Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Who'd-a thunk it? Onetime right-wing crazy David Frum as the voice of reason


David Frum -- voice of reason on the Right?

"[T]he case against same-sex marriage has been tested against reality. The case has not passed its test."

"How would it even work that a 15-year-old girl in Van Nuys, California, becomes more likely to have a baby because two men in Des Moines, Iowa, can marry?
"Maybe somebody can believe the connection, but I cannot."

-- David Frum, in "I was wrong about same-sex marriage,"
on the CNNOpinion blog

by Ken

As I wrote the colleague who passed along this column by conservative commentator David Frum: "It still seems weird to encounter David Frum as the voice of reason, but when the Right has gone so off-the-edge-of-the-flat-earth crazy, it really does help to hear stuff like this from someone like him."

He pointed out in his reply that very likely Frum's old views underpin a lot of the rabid right-wing fulminations against marriage equality, and that there may be significant value in weeding them out.

This isn't the first time that Frum has emerged as a voice of reason on the Right. Not a lot of conservatives have had the courage to speak up against the leap into craziness that the modern-day Ultra Right has taken. It's not hard to see where and how the others have leapt into a galaxy far, far from reality, but it does take courage from an avowed right-winger to speak up for reality.

Frum mentions his online debate with Andrew Sullivan on the subject of same-sex marriage. This the the one link I've included below, and it's to an indeed-lengthy Slate post addressed to A.S. For the record, it's a a diatribe of hysterical craziness, and you have to give the man credit for doing the only thing that could get him beyond it: saying, "I was wrong." Here's how that post concluded:
[T]hose of us who oppose gay marriage, and we remain the majority at least for now, believe that these new values are not changing the family--they are destroying it, and harming those within it. As such beliefs become more widespread, so do divorce and illegitimacy. The proponents of gay marriage can only get what they want by weakening Americans' attachment to the traditional family even more than it has already been weakened. And as such, these proponents are hastening a process of social dissolution that has already brought misery to untold millions of people, with children suffering most grievously of all.

At a time when the Right, now evolved into a state of looniness that goes way beyond even this imbecility, is routinely spewing psychotic delusions that are taken as legitimate discussion points, it really is nice to have at least some right-wingers establishing contact with reality.

I was wrong about same-sex marriage

By David Frum, CNN Contributor
June 27, 2011 1:35 p.m. EDT

[Note: Additional links in the original onsite posting.]

Editor's note: David Frum writes a weekly column for CNN.com. A special assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2002, he is the author of six books, including "Comeback: Conservatism That Can Win Again," and is the editor of FrumForum.

Washington (CNN) -- I was a strong opponent of same-sex marriage. Fourteen years ago, Andrew Sullivan and I forcefully debated the issue at length online (at a time when online debate was a brand new thing).

Yet I find myself strangely untroubled by New York state's vote to authorize same-sex marriage -- a vote that probably signals that most of "blue" states will follow within the next 10 years.

I don't think I'm alone in my reaction either. Most conservatives have reacted with calm -- if not outright approval -- to New York's dramatic decision.


The short answer is that the case against same-sex marriage has been tested against reality. The case has not passed its test.

Since 1997, same-sex marriage has evolved from talk to fact.

If people like me had been right, we should have seen the American family become radically more unstable over the subsequent decade and a half.

Instead -- while American family stability has continued to deteriorate -- it has deteriorated much more slowly than it did in the 1970s and 1980s before same-sex marriage was ever seriously thought of.

By the numbers, in fact, the 2000s were the least bad decade for American family stability since the fabled 1950s. And when you take a closer look at the American family, the facts have become even tougher for the anti-gay marriage position.

Middle-class families have become somewhat more stable than they used to be. For example: College-educated women who got married in the 1990s were much less likely to get divorced than equally educated women who got married in the 1970s.

What's new and different in the past 20 years is the collapse of the Hispanic immigrant family. First-generation Latino immigrants maintain traditional families: conservative values, low divorce rates, high fertility and -- despite low incomes -- mothers surprisingly often at home with the children.

But the second-generation Latino family looks very different. In the new country, old norms collapse. Nearly half of all children born to Hispanic mothers are now born out of wedlock.

