Tuesday, March 19, 2013


I'm always a little bit behind the times, but let's talk about the news last week that Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman has changed his mind on gay rights.  Because his son came out to him, now Portman believes that homosexuals are human beings who deserve the same rights as everyone else.

"That's no homo, that's my son!"

While I want to give Portman credit for owning up to his previous homophobia and doing the right thing-- plenty of other high-profile conservatives have been in the same situation but have not had the same "come (out) to Jesus" moment-- it's hard for me to give him major props for simply becoming a decent human being.

When I first heard this news on the radio, my reaction was not, "Yay for him!" but rather, "Why is it that Republicans only seem to care about social issues when they are personally affected by it?"

This, to me, seems to be a crucial difference between conservatives and liberals.  Liberals try empathize with minorities and others who are less fortunate-- they fight for rights not because it helps them personally, but because it's the right thing to do, and it makes the whole country better when the "least" of us (as Jesus said) are taken care of.  Conservatives only seem to get interested in social issues when it affects them or someone close to them.

These were my own thoughts, but I was glad to see others had these same ideas, and said them much more eloquently.  From a post about Portman by Steve Benen on The MaddowBlog:
We've seen this a few too many times. A Republican will support Medicaid cuts right up until he sees the program up close, with his own eyes. Republicans will be skeptical about federal disaster relief right up until it's their community that sees devastation. Republicans are prepared to deny basic rights based on sexual orientation, right up until it's their loved one who's gay.

It seems the key to American social progress in the 21st century is simple: more conservatives having more life experiences.

Indeed, I'd be glad to introduce Republican lawmakers to more Americans who are poor, in the hopes they'll stop trying to cut health care programs; students, in the hopes they'll stop opposing education investments; women, in the hopes they'll stop opposing women's health care; and African Americans, in the hopes that they'll stop supporting voter-suppression tactics.
To be fair (fairness is another liberal value), I've often wondered if the reverse also isn't true.  There might indeed be life experiences that would make me more conservative.  If I were to meet more people who depend on social programs, perhaps I would see a lot of waste and inefficiency.  I'm sure there are people who take advantage of the system and who make lots of bad choices that would drive me nuts, and if I dealt with that every day, perhaps I wouldn't be such a huge supporter of "wasteful" government programs.


But I also realize that, as a liberal, we have to accept some amount of waste in order to get the benefits of social programs.  I'd rather err on the side of helping those who need help rather than on the side of denying people who take advantage.  

1 comment:

Dan S said...

Awesome post Tim, thanks.