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Stirring a crowd is one thing. Mob politics is another. Today with his announcement that he intends to pass a Constitutional Amendment against gay and lesbian marriage, President Bush reminds us what a mob monger he is.
"I’m a uniter, not a divider," promised candidate George W. during the election of 2000, but his most effective political initiatives reveal that his most sinister political talent is to rally us against them, whoever they are.
That is why so few politicians voted against the Patriot Acts or the wars. When Bush brought these issues to the table, he did so with his singular genius for relegating the opposition into an intolerable world apart.
Now he attempts to do the same thing with gay and lesbian marriage. "If you dare to vote against this prohibition you will be counted among the forces of darkness, and we will bury your political future." That is the tone that Bush is able to strike, even if he never quite puts it that way. He has a talent for raising a mob with code words that mask naked power with righteousness.
The unforgiving tone of Bush leadership is an eerie echo of the religious fundamentalism that he purports to oppose in global politics. Even his most conservative allies, such as James K. Glassman, of the American Enterprise Institute, recognize that today’s "defense of marriage" initiative is a political invitation to energize the fundamentalists at home.
Faith-based agitation in Massachusetts, for instance, has helped to shift public opinion ten points in the direction of intolerance, reports Frank Philips of the Boston Globe. And this is Catholic, northern fundamentalism, not Protestant southern. So you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
The Boston Globe story gives us another disturbing detail by reporting that the popular mood in this case demands majority rule rather than court consideration when it comes to these crucial issues of civil rights. But appeals to majority rule have usually been bad news in the history of civil rights.
Beginning with the Bill of Rights, and going all the way up to the "Defense of Congressional Pay" (Amendment Number 27), Constitutional Amendments have been put in place to protect the relatively powerless against the state and majority rule. In the case of the Congressional Pay amendment, two consecutive votes of Congress are demanded, and why? Because when you get leaders like George Bush in office, mob fervor is liable to sweep reason away.
We might demand for the American people the same protection the Congress has arranged for itself. Two consecutive votes of Congress, with an election intervening.
Only once has a Constitutional amendment been passed by a majority in order to put a minority "in its place." That was the mis-guided Prohibition amendment, the only one to be repealed.
With the call for a Constitutional amendment to ban gay and lesbian marriage, President Bush summons a new American mob, panders to fundamentalism, and reverses the tradition of constitutional amendments, initiated by the Bill of Rights. George Bush is a political animal with his back against the wall. And he has made us in his image, into a nation of claws and teeth.