Conservative Myopia


Posted by Bob Lord

I recently put up a short post regarding the Boy Scouts anti-gay policy. The post generated quite a few comments, although I admittedly fueled that by continuing to reply to comments, especially those from the right. 

This is obviously anecdotal, and anecdotal evidence always has the risk of being misleading, but the eye opener for me was how differently the vision of commenters on the left was from those on the right. I've noticed this in casual conversations with progressve and conservative friends, But the difference seemed starker when reading the written comments. Those on the left could see clearly that homophobia in America is receding at a rapid pace. Consequently, they saw the Boy Scouts' policy as increasingly out of touch. The commenter on the right, by contrast, was riveted on the present. He seemed to look at the world only through the lens of where we are now. He believed, in his mind of minds, or so it seemed, that because the Boy Scouts' anti-gay policy was upheld in a court decision a decade or so ago, the policy was validated forever, and was very unlikely to change. The idea that as society's attitudes evolved a future court might reconsider and overturn that decision seemed not even to be a possibility.

From an objective standpoint, the rate at which attitudes towards the LGBT community is changing is breathtaking. It was just 8 years ago that Karl Rove used gay marriage as a wedge issue to swing the 2004 election his way in a purple state. Now, not even a decade later, the polling on same sex marriage is solidly in favor. With any vision, one can see how the transition to same sex marriage will evolve across the country. The change already has taken place in the Northeast, with only tiny Rhode Island not having approved same sex marriage, and it won't be long before Rhode Island transitions as well. Next, and we're seeing the start, will be the Mid-Atlantic and the West Coast. The upper Mid-West will soon follow. Then, the more progressive Mountain States (Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado) will turn, as will the remainder of the Mid-West. From there, it will just be a matter of time before all 50 states are on board. My guess is Utah and Mississippi will be the last holdouts. It is of course possible a Supreme Court ruling will accelerate the process.

It does not require 20/10 vision to see where this is headed. After all, we've witnessed the same phenomenon as other groups pushed for equality under the law and for freedom from discrimination. Each day, the composition of our adult population changes, with the young Americans who reach adulthood being far less homophobic, as a group, than the dying older Americans whom they replace. 

And you even can see support for the Boy Scouts' policy in their own ranks beginning to crumble. Yes, their National Council decided to delay any change until May and they might even defer the decision again at their May meeting. But it seems they see the writing on the wall. Their membership numbers are dwindling, in part because of a policy that is increasingly abhorrent to a growing segment of the population. And the attitude of judges, even conservative ones, is evolving as well. Scout leaders know that the Supreme Court can, and does, review outdated decisions and overturn them. So, the writing is on the wall. The Boy Scouts know that. If they don't change the policy this May, they likely will do so next May.

Without a doubt, many conservatives are just as far-sighted on this front as progressives are. But some are just breathtakingly myopic.