Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Your Prop 8 Omnibus

So there is this thing called Prop H8 that takes away marriage rights from CA gays (like, for example, Fosco). While the Obamagasm (which, btw, Fosco is not complaining about) has mostly kept Prop 8 out of the coverage of the MSM (although, see the eloquent Keith Olbermann plea), the internets are buzzing. So how can you make sense of it all? Who is there to read and distill all the Prop 8 coverage for you? That's where Fosco comes in.

  1. First things first. Fosco needs to apologize for an earlier post in which laid partial blame on black voters for the passage of Prop 8. While there were indeed exit polls that suggested black voters supported Prop 8 at , there is good reason to be suspicious of these numbers. And, even if these numbers are correct, a thoughtful analysis reveals that the black support would still have been too small to pass the measure by itself. You can read these analyses here. Fosco plans to amend his earlier post accordingly and apologizes for jumping on this bandwagon.

    The question of how this black scapegoating came about is an interesting one. There has been much hand-wringing in the gay community about racism recently. This piece from Pam's House Blend is particularly thoughtful.
    But I do want to think that there are less-racist reasons why this story became a story. Because Fosco is a "literature-type," he would like suggest that the outrage over (possible) black support for Prop 8 is about the seductions of narrative. Here are two (related) explanations.

    Think about the surprise and anger that gay people and their allies felt on Wednesday morning when they discovered that California is so astonishingly retrograde. At that point, there was one set of exit polls available, those from CNN. The CNN exit polls were not particularly nuanced at this point, breaking down the results by five sets of demographics: age, religion, previous voting behavior (first-timers vs. regular voters), educational background, and race. All of the demographics except race followed Fosco expectations: old people are more homophobic, college graduates are more tolerant, etc. For Fosco (and, I suspect, for many people), only the last category provided any new information: the suggestion that black voters were more socially conservative than he expected (of course, as Fosco noted above, there are reasons to doubt the methodology of these exit polls and consequently their findings). But anyway, on last Wednesday morning, the exit polls seemed to offer one piece of new and interesting information (black support for the measure) that could then be subsumed into a narrative about the surprise passage of Prop 8.

    But, once this narrative (that black people "caused" the passage of Prop 8) became established, there was another reason why it became almost irresistible: its tragic irony. There is something in us (particularly in well-educated types) that loves a good irony and this narrative had it. The irony: the same social group (black people) that turned out in record numbers to help elect Barack Obama (a man that most gays ardently desired as president) also doomed gay marriage in California. In other words, one of Fosco's most wished-for outcomes (an Obama presidency) was fundamentally tied to Fosco's loss of civil rights. What high tragedy! No wonder this narrative was easy to embrace.

    Which is not to say that racism isn't implicit in these narratives (because it is, I think). My exercise here is not to excuse myself and the gay community from blaming black people for the passage of Prop 8; rather, it is to look for the ways that racism worked alongside/within other structures of meaning-production (such as narrative desire) to produce negative outcomes. Remember: complexity is a good thing.

  2. So who is to blame for Prop 8? Well, as the always brilliant number-crunchers at note, a primary culprit is the elderly. According to Nate Silver:
    The good news for supporters of marriage equity is that -- and there's no polite way to put this -- the older voters aren't going to be around for all that much longer, and they'll gradually be cycled out and replaced by younger voters who grew up in a more tolerant era.
    Are we sure that we want to expand Medicare?

  3. Of course, no round of blaming would be complete without Fosco's new favorite nemeses: Mormons and Catholics.

    Recently, Fosco focused his anger on those pesky Mormons. However, it turns out that the Catholics are a problem as well. For one thing, the involvement of the Mormons in this fight seems to have been orchestrated by the Catholic Archbishop of San Francisco George Niederauer (no, not that George Niederauer). According to an article in the SF Chronicle:
    The June letter from Niederauer drew in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and proved to be a critical move in building a multi-religious coalition - the backbone of the fundraising, organizing and voting support for the successful ballot measure. By bringing together Mormons and Catholics, Niederauer would align the two most powerful religious institutions in the Prop. 8 battle.
    That bastard! I just don't understand why any self-respecting Catholic would get into bed with the Mormons... Don't they know about the naked touching?

    As the article goes on to note, it is Catholics who responded to pulpit-pressure at the last minute who passed the measure:
    The last Field Poll, conducted a week before the election, showed that weekly churchgoers increased their support in the final week from 72 percent to 84 percent. Catholic support increased from 44 percent to 64 percent - a jump that accounted for 6 percent of the total California electorate.
    More proof that the Catholic Church is now waging an organized war against the individual consciences of its members (psst: Vatican II is dead).

  4. And what about those Mormons? Well, they're still evil, of course (and not just because they are busily posthumously baptizing as Mormons Jews who died in the Holocaust).

    What were the Mormons saying at their anti-gay rallies? Here is a priceless paragraph from an article in that charmingly British "newspaper" The Economist:
    Mr Perkins [a Mormon] informed the crowd that gay marriage and tolerant school lessons are little more than “a recruiting process for homosexual behaviour”. Anybody who doubted the connection should take a look at Europe, where homosexuality is apparently rampant.
    That "apparently rampant" line is so deliciously dry. Nice work, Economist. (But, is Mr Perkins right?)

    But not all Mormons are evil. There are some who stick to their progressive beliefs, like the Feminist Mormon Housewives (kudos to you, ladies!). And such dissent is not easy, as noted by a comment to Andrew Sullivan's blog. According to the commenter:
    Those who openly speak disagreement with the church's orthodoxy are routinely excommunicated (you can easily Google public examples, most are secret). There are reports on public websites that Mormon Bishops even questioned individual’s actions supporting Prop 8 in “Temple Interviews,” a form of confessional where members validate that they are living up to the highest church standards.
    All of which makes the intolerance of the Catholic Church look like french kissing.

    So how does one deal with the Mormons? What if we actually took them at their word re: their support for other gay civil rights (just not marriage)? Well, someone has had that brilliant idea! Utah is about to become a lot more progressive...

  5. And then there are just the garden-variety religious nutballs. Like the execrable flat-earther and View cohost Sherri Shepherd. This Defamer headline says it all,
    Sherri Shepherd Vows to Defend Biblical Definition of Marriage That She Cannot Remember,
    but you should still watch the insanity here.

  6. Did you know that you can see who donated money to either side in the Prop 8 struggle? The searchable database is here.

    Note, this database apparently only includes donations greater than $100 (as the donations of Fosco and his friends do not appear). So don't assume that absence from the database means no donation was made.

  7. Finally, what are we supposed to do about Prop H8 until it is overturned? Here are some good ideas:

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