The New Parochialism

So a former chairman of the Republican National Committee comes out as gay, and endorses gay marriage, but continues to support politicians who oppose gay marriage. For this he is labeled (on blogs too numerous to link) a first-class hypocrite.

I missed the memo about the new criteria for hypocrisy, so I’d like a little clarification here. Are Catholics now required to vote solely on the basis of Catholic issues, and union workers solely on the basis of union issues, and billionaires solely on the basis of billionaire issues? Or is it only gays who are forbidden to prioritize, say, foreign affairs and tax policy? And what’s to become of the multifaceted? If you’re a gay Jewish small business owner, to which brand of parochialism are you now in thrall? Please advise.


14 Responses to “The New Parochialism”

  1. 1 1 Doctor Memory

    “For this…”

    Ah, yes, clearly “this” (gay marriage) is the only issue on which the Republican Party, circa Mehlman’s involvement at the national level (and a good twenty years prior), has distinguished itself as being hostile to gays. Silly parochial single-issue bloggers!

    I can’t imagine why some gay people might think it’s weird to make alliances based on agreements on tax policy with people who want you dead.

  2. 2 2 Ryan

    Rand called this a package-deal fallacy. This parochialism is the reason all Americans are forced to choose between, say, high censorship and high dividend taxes; or compulsory prayer in school and universal health care.

    It’s preposterous. When will people realize that they don’t have to make these kinds of absurd non-choices?

  3. 3 3 Harold

    I agree that there is much over use of one-dimensional labelling. However, Mehlman is best known not for foreign affairs or tax policy, but for leading a campaign widely viewed as particularly homophobic (Bush 2004). Mehlman acknowledges that if he had publicly declared his sexuality sooner, he might have played a role in keeping the party from pushing an anti-gay agenda. He is now campaigning for same-sex marriage, an objective that was probably hindered by his campaign. He appears to have promoted a rather unpleasant policy with which he personally disagreed in order to obtain electoral advantage. However, this makes him a poitician rather than a hypocrit.

    Catholics are not required to vote solely on the basis of Catholic issues, but they are not expected to lead ant-catholic campaigns.

  4. 4 4 Sarge

    Professor Landsburg,

    When you ask if “Are Catholics now required to vote solely on the basis of Catholic issues,” I suppose it depends on what you mean. If someone was a true believer in Catholic teachings, I’d be amazed if they didn’t vote soley on Catholic issues. After all, this would mean that (they believe) they are the holders of the absolute, unchanging truth via the will of God. The fact that many Catholics don’t vote soley the Catholic party line makes me wonder…


    I concur. The package deal issue is yet another reasaon why the political process is inferior to the market process. I can buy an iPod from Apple, but get a laptop made by Sony. In a political process, if most people vote for Apple, then everyone would have to get all Apple products. Most people recognize this would be a horrible way for the market to work, but think nothing of the fact that this is how the political system works.

  5. 5 5 Roger Schlafly

    Harold: “campaign widely viewed as particularly homophobic (Bush 2004)”

    Both Bush and Kerry opposed same-sex marriage in 2004. Even if that issue were particularly important to you, both candidate held the same position.

  6. 6 6 Jonathan Campbell

    I think this is partly due to the fact that opposition to same-sex marriage is viewed as resulting from bigotry. You are allowed to compromise on a lot of issues (due to the “package deal” setup), but bigotry is not one of them, particularly when you are betraying your own people (in this case Mehlman’s fellow gays) by doing so.

  7. 7 7 Harold

    Roger Schlaffy. That may be true, but somewhat irrelevant. I think the Bush campaign heightened the issue to motivate some sectors of its support, whatever Kerry said. I also said “widely viewd”, as I do not know all the details.

    Despite the tone of my comment, I am very much against the “package deal”. I am also very much in favor of people changing their minds and views after reflection or new evidence. I was pointing out that perhaps there is more to this case than just that.

