The Door-To-Door Republican Problem
There’s been a big change in Ohio politics today: Senator Rob Portman has come out in support of gay marriage, stating that his views began changing when he found his son was gay. Which is good from the more global perspective of “Life may get a little easier for gays in Ohio,” and status quo for the traditional Republican problem.
Because as nice as it is that we now have a new gay marriage champion, one wonders who else we have to truck to Mr. Portman’s door to get him to change his views. He’s in favor of repealing Obamacare – must his son come down with a terrible disease before he finally considers that lack of health care may be a trouble for some? Should his son have to work two jobs at McDonald’s for several years, struggling from paycheck to unexpected cost to paycheck, before he finally supports raising the minimum wage?
When can we turn his son black? Or Hispanic?
Now, it’s not like Rob Portman didn’t know that his anti-gay marriage stance hurt people. He’s a Senator. Gays must have talked to him, petitioned him, told him all the standard stories of not being able to be with their loved ones on their death beds, being excluded from insurance, being legally bereft at the most stressful of times. He knew. But it gives us one of two unflattering opinions: he either knew, and didn’t care until these policies might have affected his boy’s happiness… or worse, he heard but didn’t really listen, writing off these tales as attempts to manipulate him into taking an unpopular political stance.
That’s the problem with the Republican party: these policies are all fine and well, until it applies to them. It’s like they’re sociopaths, unable to have any empathy for anyone outside their tribe until someone close to them gets hurt. And then, hey, maybe we should reconsider.
And because Senators are by definition wealthy – you can’t compete in a race without raising millions of dollars, so even if you’re not personally rich you’re sure not starving – you’ll never see a Republican say, “Well, I’ve seen my daughter go homeless, and so I’ve really come around on helping the poor.” Won’t happen.
Republicans may get angry at this portrayal, stating that Democrats do the same thing. And we all do, to some extent; it’s a human failing. And hey,I’m sure many Republicans do care about the poor in some abstract way, thinking a more Darwinian process is what we need to lift all boats. It’s a poor approach, in my opinion, and often shot through with a preening, “Hey, I work for my money, and all those people are lazy bums,” but it may well contain some errant shreds of compassion for people who work just as hard and haven’t had your luck. So there’s a pass on that.
But Republicans have been so magnificently cold-hearted in their anti-gay policies, so staunch in their anti-immigration issues, so willing to work to make voting harder for blacks, that one wonders at their ability to consider a question that, at our core, is really what makes us human: “What’s it like for that other guy, anyway?” And if you can’t possibly get it until you have to experience – and, given the way some worse conservatives ignore their gay kids, perhaps not even then – then you’re missing a vital part of what it means to be a functional person.
Until then, Rob Portman gets a functional thank you. Because he’s not helping the gays out of any particularly moral crusade. He’s selfishly doing it so life will be better for his son. Which is good as far as it goes, but it puts me in the uncomfortable position of wishing trauma and poverty upon his family so that his eyes might be opened some more to the realities he’s trying to inflict upon others.