May 17, 2008

Farmers and Gays

I had some thoughts about two poltical events this week--the California Supreme Court's discovery of a constitutional right of gays to marry if breeders do, and the Congress's passage by a veto-proof majority of a pork-filled farm subsidy bill.

I'm also experimenting with a service called Scribd, which allows one to upload documents to the Web much as flickr allows it with pictures. See the link below:

Read this doc on Scribd: Farmers and Gays
For a short document, I suppose just posting it is fine, but for longer ones, Scribd and its program, iPaper, seem quite effective.

UPDATE: the window for Scribd is small. The average viewer might not know where to click to make the document bigger. For this blog, it may have limited use. So, here's the text of the document:

In the wake of the California Supreme Court's discovery in the text of the state's Constitution a right of homosexuals to marry if breeders do, I have been puzzled at the ease and swiftness, in historical terms, with which the homosexual agenda has progressed in modern America. I remember my father asserting, with absolute conviction, in the Sixties, that what is now called the gay rights movement would meet so much resistance that it would never amount to anything. He was, of course, wrong. In the space of a generation, gayness is not merely tolerated, but placed on a pedestal, in spite of the fact that gays make up perhaps 2 per cent of the population. (Don't believe the old Kinsey propaganda about 10 per cent—it just ain't so).

During the same week, Congress was passing, with veto-proof majorities, an agricultural subsidy bill loaded with goodies for the large farmers, who represent a tiny proportion of the population.

The notion is hardly original with me, but these events have something in common. Each represents the triumph, in its main area of political interest, of a small minority whose interests are at odds with those of the majority. How does this happen?

Several factors are at work:

  1. The minority cares deeply about its issue; the majority is at most mildly interested.
  2. The minority is found in clumps in various parts of the country, and thus has more influence in a number of places than its national numbers might reflect.
  3. The minority is politically organized, and either has advocates in the scribbling classes, money to spread around, or both.

The result is that on its issue, politicians in a number of places—and judges are politicians, of course—have something to gain, but less to lose, by taking up the cause. Farmers aren't very influential in New York City, but in the rural midwest or California's Central Valley, they have great power, and cultural standing. Gays are concentrated in New York, LA, San Francisco, and a few other places, care deeply about their issue, and their cause has been taken up by many writers, artists, and celebrities, including law professors, who influence the legal profession and thus, eventually, judges. The average urbanite, on the other hand, might prefer not to see his tax money go to subsidize corporate factories with organic parts, but the proportion of the tax money involved is small enough that he doesn't care much. Similarly, citizens of the heartland may disdain the shennanigans of the self-proclaimed queers of the Bay Area, but for most it's an issue far from the core of their being. What's more, as time went on, the idea was sold that it 's provincial and even bigoted to take umbrage at the normalization of gayness.

This notion extends to other constituencies. The pro-Israel lobby is very similar. It has its rather relentless scribblers, its supposed numbers are not that great but situated in a few metropolitan areas where they vote out of proportion to their numbers, and at least until recently has not made demands, say, for US troops, that might arouse strong feelings among the rest of the population. Support for Israel could also be fit into the prevailing foreign policy narratives—the Cold War, and later the Global War On Terrorism.

Substitute the Cuban exiles in Florida, New Jersey and New York, and you get a similar result. The Armenians, fewer in number, less well-organized, and less vocal among the scribblers, haven't quite succeeded.

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