means”) and are unobjectionable, at least to me. Most, however, have tampered with the Sherbert/Yoder test by either (a) removing the “substantial burden” requirement, substituting a “mere burden” test instead, or (b) limiting the scope of applicability to religious objection to same-sex marriage, and same-sex marriage alone.

    The former (removing the “substantial burden” requirement) changes the constitutional landscape in a way that “courts anarchy” (to quote Justice Scalia’s majority opinion in Employment Division). If any burden on religious practice, no matter how slight or how inconsequential, triggers the “compelling interest” and “least restrictive means” tests, then it will become almost impossible for the government, at either state or federal level, to enact laws of general applicability that will pass muster.

    The latter (limiting the scope of applicability to religious objection to same-sex marriage, and same-sex marriage alone) is objectionable for three reasons. First, it singles out gays and lesbians for special, state-sanctioned discrimination not sanctioned for similarly situated citizens. Second it favors one religious belief (religious objection to same-sex marriage) over other religious beliefs (e.g. e.g. religious objection to remarriage after divorce). Third, it singles out a particular class of religionists (those who object to same-sex marriage) for special privileges not afforded to similarly situated religionists (e.g., those who object to remarriage after divorce).

    The First Amendment Defense Act (S 1598, HR 2802) goes even further than the typical state-level bills, eliminating any “burden” requirement at all, while limiting “religious freedom” protection to persons who “believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage”.

    That’s the legal landscape.

    The problem, Stephen, as you almost certainly know but refuse to acknowledge, is that because the proposed laws tamper with the Sherbert/Yoder test in ways that materially reshape the contours of religious freedom in the United States, while sanctioning discrimination against gays and lesbians, and gays ane lesbians alone, “religious freedom” has become synonymous with “discriminate against gays and lesbians”. That may not always be fair, or accurate in all cases, but reputation is well earned, and that defines the political landscape. If the proposed laws had replicated the federal RFRA without reaching for political advantage and in the political context of an attack on Obergefell, the uproar would likely have been avoided.

    As a side note, I almost always put the words “religious freedom” into quotes when using the term to describe the so-called “religious freedom” bills. I don’t do so as a scare tactic. I do so because the proposed laws make, in most cases, mockery of religious freedom.

  2. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    On the wider issue of the 2016 presidential campaign, I’ve made it clear that I’m supporting the Libertarian party ticket of former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and his vice presidential running mate, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld—not because I have any illusions that they’ll win, or even because I agree with them on every issue (I don’t), but because I think supporting third parties whose views mostly align with your own may eventually have a constructive effect on the two major parties, if you believe (as I do) that both have gone seriously astray.

    Good for you.

    It is long since time that folks who take libertarian principles at all seriously got out of the Republican Party. The Republican Party likes to “talk the talk”, but when it comes to “walking the walk”, the chosen path is the opposite of libertarianism.

    I can only hope that others (David Koch and Paul Singer come to mind) will do likewise.

  3. posted by Doug on

    ‘ Indiana RFRA law had fairly moderate content, but sank in part b/c it was seen as pet project of so-con hard-liners around Pence.’

    Pence wanted to reduce spending on AIDS research and spend it on conversion therapy. The man is property called a ‘hater’.

  4. posted by Lori Heine on

    At this point, any choice that Republican voters make will be either “for the social conservative extremists” or “against the social conservative extremists.” That’s because no matter how moderate they might be as individuals, the GOP is firmly in the grip of the extreme social right.

    For any Republican with any backbone or principle whatsoever, Trump’s choice of running mate should eliminate him from consideration.

  5. posted by Jorge on

    I get so tired of these overhyped aghast reactions to political announcements devolving into so much dumbed down boilerplate. Everyone’s a “leading enemy” to the People.

    …but because I think supporting third parties whose views mostly align with your own may eventually have a constructive effect on the two major parties, if you believe (as I do) that both have gone seriously astray.

    Boo for me, there is no such thing in my case.

    I agree with Mr. Miller’s analysis of Trump and Clinton for the most part, but I also think both have great strengths. I happen to think Clinton’s foreign policy experience Trump’s suffer no fools temperament are both exactly what this country needs. Both are highly egotistical candidates. I give Clinton credit for her loyalty, both to her political allies and rivals in the Democratic party and to the country as a whole in her service to the country and her pragmatic stance on foreign policy. With Trump I mainly favor his political incorrectness, his willingness to say No to so much that bothers me. Everything else is passable enough–certainly better than having either a conservative or a liberal in the White House.

    It is long since time that folks who take libertarian principles at all seriously got out of the Republican Party.

    I’m glad Ron Paul got snuffed in 2012.

