I wish politics were more kind and honest. But I hardly expect it. What I would hope is that at least the “liberal” party could have a presidential primary in which we didn’t get lost in fantasy. I’m not talking about Sanders’ proposals, which are fantastic to one degree or another. I’m talking about pretending to be outraged because you’ve chosen to read a bit of data in a way that will allow you to be outraged. I am, of course, talking about what Washington Blade reported over the weekend, Clinton Surrogates Pounce on Sanders Over ’82 Marriage Resolution. Is this what the Democratic primary has come to?
I am trying to be very even-handed in this Democratic primary, and this afternoon, you will see an article I’ve written that is very critical of Sanders’ chances in a general election. But this story is just ridiculous. Back in 1982, while Sanders was mayor of Burlington, he signed a document for “We Believe in Marriage Week.” The third part of it says that marriage “should be viewed as a lifelong commitment between husband and wife filled with mutual respect and open, honest communications.” Aha, say the Clinton surrogates! Christine Quinn tweeted, “@BernieSanders says he pure on #lgbt.Cites 80’s Pride March-omits yr before as Mayor he signed reso affirming marriage ONLY btw man/woman??”
Really?! I don’t read it that way. This sounds so much like most of what you find in So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed? When I wrote about that book (and elsewhere), I noted that most of the cases of outrage were just people insisting upon seeing a statement or tweet in the worst possible light. In those cases, it is just people who so want to feel superior and love the rush that outrage brings with it. Here it is just a political game.
Note that same sex marriage was not always a gay rights issue. There was a strong contingent of the LGBT community that was distinctly uninterested in the matter. But regardless, does anyone anywhere think that such a milquetoast resolution in 1982 would have explicitly included same sex marriage? The first state to allow same sex marriage was Massachusetts in 2003. And regardless, not explicitly including same sex marriage is not the same as excluding it. Quinn’s statement is factually wrong. You could say that it “only affirmed marriage,” but you can’t say it the other way around. And that is the point: to make it sound like Sanders signed something like DOMA.
Does This Help Clinton in Democratic Primary?!
In addition to all of this, I really wonder how this all helps Clinton in the Democratic primary. After all, it is Clinton who is worse on this issue. It was her husband who signed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. (And who is, right on cue, doing his crazy husband act.) Sanders voted against it. Clinton was still in favor of it in 2000 when she ran for Senate. She didn’t come out in favor of same sex marriage until 2013, which is, let me see now, after my 80 year old father did. And for the record, I was ranting rather loudly back in the early 1990s about the lack of same sex marriage being an explicit form of government oppression. Still, I don’t care one way or another about when either of these candidates came around.
Let’s face it: they both exist in different political environments. Sanders has been in a smaller league where it was easier to be bold. But he didn’t have to be bold, and he should be given credit. Clinton has been in the major league for decades, and her positions indicate that: from the Iraq War to same sex marriage. But I think she too needs to be given credit, because if she had acted as Sanders, she wouldn’t have been a player; she would have been like Eleanor Roosevelt: beloved by liberals, but sidelined.
Just the same, this attack on Sanders is nonsense. This is exactly the kind of thing that I did not want to see in this Democratic primary. It’s not even submental. It’s too practiced for that. It’s demagoguery of the most facile kind.