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Restoration Project: Gay Marriage
This series of very short articles on the Restoration Project has been exploring the possibility of an ethos/mood that could, at least partially, combine populist progressive and conservative vibes without at the same time succumbing to the standard Unity! cry of the so-called “bipartisan neo-liberal status quo duopoly.”
We are discussing an aesthetic of communication that risks the outlandish quality of combining the symbolic emphasis (favored by many self-identified conservatives) with progressive advocacy (for policies that update the operations of our social and economic system).
In this regard, it is worth considering the legal victories of Gay Marriage around the world (and even in the United States). Steven McIntosh brought this to my attention as a potential example of the successful combination of emergent developmental value systems. However, I would like to focus on the structure of the “slogan” as an instance of transpartisan mood-building.
The term ‘gay marriage’ is ambiguous. It is available to nuances of emphasis. A percentage of people opposed to GAY marriage is, at the same time, not necessarily opposed to gay MARRIAGE.
If you simply denounce popular conservative opposition to gay marriage (as though that were an immutable fact of life) then you might be surprised to see it slowly gaining widespread support in the population and the legislation. There is a dangerous tendency of high-education, self-consciously “woke,” quasi-corporatist liberals to dismiss the deplorable heartland voters and ruralists. This occurs for a variety of reasons. Partly it is a failure to make very human efforts, outside of the polarized media space, to connect with people who have different views and values. It may also be partly sourced in a subconscious affiliation with the status quo system that cultivates and utilizes hyper-partisan polarization.
There is also the issue of rejecting the style that would be needed in order to start bridging across the populist left & populist right. Perhaps it is because the style is unfamiliar. Perhaps it is because such attempts are instinctively felt as threats to the behavioral ideology of the “ruling class.”
Putting aside motives to reject the potential progressivism of conservatives, we can examine artifacts from this instance in which there was a relatively rapid popular shift. The term itself is an artifact that could be nuanced in two different directions.
“Gay Marriage” places the symbolic emphasis on the affects surrounding anxiety about homosexuality, then shifts attention toward the system of traditional marriage customs.
“Gay Marriage” places the symbolic weight of affect upon the sanctity of marriage and makes homosexuality into the auxiliary term — how ought they to fit into the legal system?
This successful instance of a hybrid conservative-progressive slogan may have benefited from a blurred distinction between these two patterns of emphasis. In order to soften conservative resistance to progressive policy reform, progressives may need to apportion the symbolic affect to the conservatives.
Many people often give credit (for legal normalization of homosexuality) to popular entertainment that presented the relatable humanity of homosexual characters in mainstream sitcoms and family dramas. This could, again, be construed as a situation in which the symbolic affect — the folk-friendly mood of conventional entertainment — was combined with behavioral observations about the human normality of a supposedly “different” population group. You can imagine how little impact upon conservatives would result from a show that presents heterosexual normality at a high-speed, ironic postmodern tempo.
Note the similarity of “Gay Marriage” to “American Socialism” or “Green New Deal: Protect YOUR land”. We may need such hybrids going forward. The people who are mobilized by MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN are not thereby supporting any particular policy or viable solution to a problem. They are desperately requesting a particular affect and symbolic emphasis. And if progressives are serious in thinking that they see the necessary system upgrades that get the nation back on track, then they need broad support — especially from people who are critical of the power structure of government, media and big business.
The point is not to promote any of these slogans but to remind ourselves of the possibility of combining a symbolic conservative emphasis with a progressive structural advocacy.