The Reid clip works as mockery because Reid was so wrong, wrong about the war being lost and wrong to express the demoralizing opinion. So in Rush's statement yesterday I hear a little nudge, a little cue that the issue isn't lost. Rush is answering an email from someone who feels that Rush has never expressed his opinion on gay marriage, and Rush begins with "Is my position on this really not known?"
This is a great teaser, keeping us listening at the end of the third hour of the show, which has already been full of talk about gay marriage. We're brought up short: Do we really not know what Rush thinks on the subject? He shifts away from that topic to a reverie about a conversation with a friend about "the left" and "the language game." We're looking at the show transcript here, but as a subscriber to the website, I'm hearing the audio as well, and it's slow and drawn out, like he's going to circle around before he gets to answering that emailed question, which nags me: I find myself assuming that Rush doesn't really care what gay people do in their private lives. He's not bound enough to tradition to have kept his own marriage vows, having divorced 3 times, and he hasn't put his life's energy into raising children. If gay people want to commit to monogamy, let them have their go at it. Good luck being better at it than I've been. That's what I think he thinks.
But I've got to listen to this disquisition on the left and language, which right away reminds me of how lefties are always whining that the right wins through "framing" — calling the estate tax the "death tax" and so forth. Both sides do things with language, and Rush is a master at pulling apart the other side's language (which, of course, entails substituting preferred language).
The language game, the left really excels at changing the language to benefit them politically, and they do it in such a way that a lot of people on our side have no idea what's happened until it's too late and the issue is already lost, which this issue is. This issue is lost. I don't care what the Supreme Court does, this is now inevitable -- and it's inevitable because we lost the language on this. I mentioned the other day that I've heard people talk about "opposite-sex marriage," or you might have had heard people say "traditional marriage."The social conservatives were playing a corresponding language game the whole time. They were relying — much too heavily — on the assertion that marriage has a fixed definition restricting it to one man and one woman. If anything, the social conservatives insisted on framing the argument with the definition of the word marriage. "Opposite-sex marriage" is a retronym, like "snail mail." The existence/acceptance of the retronym proves the meaning of the root word has changed. Rush speaks in terms of "allowing" something like this to happen, but you can't control the evolution of the language that way.
You might have heard people say "hetero-marriage." I maintain to you that we lost the issue when we started allowing the word "marriage" to be bastardized and redefined by simply adding words to it, because marriage is one thing....
The anti-gay-marriage side needed much more than a language argument. It lost not because the pro side did something with language. The pro side developed arguments about fairness, equality, and privacy. The traditional marriage people kept talking about the definition of marriage, which made it look more and more as though they had no good argument on the underlying substance. That's why they lost. Would they have lost even more quickly if they'd been less dictionary-focused and had concentrated on fairness, equality, and privacy? Either they were shallow or they were smart. That is, either they didn't know how to delve into the underlying principles at stake or they knew they'd get into trouble venturing beyond the definition-of-marriage argument.
Rush goes on to assert that the idea the marriage is between a man and a woman "was not established on the basis of discrimination."
It wasn't established on the basis of denying people anything. "Marriage" is not a tradition that a bunch of people concocted to be mean to other people with. But we allowed the left to have people believe that it was structured that way.No. That's not the pro-gay-marriage argument. No one thinks marriage was designed for the purpose of excluding gay people. The argument is only that there is an exclusion that we are now able to see. If someone points out that you're standing on his foot, you'd say I'm sorry and move your foot. You wouldn't say It's not as if I deliberately stomped on your foot and then keep standing on his foot. The continued behavior is mean. That's the meanness "the left" — along with many moderates and righties — has made many people believe. It has become mean. I believe that, and not just because Rush and others have "allowed the left to have people believe." Allowed!
I would go so far as to say that there are some people who think marriage is an evil Republican idea, simply because they're the ones that want to hold on to it.That's hard to understand because he's using the restricted definition of "marriage." I almost wrote Huh? No one seems to be saying marriage is evil anymore.
