March 28, 2007

Frum: Progressives Looking Backward

Marc Comtois

David Frum makes some interesting points. First, about the resurrection about the ERA:

Back in the 1970s, ERA was defeated by a grassroots organizing campaign led by Phyllis Schlafly. Schlafly deployed many arguments against the ERA, and one of the most effective was that ERA would authorize same-sex marriage. At the time, this argument drove ERA proponents wild with fury. They denounced it as hysterical exaggeration, an attempt a common-sense bid for women's rights by attributing to it extreme consequences that would never be countenanced by an American court.

A quarter century later, we can see that Schlafly was absolutely right. In states with local ERAs, same-sex marriage advocates have often argued in court that the ban on sex discrimination required state courts to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. That argument was accepted by the supremem court of Hawaii until overturned by a state constitutional amendment.

If this ERA movement goes forward, it will be curious to watch same-sex marriage advocates abruptly pivot from their past support for federalism and decentralization.

There's no slippery slope here! More from, er, Frum:
We've been hearing since November about the resurgence of the progressive left - the new enthusiasm, the new energy, the new organizations, the new commitment. Amidst all these exciting novelty, there is only one thing lacking: new ideas. The resurgent "progressive" movement is the most backward-looking political force since William Jennings Bryan tried to repeal the industrial revolution. Their big issues - a government healthcare monopoly! do away with secret union ballots! and now ... ERA! - date respectively to the 1940s, the 1930s, and the 1970s.

It's just bizarre to tune into blogosphere debates to watch freshfaced 20-somethings passionately champion, as if just invented, policy proposals that were old when their grandparents were young. If this is progressiveness, what would reaction look like?

Um, conservatism?

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It's not really fair to describe the resurgence of old liberal ideas as "backwards-looking." After all, it's not as though we once had universal health care and an equal rights amendment, discarded them, and now some buffoons want to bring them back.

I think you'll find there are, in the details, plenty of new ideas. It's true that the central ideas of liberalism aren't that new; in fact, they're classics: equality, fairness, and honesty.

Posted by: mrh at March 29, 2007 9:10 PM
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