The Carpetbagger writes about how John McCain is “waffling” on the gay marriage issue when he says:
MCCAIN: On the issue of gay marriage, I do believe, and I think it's a correct policy that the sanctity of heterosexual marriage, a marriage between man and woman, should have a unique status. But I'm not for depriving any other group of Americans from having rights. But I do believe that there is something that is unique between marriage between a man and a woman, and I believe it should be protected.
MCCAIN: I think that gay marriage should be allowed, if there's a ceremony kind of thing, if you want to call it that. I don't have any problem with that, but I do believe in preserving the sanctity of a union between man and woman.
And while this could easily be perceived as one of the flippingist-flip-flop waffles in recent memory, I’m just not so sure. As I commented at Carpetbagger’s, he’s not supporting two conflicting ideas, but rather two separate ideas with no real relation to each other. Specifically, he’s supporting the mindless rightwing rhetoric regarding the preservation of traditional marriage, while also supporting the right of gays to marry. And because gay marriage doesn’t in any way harm traditional marriage, there really isn’t any conflict between these two ideas. One is empty rhetoric and the other an actual policy.
If anything, I suppose you could use his statement as an indicator that he wants to allow gays to marry while giving straights Marriage-Plus or something. But I doubt that’s what he meant. I think he was just wanting to use rightwing rhetoric while entirely undermining the point of that rhetoric. Because most righties don’t want to be seen as anti-gay, they just say they’re trying to save traditional marriage. And again, because traditional marriage isn’t under assault, there is no conflict. Ironically, the rightwing rhetoric on this issue is so divorced from reality that a reality-based policy doesn’t conflict with the delusional rhetoric from the other side.
Speaking of which, I once got in a heated Yahoo debate with a supposedly gay conservative who, once you got past the rhetoric, supported gay marriage in everything but name. He thought they should have the rights and everything, but thought it was wrong to call it "marriage". Because “marriage” was a traditional word with a traditional meaning and that it would be wrong to change the meaning of the word. I tried to point-out repeatedly that words frequently change meanings and that this isn’t normally seen as a problem, but he just wasn’t having it. He insisted that allowing gays to use the word “marriage” was an attack on marriage and so a different word was necessary.
But again, it wasn’t the idea of gay marriage he opposed; but merely the phrase. It’s like he was entirely clueless as to what the debate was, and was just baiting people into calling him a bigot. And he’d continue to insist that he wasn’t bigoted (partly based upon his assertion that he was gay (an assertion I found somewhat dubious as the conversation progressed)), and acted as if libs were arguing against his absurd argument, rather than arguing against the real one. I’m not sure if he was willingly blind to what this debate really is, or if he was a victim of his own obtuseness; but that’s the kind of thing we’re up against.
As is the case with so many issues, we’re not debating our policies against theirs. We’re just debating against empty words. And once you get past the words, you’ll see a lot more agreement than appears on the surface. These aren’t necessarily unreasonable people; they’re just taught the wrong words.