    For any Republican with any backbone or principle whatsoever, Trump’s choice of running mate should eliminate him from consideration.

    Uh-huh. I once voted for Rick Santorum knowing full well which 2003 sin gave him his Google problem. Three years earlier seems about the same distance as reducing AIDS funding to increase funding of gay conversion therapy at the end of the last millennium.

    Donald Trump only had two choices as VP: someone from the Ted Cruz faction (domestic policy focus, hard-line on social issues), or someone from the Lindsey Graham side (hard-line on foreign policy and domestic security issues). We all know which side gave him more of a run for his money in the primary. The “establishment” side of course was not an option.

    But there is more to it than that. Trump has been making motions of channeling the social conservative aspects of the party in recent weeks. Then the terror attacks in Orlando, Dallas, and Nice changed the focus of what this country is paying attention to, and Trump decided to channel (or pander to, if you prefer) the “peace through strength” and “law and order” aspects of the party himself rather than choose a VP who represents this area (probably the correct decision considering the available choices). Thus, Mike Pence represents the social conservative aspect of the party rather than Trump now.

    Will I take that exchange? Hell yeah I will!

    • posted by Lori Heine on

      Both Trump and Clinton are malignant narcissists, if not sociopaths.

      One used his political connections to steal private property from people who couldn’t afford to fight back. Now he wants access to the the security codes for The Bomb.

      The other is a warmonger with no discernible conscience. She owes her entire political career, and much of her considerable fortune, to dealings with countries that murder gay people.

      Which flavor turd do we want? Should we stick a fork in the upper socket or the lower? Cut off the right arm, or the left?

      Neither candidate is even a passably decent human being. I wouldn’t leave either one alone with one of my pets, much less one of my children.

      But Jorge, good to know you’re so glad Ron Paul “got snuffed” in 2012.

      Unbelievable.

      • posted by TJ on

        Clinton has to deal with leaders with poor human rights records. Anyone who wants to live in the real world has to.

        The Saudi royal family has a tremendous amount of clout because of oil, and how campaigns are financed.

        The Kingdom has gone through a lot of economic development, but its social attitudes are still very Victorian and its political and legal development is almost nonexistent.

        • posted by Lori Heine on

          Yes, tell yourself that. I’m sure it helps.

        • posted by Houndentenor on

          I don’t like the way we have to bow and scrape to middle eastern dictators. (Or any dictators for that matter.) But as long as we are this dependent on oil that is going to continue. We also have to work with Muslims around the world to combat Isis. (Many Isis attacks are against Muslim targets so ISIS is often a common enemy.) And I do not fault charities for taking money from people with less than honorable practices and intentions. I have been in quite a few productions whose main sponsor was Philip Morris. PM sponsored a great deal of rather avant-garde projects in the 80s and 90s that most major donors were leery of. That’s the reality of fundraising.

  6. posted by TJ on

    1. As you probably already know, carving out lopsided and hypocritical exemptions to public accommodations laws ain’t religious freedom.

    2. Carving out lopsided and hypocritical exemptions, while also refusing to add LGBT people to the civil rights code ain’t an act of love.

    3. Very little of the media – with much in the way of broad circulation- can be called, liberal. MSNBC and Huffington are slightly left of center.

    4. The VP candidate could easily disple any accusations of hatred by defending civil rights and religious liberty.

  7. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    Walter Olson tweets about Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act … It all brings to mind Chris Bull and John Gallagher’s book on the culture wars of the ‘90s … Which, of course, takes us to Everyone I don’t like is Hitler — demonstrated here and elsewhere — and Why everyone we don’t like is not.

    You have an interesting mind if the connections you make are any indication, but it is heartening to hear that you may be coming down on the side of rhetorical moderation.

    Have we now seen the last of your frequent comparisons of progressive gays and lesbians to Robespierre and the Reign of Terror? (“Totalitarian Jerks” by Stephen H. Miller on August 25, 2015, “The Hitching Post Controversy” by Stephen H. Miller on October 20, 2014, “Another Day, Another Scalp” by Stephen H. Miller on April 3, 2014, “The Ugly Face of Zealotry” by Stephen H. Miller on August 25, 2013, “Involuntary Servitude in the Name of ‘Equalty’?” by Stephen H. Miller on April 10, 2008, et al). One can hope.

  8. posted by TJ on

    Apparently, political demonization is “OK” when you are Stephen and you target is Democrats, progressives or anyone else he may disagree with.

  9. posted by Jorge on

    Have we now seen the last of your frequent comparisons of progressive gays and lesbians to Robespierre and the Reign of Terror? ….One can hope.

