Sunday, November 14, 2004

Strategery: Why the "Defense of Marriage" is Meaningful [Lakoff ii]

Lakoff nails it again. The right's obsession with stopping same-sex marriage in general and "Defense of Marriage" in particular have baffled me so far.

But Lakoff makes it all clear in the context of one of his basic theories: Conservatives think that a proper family is one with a strict father figure. Progressives think, correctly, that a proper family is one with nurturant parents. The third of people in the middle of the American political structure make use of each model at different times. (As an aside, Lakoff applies these models when thinking about how we can win arguments in nearly every aspect of politics: he argues, because our cognitive capacities were evolved in a time when there were families but there was no national news of any kind, that we think of our nation and our politics in terms of those very family models.)

When conservatives speak of the "Defense of Marriage," then, they really mean it. The strict father family is threatened by same-sex marriage, because same-sex marriage doesn't automatically specify who gets to be the Daddy. This is a very serious issue because the strict father family relies on "one man, one woman" as part of the convention that establishes who gets to be the strict father. (Hint: it's not Rick Santorum.)

Lakoff, I think, shares my view that this is a very weak point for conservatives. Time is not on their side. He goes on to suggest that those of us who are not running for public office can do a lot to reclaim the moral high ground. This is an area where we know what our values dictate, and we know how to express how they relate to policy. He points out that marriage is "the realization of love through lifelong public committment", and that love and committment are both sacred, so we know where the sanctity lies. He points out that reporters asking politicians about such things should ask "Do you think the government has any business telling Americans who they can and can't marry?" -- asking question within frames established at the right-wing bias factory is not something responsible reporters should do.


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