Whatever is driving this negative trend, it seems more than implausible to connect it to same-sex marriage. How would it even work that a 15-year-old girl in Van Nuys, California, becomes more likely to have a baby because two men in Des Moines, Iowa, can marry?

Maybe somebody can believe the connection, but I cannot.

I remain as worried as ever about the decline in family stability among poorer Americans. But as for same-sex marriage, my attitude follows the trajectory described nearly 150 years ago by the English writer Anthony Trollope in his novel "Phineas Finn."

Two of his characters are discussing a proposed reform that has just been defeated in Parliament. The author of the reform is understandably dejected. His friend consoles him by pointing to the future:

"Many who before regarded legislation on the subject as chimerical, will now fancy that it is only dangerous, or perhaps not more than difficult. And so in time it will come to be looked on as among the things possible, then among the things probable; -- and so at last it will be ranged in the list of those few measures which the country requires as being absolutely needed. That is the way in which public opinion is made."

By coincidence, I am writing these words on the morning of my own 23rd wedding anniversary. Of all the blessings life has to offer, none equals a happy marriage. If proportionally fewer Americans enjoy that blessing today than did 40 years ago, we're going to have to look for the explanation somewhere other than the Legislature in Albany.

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At 10:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I fail to see how the state is affected one way or another by gay marriage. It's not in the state's best interest to interfere with things that have nothing to do with it.

All families are not the same. This has always been true. Your family, whether it's a single dad with kids, a nuclear family, or a blended family with stepchildren, does not affect whether my family will stay together or deteriorate.

I'm sorry to sound cynical, but I believe that the reason so many people stayed married in the past was that they didn't have any other options. Socially and economically, women especially had nowhere to go.

At 11:08 AM, Blogger KenInNY said...

I don't think you "sound cynical" at all, Pats. Families really are important to how we develop, but we all have to make do -- somehow -- with what we're given.

Real help for real families might well be a good thing, including economic policies that make it possible for families to maintain an adequately healthful living standard, and that children have access to adequate nutrition and education. My problem always with the people who have anointedthemselves "defenders" of families and "family" values are way more likely to be part of the problem than of the solution.

By and large the people who are claiming the right to same-sex marriage seem to me a lot more committed to healthy family values than, say, the sociopaths of NOM.


At 12:48 PM, Anonymous Jane said...

I'm glad of this public ideological reversal, but I'd be happier if I didn't see some fairly overt class notions in it. Frum mentions class and income levels several times, noting that poor, minority, "lower class" families are not holding together, while "college educated" women are staying married longer. Maybe I'm wrong, but I read this article more as, "I'm a conservative white guy, and I was worried about white middle class families breaking up and wanted to blame gay couples, but now I've realized that it's mostly minority and low-income lower class families that are breaking up, so I don't care too much any more about gay marriage since the WASPS are OK."

At 1:00 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

These are excellent points, Jane. I agree that there are some pretty iffy, if not downright bizarre, "ideas" in play in Frum's treatment of the subject, and I certainly didn't mean to endorse any of them.

My only point is that there are still a few people on the Right who are capable of approaching issues from, admittedly, their particular political bent while still maintaining contact with reality. At least, rather than simply throwing up our hands in wonderment at the level or unreality that has overwhelmed our political discourse, we can disagree and discuss.

And you've brought up some excellent points for discussion. Thanks!


At 1:14 PM, Anonymous Bil said...

Second that Keni. I have had the same Frum experience and I believe that he HAS shifted from his more Conservative days and he has also been cast out judged not crazy enough to hang out with the REAL Konservative Republicans....the hopefully unelectable.

I think this is why Ron Paul is looking more main stream, he always made SOME sense but then his followers were just whacked. Now he just looks abynormal (h/t Young Frankenstein:) compared to the rest of the pencil necks plus Bachmann and Cain.

At 1:21 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Absolutely, Bil. It's amazing how little sense you have to make these days on the Right to qualify as "somewhat sensible" -- and to be cast out by your nominal ideological brothers and sisters as a turncoat. In fact, while I was rummaging around online for a photo of David Frum, I was accosted by a ringing denunciation of DF -- clearly the latest in an ongoing series -- by one of the true masters of the crazy, David Horowitz.


At 2:16 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

I forgot to mention that that David Horowitz takedown of David Frum dates back to 2009 ("David Frum's Got it Wrong Again").



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