The greatest misfortune for conservatives is their love of the System—even though it always fucks them over.
The latest occurrence is the case of the Alabama chief justice who’s vainly trying to resist a federal court order that his state recognize gay marriage. Roy Moore is showing no signs of backing down, even though several counties in his state are forgoing his defiance and accepting the unions.
This quarrel started when a U.S. District Court Judge struck down Alabama’s constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage in the state as a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. This is in spite of the fact that 81% of Alabamians voted for the referendum back in 2006. But the will of the people has no bearing when it comes to the pursuit of equality. Thus, we are getting the obligatory comparisons to the segregation fight of the 1960s, where Alabama also served as the primary battleground.
Conservatives might bristle at this comparison—especially considering gay marriage opposition was a popular opinion only a few years ago and George W. Bush won a second term running on it—but the Left is right in drawing an analogy between the two fights. For one, they’re both fights pitting abstract principles versus the will of the people. Segregation had overwhelming support in the South and very few Whites below the Mason-Dixon Line had any interest in altering it. Gay marriage is still strongly opposed by the vast majority of Southerners and there’s no homegrown, grassroots efforts to legalize it there. But, like integration, same-sex marriage is coming to these states in defiance of popular opinion—all thanks to those villains of conservative lore, unelected judges.
To make the cases even more similar, Justice Moore is appealing to states’ rights to uphold his cause. Knowing history, this is a “Lost Cause” from the start. When it comes to federal power vs. state power, federal power always wins. Especially when it comes to issues pertaining to equality and progress. Moore is a lone voice in the wilderness telling history to stop, but many in his state are willing to accept this imposition and move with history.
As in the case of integration, after a brief period of fighting, the majority of the South will accept it and alter their lives to fit the new system. When integration became law, many moved to the suburbs, while others spent the extra money to enroll their children in private schools. There was displeasure at the new change, but any large-scale resistance ceased to exist by the 1970s in the South. (It was a different story in White ethnic enclaves in the North though.)
This story will once again play out for gay marriage. Most of the defenders of traditional marriage will accept the new order and alter their views to fit the prevailing orthodoxy. This time they won’t even have to make major changes to their lives, just their fundamental beliefs. Considering the reaction by the powers that be in Alabama, that’s already happening.
Here’s the Governor’s reaction to the court decision that’s forcing a practice he and 4/5ths of his constituents disagree with:
I have great respect for the legal process, and the protections that the law provides for our people. I am disappointed that a single Federal court judge disregarded the vote of the Alabama people to define marriage as between a man and woman.
We will follow the rule of law in Alabama, and allow the issue of same sex marriage to be worked out through the proper legal channels.
This is in sharp contrast to the opinion of a county judge supporting Moore’s defiance of the federal court. “I’m not worried about following the U.S. Constitution.” That’s a shocking statement to conservatives, who believe the Constitution is a document divinely conceived to guide America into eternity. Disregarding the Constitution essentially disregards American-style conservativism. I can guarantee few are going to follow down this path.
Most will follow the reasoning of Governor Robert Bentley. Grumble a bit, shoulder it, and move on. The law and America’s institutions are too dear for them to disagree with. A defining trait of conservatism is an adherence to law and order. Fighting against a court order in circumvention of the law is something they just can’t do—it’s against their entire nature. They, of course, hope there can be a legal solution to this predicament and hope the Supreme Court rules in their favor, but let’s be real here. Gay marriage is already legal in but name only in the United States. When the Supreme Court hears it this summer, all chances are that they will officially rubber stamp it as the rule of the land. All the state amendments that were passed with outright majorities in the aughts will be nullified and social conservatives will have to acquiesce to the law.
Moore and his supporters are outliers—the reactionaries that will earn the scorn of future generations and serve as the Bull Connors of the “marriage equality” battle. He’s already lost before when he erected a Ten Commandments statue in front of his courthouse in 2001. A federal court ruled this was a violation of church and state, but he defied that time as well, and was removed as Chief Justice soon after the commandments were. He was elected to the position again in 2012, making him an elected judge fighting against unelected ones in the marriage battle. His new fight will likely have the same outcome again.