  8. 8 8 Luis

    I don’t think Mr. Landsburg wanted to initiate a same sex debate here, but just to clarify something, and this may come as a surprise for some: You can oppose same-sex marriage and NOT be anti-gay.

    So to Doctor Memory’s comment, same sex opposer do not want gays dead. There is no need to dramatize the discussion.

    I believe Mr. Landsburg’s point was that you can be gay and still support a candidate against same-sex marriage, because you like his policies on taxes or foreign affairs. Yes, you get a package deal, but the individual should be allowed to vote on one’s own priorities and not the priorities set by a certain group.

  9. 9 9 Dave

    After reading the armchair economist, I no longer vote but buy a lottery ticket each election day instead.

  10. 10 10 Jeff Semel

    Timothy Egan blogs in the NY Times that George W. Bush privately disagreed with the anti-gay-marriage party line. Guess he bought a package deal too.

    “George W. Bush, who got Ned Flanders Nation to see him as a
    righteous Christian guided by Biblical principle, had a soft spot for gay marriage, and didn’t believe his own speeches on the subject. This from ex-speech writer Matt Latimer…

    “Finally, there was Bush on the culture wars, a big reason why he was able to win two terms. Bush, in public, had this view of same sex unions: ‘I believe marriage is between a man and a woman, and I think we ought to codify that one way or another.’

    “But perhaps his heart was never into it. For Latimer tells of Bush’s refusal to give a family values speech with gay-baiting hooks, saying, ‘I’m not going to tell some kid in the audience that he can’t get married.’

    “Nor was he going to tell us how he really felt. What we are left with, as with most public figures, is the brilliant disguise, and a feeling: if only.”

  11. 11 11 dave

    i think people vote like they gamble. ive used a few different patterns in my day, i may start trying for pure random selection.

  12. 12 12 Seth

    I’m glad we don’t have to vote (politically) on things like what drinks we should all have. Coffee aficionados would call me a hypocrite in the evening when I join the beer drinkers alliance and beer drinkers would disown me in the morning.

  13. 13 13 nobody.really

    What do we think about people who seem to act contrary to their own self-interest, at least as understood by third parties?

    Generally my out-of-court statements can’t be introduced as evidence that the things I said were accurate; they’d be excluded as hearsay. However, if I said things that are counter to my self-interest (“Man, we sure screwed up that job; let’s do better next time, guys….”), those statements CAN be introduced as evidence that the things I said were accurate. In short, we regard people as being more earnest when they say and do things that are contrary to their (perceive) self-interest.

    So here’s a gay guy who supports Republican candidates, even though Republicans are not known for their support of homosexuals. Doesn’t that make his endorsements MORE credible, given that he’s arguably speaking against (at least some aspect of) self-interest? And wouldn’t we draw the same conclusions when ethnic minorities endorse Republicans?

    Similarly, a “Limousine Liberal” is an affluent person who advocates transfer programs for the poor. Is there something worse about an affluent person advocating such policies than a poor person? Quite the contrary, as far as I can tell. Conversely, Joe the Plumber came to public attention when he opposed Obama’s tax policies on the theory that those taxes would harm his self-interest. When it became apparent that he was opposing those tax policies for ideological reasons rather than self-interest, he was ridiculed. Ok, perhaps there were a variety of reasons to ridicule the guy, but the fact that he was acting contrary to his financial self-interest isn’t one of them, as far as I’m concerned.

  14. 14 14 Benkyou Burito

    I was under the impression that the hypocrisy stemmed from his support, advocacy even, of anti-gay initiatives while at the same time … well gay. But there does seem to be a bit of what you say at play as well.

    “is it only gays who are forbidden to prioritize, say, foreign affairs and tax policy? And what’s to become of the multifaceted?”

    I think this can go either way. Can a Nationalist Jew support a politician who is outspokenly pro-Hamas? What is that candidate had the most favorable plan for small business tax reform?

    I think he could, but to the same degree that he is a pro-Israel Jew, he is also a hypocrite.

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