Rauch on Blankenhorn:

Jonathan Rauch has written a characteristically generous, thoughtful, and engaging review of David Blankenhorn's recent book arguing against gay marriage, The Future of Marriage. Rauch writes:

[Blankenhorn] wants to lift the gay-marriage debate from its isolation in the mud-pit of the partisan culture wars and place it within a larger theory of marriage. He also wants to put an end to the days when gay-marriage advocates can say that there is no serious case against gay marriage. In both respects, he succeeds.


Blankenhorn has painted himself into a corner, one where the American public will never join him. If, as he insists, we cannot sustainably mix and match values and policies--combine adult individualism with devoted parenthood, for example, or conjoin same-sex marriage with measures to reduce divorce--then we must choose whether to move in the direction of the Netherlands or Saudi Arabia. I have no doubt which way the public would go. And should.

In fact, however, the public will reject the choice Blankenhorn offers as a false one; and, again, the public will be right. . . . People in countries recognizing same-sex unions are more accepting of co-habitation and single parenthood than Blankenhorn and I would prefer; but their project is not to reject marriage, except perhaps on Blankenhorn's reductionist account of it, but to blend and balance it with other values of liberal individualism.

States are experimenting with reforms to strengthen marriage and reduce unnecessary divorce, and the proportion of African-American children living in two-parent, married-couple homes has stabilized or increased. Those modest but heartening improvements come at precisely the time when gay Americans in the millions--the ordinary folks, not the academicians--have discovered and embraced marriage and family after years of alienation from both.

. . . From his new book, I've learned that the public's view of both marriage and society is nonetheless richer, wiser, and more humane than David Blankenhorn's--and possibly, for that matter, than my own. Which gives me hope that, whatever the experts say the real purpose of marriage is or is not, the public can ultimately get it right.

For my critique of Blankenhorn's argument, see here.

Randy R. (mail):
Okay. We've discussed this issue to the death. I'm glad it's out there, of course, but the usual suspects will just make the same old arguments, and nothing gets changed. I can pretty tell you what everyone is going to say. Hey, I'm just as guilty as everyone else!
6.11.2007 8:21pm
Henri LeCompte (mail):
I have to agree with you on that, Randy R. Completely off-topic (and a lovely topic it is!), I would love to know from someone if a study exists examining the effectiveness of "persuasion" in changing anyone's opinion about any political matter. I mean, do forums like this-- where fairly opinionated people gather to persuade one another (ok... argue) really matter, or change anything? Or, in a larger sense, are people's political belief systems immune or susceptible to reason at all? Susceptible to facts, or not?

(just wondering... you may resume your persuading....)
6.11.2007 8:35pm
Colin (mail):
I would love to know from someone if a study exists examining the effectiveness of "persuasion" in changing anyone's opinion about any political matter.

I've had my mind changed on several subjects through discussions on this site. More usually, though, the arguments are useful in educating me as to the various bases for competing opinions, and that's useful in its own right.
6.11.2007 8:37pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Do you mean real people or the sort of people who read the comment sections of political weblogs?
6.11.2007 8:38pm
Dave N (mail):
Since we are moving away from the subject of Dale Carpenter's post to the one that Henri LeCompte posed: I can think of several issues where my initial knee jerk reaction and my ultimate conclusion was changed by a blog--particularly this one that has such a variety of opinions.

And Colin is right that VC in particular is helpful at examining opposing views. I oftentimes feel I learn from opposing views, even if I still disagree with them.

By the way Henri, I have not seen you post on Eugene's question regarding names--and I was curious about your perspective of "Henri" versus "Henry."

In any event, we can now return to our regularly scheduled programming and Dale's thoughtul post.
6.11.2007 9:22pm
JosephSlater (mail):
This is an interesting comment thread: I must admit, when I saw the topic, I immediately thought what Randy R. said in the first post.

As to the question Henri raises, I guess (not based on a study) the following:

(1) Persuasion can work if people aren't deeply committed to one view already (but see Daniel Chapman's point about who reads the blog);

(2) If your mind is made up, you migh not be persuaded, but you might learn some facts you didn't know (that support one side or the other), or some arguments you hadn't thought of -- that might make you think, "well, I'm not convinced, but the other side isn't as completely off the wall as I once thought." Maybe.
6.11.2007 9:32pm
raj (mail):
More mental masturbation regarding marriage, both from Blankenhorn and Rauch. Does anyone really pay them for these bloviations.

