I received an email from someone I do not know chiding me for my 'defense of Steve Bullock' in my last post. Since it appears that it was sent in good faith, I will not repost it or expose the author here. It did raise a few questions or concerns that have been occupying my thoughts here of late, so I'll post what response I can.
First, I was not defending Steve Bullock. Some of my opinions were posted yesterday, so allow me to flesh them out here. (Wait. You don't have to allow it because this is my forum.) My opinion is that Bullock's response to the question was fueled by surprise at being asked a question that doesn't much pass his radar. He responded as a candidate to a question he didn't expect, about an issue that is not very big to him, and informed himself only by his legal training. A Governor should not be in the business of overturning the will of his constituents. Those who think the response thoughtless have every right and reason to do so, especially as it affects them personally. I'm not defending that response at all. In truth, I thought it kind of thoughtless as well. To me, it was also understandable, and not of much substance. That is not a defense, it's rather pointing out the obvious.
The rest of the email can be boiled down to one question, in a couple of parts. 'How can you write that GBLT marriage rights are of no concern to you when it is a matter of civil rights?' That is actually a fine question, the one that demanded this response, one I have no problem answering when seen for it's parts.
First, how can marriage equality not affect me? Back in 2004, when Montana was considering it's defense of hetero-normity amendment, we were all inundated with the rather 'pragmatic' argument that gay weddings would cheapen, kill, blaspheme and destroy traditional marriage and our moral standing in the world. The correct and appropriate response to that was also very pragmatic and honest. Nope, gay people getting married won't influence or affect me one single iota. Not even a smidgen. Yet now that the amendment became a part of the Constitution of Montana, I am being asked to admit that it does affect me. No. No it doesn't. Whether or not GBLT people have wedding rights will not change my life at all. Not one bit. I'm not doing a 180 on this. My answer in 2004 is the same as my answer in 2012. It won't affect me either way. However, there are those that it will affect in very dramatic ways. And that is the root of single issue voting.
Those who feel (rightly or wrongly) that a single issue will affect them deeply given it's outcome are single issue voters and by all correct thinking, they should be. Where problems arise (one of many ways) is when single issue voters use that issue as an appeal to universalize voting itself. A bigger problem is when multi-issue voters use the single as a rallying cry to attack the person, rather than the issue. Witness this: Dave Strohmaier put out an advertisement promoting his support of marriage equality in Montana. The self-appointed liberal watchdog of Montana living in Colorado pulled his best Admiral Ackbar impression and warned us all that Strohmaier was likely deceitful, using a wedge issue to manipulate our votes. What's funny to me is this, a politician bringing up a wedge issue designed for single issue voters is to be suspect, but a poor response about a single issue thrown at a politician is cause for sharpening pitchforks and lighting torches (with all due non-violence, of course.) It seems to me there is something wrong with that. Claiming that something affects all people when it doesn't really isn't true. It often doesn't even ring true on reading.
What is wrong is confusion. It is using a single issue in effort to universalize it to all voters. That is what has happened with GBLT rights. Gay marriage is not the actual issue. The issue is civil rights. On that score, I don't think Bullock failed, despite himself. Ted Kennedy famously argued in the Senate that if rights were to mean anything, they could not be open to the will of voters, and especially could not be defined or denied by the states in this unified Republic. I think, my opinion, that many if not most, Puritopians have forgotten that simple truth. What the AG or Governor in Montana argues for or does not means little to the rights we all should have.
Yes, that affects me, just not on any level that will actually affect my life or the way I live it. Sad paradox, isn't it? Boiled down, GBLT rights are a matter of principle. Civil rights are a matter of principle. But when the rubber meets the road, telling anyone that a principle that will not affect them in even the smallest bit is more important than causes and effects that will alter their life is a poor strategy. It is begging one to agree with the universal nature of a cause that really isn't universal at all.
I'm not a single issue voter. I've yet to encounter a single issue that affects me so very much that I will pin my hopes on electoral success. At no point do I or will I fault those who do. Nor will I be told that a single issue defines my life or beliefs just because it might be falsely universalized.