Ralph Benko

The GOP once again appears clueless. But not quite for the reason that liberals suppose.

An August 4th New York Times article by John Harwood, Democrats Seize on Social Issues as Attitudes Shift focuses on the Democrats use of “social” as “wedge issues” in the 2014 election cycle. It concludes: “As Stan Greenberg, a Democratic pollster, put it, ‘I still wake up in disbelief at the transformation that’s taken place.’”

As Greenberg notes, the social transformation on the issue of, for example, same sex marriage, has been profound. That said, it remains something of a work in progress. Many same sex marriage advocates pillory opponents as bigots intent on invidious discrimination. Surely some opposition is rooted in bigotry. Yet there is evidence bigotry is marginal, not central, among the opposition.

An element of the core counter-narrative is eerily similar to that expressed by author Edmund White, recently, in The New York Review of Books, I Do, I Do reviewing three books laying out the process by which gay marriage gained widespread acceptance.


Why did mainstream America come to accept marriage equality? Gay leaders had made a convincing case that gay families were like straight families and should have the same rights.

On the last page of Redeeming the Dream, we are told that Americans are accepting “gays and lesbians…as normal, loving, decent members of our lives and our communities.” I shouldn’t quibble, but as a gay man in his seventies I don’t quite recognize in that description most of the flamboyant, creative, edgy, promiscuous, deeply urban gays I have known. Kenji Yoshino, a law professor, wrote a book called Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights in which “covering” is seen as downplaying a discordant trait in order to blend into the mainstream. It seems to me that gays are in danger of “covering” in order to obtain the permission to marry. Perhaps that’s a small enough price. I can’t decide.

Ralph Benko

Ralph Benko, author of The Websters’ Dictionary: How to use the Web to transform the world. He serves as an advisor to and editor of the Lehrman Institute's thegoldstandardnow.org and senior advisor to the American Principles Project.

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