The only thing that will be interesting to see how long it will be before the homosexually-obsessed troll [DC: deleted name] appears here.

DC: This sort of comment is not acceptable. It's one thing to disagree strongly with someone. It's another thing entirely to post a comment that does nothing more than call someone a name. Please keep in mind the civility standard for this blog and in particular this post on keeping things civil in discussions of gay marriage. There are plenty of places on the Internet to personally insult people. This is not one of them.
6.11.2007 9:40pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Persuasion seems to be used where the facts don't support an objective analysis, or where the facts are simply insufficient. There are plenty of questions orbiting an issue like gay marriage, and if we had the answers an objective analysis would be possible. But lacking those answers, we still have to act one way or another.

The best we can do with persuasion is to provide another way of looking at the limited set of facts, or demonstrate that what one considers a fact is really not a fact. Even the firmly committed can be infected with another way of looking a question which, over time, may change their attitudes.

We can observe that attitudes do indeed change, so there is some mechanism at work.
6.11.2007 11:06pm
Caslim (mail):
Thanks Jon!

Speaking of persuasion, and its effects. It is most timely for Rauch to express his faith in the people. I'm very happy that people like Rauch are out there trying to position same-sex marriage in a way it still tries to recognize and respect what marriage is. As I believe Rauch and Carpenter both seem to agree, if they really thought it would hurt marriage, they'd stop arguing for same-sex marriage.

And it is good to see Rauch and Carpenter who both, on this week that a marriage amendment is slated to be voted on in Massachusetts, wish to see a more democratic and representative process enact their social proposals. Their belief in the people, I hope, has a great persuasive effect to help that state vote on the proposed amendment. That people will not take after the Iranian and Saudi Arabia way of doing things, with a robed council interpreting a piece of parchment for the people to follow. The concept of our own free will in establishing government is a struggle Massachusetts originally fought for. I have faith that Rauch and Carpenter are doing what they can to let the people decide the government.

I have faith that the readers who appreciate Rauch and Carpenter will also join in their call for faith in the people.
6.12.2007 12:37am
I did get from the sense of the article, and the sense of my readings of both these authors that they are very similar in views, just that the culture they were raised in has allowed them to disagree. Both of them want to protect the family, they just crave what is familiar to them, for they assume they know what is the best way to fix the family based off what culture they lived in.

Money quotes in describing each position
Jon Raunch

Failing to do so, over time, will tar marriage as discriminatory, legitimize co-habitation and other kinds of non-marriage, and turn every successful gay couple into a cultural advertisement for the expendability of matrimony.

...that binding fathers and mothers to their biological children is the only purpose that has any compelling claim on society
(note though Blankenhorn also recognizes other good benefits and main effects marriage creates, but creating biological children is its "purpose" and detaching marriage from its purpose risks losing marriage as an institution which creates a whole lot of problems.)

Rauch has a lot of arguments that will resonate with many conservatives of non religious origin of the younger generation (younger than 30). Blankenhorn has a lot of arguments that will resonate with the older conservative generation (over 55). Both have arguments that will resonate with the in between generation (though Blankenhorn probably has a lot more of these conservatives, though Rauch occasionally resonates with them.)

It isn't though a question of age whether you will favor gay marriage or not, but instead the type of society you grew up in. For example, to illustrate my point about culture lets talk about an iconic person in the discussion of Morality, Jerry Falwell. Jerry Falwell in the early 80s, harped on 3 major issues, Abortion, Pornography, and the Traditional Nuclear Family (issue number 4 would be defense/israel). The current religious right though now harps on Abortion, and Gay Rights/Marriage. We also are seeing a growing Religious Left who focuses on other issues besides Abortion and Marriage (Gay and the lack of Straight Marriage).

While now a days we still see the amount of single parents raising kids as a very bad thing (preferring two parents house holds and married two parent house holds), it has lost the effect of panic and feeling it may destroy society, and destroy it soon. (notice the word "destroy" not just make "worse"/make more "miserable") This type of culture shapes Blankenhorn beliefs (no I ain't saying he has identical beliefs as Falwell, I am saying though he was raised in a similar culture).

Compare this to how people under 30 view gay people, they now see it (as george will describes it) as no different than being left handed. Couple this with the increasing number (as a percent) of gay couples raising children, and you can easily how Jon Rauch's fear of not including gay marriage may be real (according to his beliefs).
6.12.2007 12:50am
Randy R. (mail):
I have found this posts good in a few ways. In something that I am not learned in, but I have an opinion, sometimes my opinion has changed.
Sometimes, I don't have a strong opinion on something, but when challenged, I will fight for one position or another. That I view is sort of an emotional response. If someone, for instance, says atheists are immoral, I will defend the atheists ferociously, much more so than I really believe. This blog has that strange effect.