So far as I'm concerned, once we started talking about "gay marriage," "traditional marriage," "opposite-sex marriage," "same-sex marriage," "hetero-marriage," we lost. It was over. It was just a matter of time. This is the point a friend of mine sent me a note about.Yes, the best argument was the words-have-meaning argument, but law school doesn't end on the first day, and the meaning of words is a complex topic. It's not like adding 5 + 5. I know there are a lot of jokes about lawyers like the client asking what's 5 + 5 and the lawyer answering "What do you want it to be?" In fact, I think I heard that joke on my first day in law school. But law isn't arithmetic, and people's lives are not numbers, and the question of what is right and wrong can't be done on a calculator. In fact, it's morally wrong to treat human beings as if they are numbers that can be added and subtracted mechanically.
"Once you decide to modify the word 'marriage,' then the other side has won, or at least they're 90% of the way home. The best thing that 'marriage' had going for it was basically what they teach you the first day in law school: 'If you hang a sign on a horse that says "cow," it does not make it a cow,' although today it might." That's where we are: 5 + 5 could = 11, if it works for the Democrats. A cow could be a horse, if it works for the Democrats.
Back to Rush:
The thing is, discrimination has never been a part of marriage.Right. No one sensible.... See how he's conceding there's no legitimate reason for the discrimination? In law — this is something you learn after the first day of law school — discrimination between classes of persons must be supported by a legitimate government interest. That's always an issue. You can't say that we didn't originally notice this discrimination. It must be justified. This is called the "rational basis" test, and it's the question right now before the Supreme Court. Rush has conceded the irrationality: No one sensible would deny gay people what government makes depend on being married.
It evolved as the best way to unite men and women in raising a family and in cohabitating a life. It's not perfect. The divorce rate's what it is. But it evolved with a purpose. It was not a creation of a bunch of elitists wanting to deny people a good time. It was not created as something to deny people "benefits," but it became that once we started bastardizing the definition. But discrimination is not an issue, and it never was. No one sensible is against giving homosexuals the rights of contract or inheritance or hospital visits.
There's nobody that wants to deny them that. The issue has always been denying them a status that they can't have, by definition. By definition -- solely, by definition -- same-sex people cannot be married. So instead of maintaining that and holding fast to that, we allowed the argument to be made that the definition needed to change, on the basis that we're dealing with something discriminatory, bigoted, and all of these mystical things that it's not and never has been.So he's in my "smart" category. He knows the definition-of-marriage argument is the only good argument. There is no other argument. Once that is lost, the game is lost. For the social conservatives — in this view — the only game was the language game.
At this point in the monologue, it becomes comical with a far-fetched analogy to someone who complains that they want the money and fame that someone else has. "I want to be an Obama... It's not fair that I can't be an Obama.... They're discriminating against me!" Rush is stretching for time now and retreating to the familiar ground of Obama and the redistribution of wealth, which is far from the problem of inequality enforced by law. This silly stuff goes on and on up to the commercial break, after which he says he's "just illustrating absurdity by being absurd." But he didn't illustrate absurdity. He ran from his own realization that the definition-of-marriage argument wasn't good enough and that in the end it was not a language game. It was real life.
And now he's out of time:
Just trying to point out what happens if we lose definitions, which is why we are where we are here. People refuse to stand fast on the definition of something.But the anti-gay-marriage people did stand fast. They stood on the only decent ground they had, and they fought there, and they lost not because of words, but because of moral feelings that developed on a deeper level, a level where the antis chose — wisely! — not to go.
And did you notice? Rush never answered the question asked! He mentioned law school: When I — a law professor — grade exams, I only give credit for answering the question asked. He got on a riff and filled the page, but I haven't forgotten the question: "Is my position on this really not known?"
But this isn't a law school exam. It's a radio show. And the riff was great radio, and he's got everyone talking about it this morning, including me, a law professor. What was the question anyway? He posed it himself! It was: "Is my position on this really not known?"
I'll answer that question. The answer is: No!