Thus, giving us another illustration of why conservatives always lose. Now it is worth saying that gay marriage isn’t really important to Identitarianism. Marriage has already ceased to have the meaning of a sacred union designed exclusively for procreation and the raising of children. Gay marriage only exposes modern marriage for what it is—an agreement between two individuals on behalf of temporary emotions. The real marriage fight should focus on restoring its traditional meaning, which is far more than just “one man and one woman.” But if it is only about subjective emotions, who’s to say gays can’t join in?
Regardless of the righteousness of the cause, conservatives lost this fight due to their belief in a country that has enshrined egalitarianism and the atomized individual. The advocates for same-sex unions were able to argue that it was about equality and giving the individual the liberty to choose who he or she can marry. The opponents of gay marriage resorted to the Bible and tradition. Since the Constitution doesn’t recognize either of those items, but does provide for “equal protection” and individual liberty, it’s a no-brainer who won this contest.
Just like it was easy to see who won the integration fight. It’s interesting that both sides of the respective legal battles expected the system to rule in their favor, despite the fact one side appeals to the values of the system while the other side appeals to values outside of it. This encapsulates the cognitive dissonance of true believer conservatives. They love America and think it stands for their values. They don’t question the System because they believe it serves their interests. But it doesn’t serve their interests and Moore found this out twice. The U.S. Constitution enshrines the separation of church and state and equality before the law. Appealing to Christian principles isn’t going to work in a court that recognizes no religion above others. Contrary to Alabama’s Chief Justice and other social conservatives, America wasn’t founded on Christian principles—it was founded on the principles of the Enlightenment.
However, they still champion the Constitution and believe it will save them from the tyranny of liberals. Unfortunately for them, it’s the document that serves as the basis for the liberal mission to further equality and individual choice. Segregationists thought the Constitution would save their cause, too. Even worse for these conservatives is that moderate conservatives like Governor Bentley will eventually denounce them down the road and treat them the same way they treated segregationists.
Moderate conservatives are true slaves to the status quo. They hate rocking the boat and making life harder for themselves. When integration happened, they enclosed themselves in gated communities with an all-White country club and a nearly all-White school nearby. They didn’t have to worry about it because they had the ability to block it from their lives. Beisdes, they didn’t want to be seen as one of those low-class bigots trying to reverse integration. Gay marriage is even easier to accept because, as I previously noted, they don’t have to alter their lives at all. They can still go to their Southern Baptist megachurch and not have to worry about witnessing a gay ceremony or gay couples filling up the pews. It will still be okay in the near future for their church to frown on the practice.
For Moore and those like him, the future looks bleak. They’ll probably be cast out into a political ghetto soon and will never have the opportunity to rejoin the mainstream. They’ll have to wonder why the System failed them and their former allies abandon them. They’ll go down in history as villains and the country they love will hold no place for them in public discourse.
The fundamental difference between true believer conservatives and moderates is that the moderates don’t care if society reflects their views. They have a private society surrounding them that guards them from change and they’re more concerned with comfort than ideals. The moderates also win out in the end, and that’s why conservatism is liberalism twenty years delayed.
The more important lesson to draw from this how expecting the System to correct itself and support our values is foolhardy. In the end, the System will always take the side of equality and resorts to overturning the will of the people if needed. It’s done it time and time again. You can see this on immigration when President Obama superseded Congress to pass amnesty. All that work done by activists went up in smoke due to the will of one man. It’s laughable to think that the same judges who overturned gay marriage bans will overturn Obama’s action. Do you think they want to be on the “wrong side of history” with Roy Moore?
The imposed triumph of marriage equality should serve as a wake-up call to those who think we can still turn America around. It’s already past saving—it’s time to start something new.