However, the best is that by arguing with people, it has really honed my own arguments. I know which ones will fail, and I know the weaknesses of the other side. I know what arguments of my own are weak, or appear weak, to the other side. I've been caught wrong on certain facts, even. All this helps me argue in the real world. I can anticipate many of the arguments made on a particular issue. And sometimes I even steal some else's snappy comeback.
6.12.2007 1:12am
Randy R. (mail):
"Compare this to how people under 30 view gay people, they now see it (as george will describes it) as no different than being left handed....:"

Well, I would say left handed people who can sing a good showtune or two.
6.12.2007 1:13am
I am sorry, but I forgot to finish my thought, I thought I typed it but I didn't. With this follow paragraph, add this sentence

Compare this to how people under 30 view gay people, they now see it (as george will describes it) as no different than being left handed. Couple this with the increasing number (as a percent) of gay couples raising children, and you can easily how Jon Rauch's fear of not including gay marriage may be real (according to his beliefs)

If your sexual orientation is as innate as you being right or left handed, and we discriminate against people, it has the possibility of creating a taste of bile in peoples mouths (though a limited possibility). What though is even scarier from a a conservative position on marriage, is that people stop seeing the point of marriage. If gays can make it and be happy, why can't we do so? This logic also extends to domestic partnerships/civil unions/and marriage lite solutions. If such things are extended to straight people and gay people less people will see the importance of marriage. Civil unions may be actually more of a threat to marriage than gay marriage.
6.12.2007 1:56am
Randy R. (mail):
A little off topic, but did you hear the news that the military was spending vast amounts of money to develop a bomb that would turn soldiers gay? The theory was that they would drop this bomb, and then the soldiers would just want to have sex with their comrades, making it easier to win a war for us.

This was in 1994. And people wonder why the military can't shoot straight. simply unbelievable.
6.12.2007 1:57am
That isn't "news" Randy R, that program has been known for decades. It has recently become news for another group has rediscovered it going through their accounting books.

Here is a copy of the program hitting the news in Jan 2005, I bet if you do a lexis you may find a previous news story about the idiotic program BBC News Link
6.12.2007 2:36am
I need sleep, I meant to say "known for years", not decades. Later everybody...
6.12.2007 2:39am
rarango (mail):
With respect to the issue of changing one's views, Charles Osgood did some research in the 1950s where he concluded that values (versus opinions not based on those values) change only generationally; it was very difficult to change one's values in the short run. I side with those who say this blog is worthwhile because it makes me more aware of opposing arguments in a reasonably civil way. I have, for example, come fully around to being a supporter of gay marriage and equal civil and economic rights for gay couples.

RandyR: this is off topic but in the previous thread on the surgeon general, now closed, you cited me as saying that the STD rate was high primarily among gay men. I think you may have confused my comments with someone else as I never said that. The only reason I would like the record corrected is that I am an epidemiologist and am fully aware that there is an STD explosion, especially chlamydia, among the heterosexual population.
6.12.2007 9:52am
Randy R. (mail):
My apologies.
6.12.2007 2:53pm
Randy R. (mail):
You know, I too noticed that the comment period for the surgeon general ended. Yet, when I checked with other topics just before and after that post, the comment period was still open. I would like to know what standard for closing off discussion -- does it vary by topic? Usage? How long is it -- one week, five days?

I'm very confused about it.
6.12.2007 2:55pm
rarango (mail):
Thanks, Randy--and I wondered the same thing--I was enjoying the thread.
6.12.2007 3:31pm
Link explaining Dale Carpenter's recent changes on comments

Additionally each blogger has always had control over comments in their own thread, they can delete them, edit them, prevent all comments, hide/delete all comments, or close the comment period down early. Dale is now doing 1-2 days before he closes the comments periods on SSM/Gay posts, though there has been an exception or two where he hasn't done this for the thread was minor and didn't get many responses.

I think its a good policy with Gay/SSm posts, for after 2 days or 100+ comments nothing new is said, and often people are just bloviating, rambling, or beating a dead bush at that point. If more needs to be said after 100 comments a new thread in my opinion needs to be started to keep the discussion on track and focused. A new thread also makes it easier for readers to read and participate.
6.12.2007 4:30pm