    That would surely require the permanent departure of Dan Savage and Milo Y– (i.e., his haters) both.

    • posted by Tom Scharbach on

      That [Stephen’s frequent comparisons of progressive gays and lesbians to Robespierre and the Reign of Terror] would surely require the permanent departure of Dan Savage and Milo Y– (i.e., his haters) both.

      Why would Stephen need “the permanent departure of Dan Savage and Milo Y-” to refrain from demonization of progressive gays and lesbians? Isn’t that something Stephen can do himself just by exercising a reasonable amount of personal restraint?

      • posted by Doug on

        Tom, you just don’t understand. Stephen needs the departure of Savage et. al. because it is those pesky progressives that are forcing him to demonize others. It’s all those nasty progressives that are forcing the GOP to be so nasty.

      • posted by Tom Scharbach on

        You know, Doug, Dan Savage once wrote a “Savage Love” column that reminds me of “the evil progressives forced me to do it” argument. The guy who wrote in was straight, but when his masseur inserted his thumb in a certain place, which he did regularly, the man just couldn’t stop himself from, uh, participating. He asked Savage how he could change this. Savage’s reply was, well, priceless.

      • posted by Jorge on

        Why would Stephen need “the permanent departure of Dan Savage and Milo Y-” to refrain from demonization of progressive gays and lesbians? Isn’t that something Stephen can do himself just by exercising a reasonable amount of personal restraint?

        Exactly. He doesn’t have it, or should I say he thinks it’s a bad idea. That would require him adopting a moral code that he does not believe is appropriate, as he is for the purposes of this blog a some kind of justice warrior.

  10. posted by TJ on

    pray do tell how to get out of such a pickle. 😉

  11. posted by Doug on

    If you want demonization, one need look no further than the Republican Convention speakers and aids to the Trump campaign. It’s all pretty disgusting. You might want to take a look in your own back yard, Stephen, before you criticize the left.

  12. posted by Jorge on

    If you want demonization, one need look no further than the Republican Convention speakers and aids to the Trump campaign. It’s all pretty disgusting. You might want to take a look in your own back yard, Stephen, before you criticize the left.

    I must have forgotten all of it in the traumatic amnesia I experienced after the sappy sugar overload that was Melania Trumps speech.

    That was a deliberate attempt at misdirection on my part. Instead of telling me what one should have found (but didn’t), could you tell us what juicy gossip you found about demonization?

  13. posted by Doug on

    You can do your own research, Jorge. It’s all over the convention, just watch.

  14. posted by JohnInCA on

    “[…] individuals do (or at least should) have the right not to be compelled by the state to engage in activities that violate their religious faith […]”
    But only so long a that religious faith is anti-gay. If that religious faith is anti other religions, anti-black, anti-woman, anti-Irish, and so-on, we’re fine with the state compelling people to violate their religious faith.

    ’cause remember, the religious justifications that were used to defend discrimination against blacks/women/the Irish weren’t real religious justifications, like religious justifications for being anti-gay. Nope, anti-gay religious beliefs are just untouchable and sacred. Unlike religious beliefs about the proper way to worship God, which are just a matter of opinion.

  15. posted by Jorge on

    It’s a bad idea to ask questions you think you know the answer to where the other party controls the decision, Doug. Fine, then. We’ll play it your way.

    Cut out the 25% of the speeches that were pure partisanship (“Donald Trump is the only one) and what’s left is common sense in its purest form. Keep the partisanship, and you have a very reasonable argument that the election of Hillary Clinton is an existential threat to this country on a social, moral and foreign policy level.

    • posted by Doug on

      Partisanship does not equal demonization.

  16. posted by Houndentenor on

    I will not criticize any gay conservative for voting for Johnson/Weld. Neither is anti-gay. I will fault them for voting for almost any Republican, especially since this year’s party platform is the most anti-lbgt party platform in history.

  17. posted by Jorge on

    They are saying that Peter Thiel is speaking tonight at the RNC at 9pm to criticize the party platform. I keep getting confused over whether Mr. Thiel is gay or just libertarian (so much for “Make America One Again”… wait, you think that proves the theme?).

    I really, really have no problem with Ted Cruz saying “vote your conscience” instead of endorsing Trump. I realize it’s retaliation on his part, but it is wrong to say that just because you are a Republican or Republican-leaning, you should buy into the hype. Aren’t they saying they want Trump to win a new generation of Reagan Democrats? Then that means you need to leave people alone for a bit and let them come to their own peace about this election.

  18. posted by Annals of the One True Party - IGF Culture Watch on

    […] previously explained why, in my view, Mike Pence is being unfairly demonized and why, in America, people should not be compelled by the state to provide expressive services to […]

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