Are Opponents of Redefining Marriage Natural Opponents of Trump?
Casual observers might assume that pro-family and anti-Trump sentiments go together. Many of the most outspoken defenders of marriage (Robert P. George and Maggie Gallagher come to mind) came out early as uncompromising opponents of Donald J. Trump. Trump's personal history with marriage alarms people who support the institution, considering that he is on his third wife. Allegations swirl about ungentlemanly, if not explicitly unchaste, conduct on his part toward the opposite sex.
At the nominating convention in Cleveland, one of Trump's cheerleaders was Peter Thiel. Thiel got a rousing reception despite being homosexual and despite public remarks that seemed to brush aside social conservatism. Moreover, one of Trump's most vocal advocates in Cleveland was the flamboyant Milo Yiannopoulos, who delivered a popular speech for Trump at a confab of fellow homosexuals; behind him hung oversized tableaux that looked like underage gay porn. Trump has not made assertive statements promising to push a legal reversal of Obergefell, nor promised any opposition to the LGBT agenda in his acceptance speech in Cleveland.
In fact, the one reference to LGBT issues by Donald J. Trump's Cleveland speech was his promise to defend the "LGBTQ community." This referred implicitly to the massacre in Orlando, Florida a little more than one month prior. His use of the politically correct acronym signaled to many that he was both advised by and geared toward the gay lobby.
In an interview with me, Maggie Gallagher explained that she did not take seriously Mr. Trump's promises to defend Christianity beyond saying, "Merry Christmas." She sees Trump's disappointing position on marriage, both in personal and political terms, as a central reason for withholding her vote even if America might then face a Hillary Clinton presidency.
Those in Gallagher's coterie feel little desire to throw their support to Trump, whom many of them find distasteful for the same reasons that leftists condemn him; namely, his coarse language, pugnacious posture, and quasi-nativist populism on trade, jobs, and immigration.
Things have become precarious for people such as Jon Eastman, Mark Bauerlein, Carol Swain, and myself, who have signed on with the scholars and writers in favor of Trump. Many people within my orbit not only see Trump as unfit for office; they also see scholars who publicly support him as unfit for the public square. Hence, one of the more memorable recent pieces in Public Discourse came from Nathaniel Peters, who wrote that the 135 scholars were betrayers to the cause who had demoralized and harmed young conservatives by setting a bad example. Reading Peters's piece, I felt like Socrates accused by the young Meletus of corrupting Athenian youth before a vast jury of eminent elders.
The British and French Precedents
But there's more than meets the eye. I predicted the rise of someone like Trump not in spite of, but rather because of the fight over gay marriage. On March 24, 2013, I stood on a platform just below the Champs-Élysées and looked upon a mass of over a million French people who had stormed Paris to oppose marriage and adoption by members of the same sex. There, in the French capital, I sensed an energy I'd never seen before. Though they were an orderly assembly, they were not like the Tea Party rallies, at which people distributed copies of the Constitution and talked about the need to limit government spending. The feelings of the French people were passionate and urgent, dealing not with bureaucratic abstractions, but with the emotional tension of real-life families.
At a café a few blocks from the Eiffel Tower, I met Frigide Barjot, the mischievous and unexpected leader of the groundswell against redefining marriage. She was no conservative. Neither was Lionel Lumbroso, the Jewish atheist I have befriended, or Xavier Bongibault, the sassy gay blond who might have been the French precursor to Milo. Among their followers were people with largely liberal inclinations, sympathetic to workers, suspicious of wealthy globalists, and supportive of labor unions.
The March 24 march on Paris degenerated into clouds of tear gas and culminated in the ouster of Frigide Barjot from her own movement. Buttoned up French Catholic elites got rid of Barjot, replacing her with more staid and less erratic options. The result was that Barjot's movement became much less chaotic and smaller. Barjot could find no help as the gay mayor of Paris had her evicted from her apartment, and the LGBT movement steamrolled to victory after victory in the French Parliament.
I also traveled to the United Kingdom as the redefinition of marriage was pushed through the House of Commons by a supposedly Conservative prime minister. The queen of England and titular head of the Church of England, Elizabeth II, signed on to gay marriage despite the fact that her own church's official position was against it and rumors abounded that she was personally opposed.
In both France and England, mobs of panicked citizens felt that this change was an ill development that promised to harm people's neighborhoods and families. The problem was that they were invisible to all but the most astute observers because their own "conservative" leaders felt embarrassed by them and were all too happy to assist the press in ignoring their existence.
Even the conservatives who were officially against redefining marriage had no incentive to acknowledge these masses, since those same conservatives were invariably linked to classical liberalism in economic policy, which repelled working-class Christians who wanted government to take an active role in building an economy friendlier to working-class and middle-class Europeans.
Moreover, the conservative "spokespeople" had in many cases built their careers on being the only opponents of redefining marriage invited to join the pro-gay left on the stage for public debates. If they acknowledged millions more everyday citizens who had greater passions and blunter arguments against the attempt to marry same-sex couples, they would lose their claim to be the official oppositional voices and all the benefits that came with that honorary status. It was inevitable that the Christian rank and file would figure out that the left was picking who the "dignified opposition" would be – namely, who could be rewarded for losing gracefully to the gay lobby.
In both France and England, hundreds of thousands of citizens' petitions opposing the redefinition of marriage were thrown out based on technicalities while politicians brazenly lied about a near unanimity for gay rights among their populace. The standard conservative parties proved infinitely corruptible or craven, while the Labor and Socialist parties in London and Paris were fortresses of impenetrable ideology determined to transform Europe into a homosexual paradise.
The Church of England and the Catholic Church were horrendously disappointing, offering faint lip service now and then but often openly sabotaging efforts by the Christian faithful to stop the redefinition of marriage. Their sabotage usually came in the form of "let us be loving and keep from spreading judgment or hate," which usually led to Christ's vision of marriage being compromised and sugarcoated until it had little to do with biblical sexuality at all. Meanwhile, redistributive charity was the last thing on the minds of the pro-gay corporate globalists who were using quotes like "who am I to judge" to beat back religious conservatives on LGBT issues.
The perfect storm gathered throughout 2013 and 2014. While we hear a great deal about immigration as the driving issue behind the rise of the Front National in France and the Brexit-UKIP right in the United Kingdom, one must note that angst over immigration had existed for a long time in the two countries. The marriage debacle was, on the contrary, fresh and new. The redefinition of marriage was commonly viewed as something imposed by the United States and the European Union. It galvanized many people who were not necessarily militant about immigration but who saw how elites within government and the churches were abandoning their working- and middle-class constituencies while openly rebelling against God. It became perfectly reasonable to many churchgoing people, even liberal ones, to get in league with UKIP and the Front National regardless of whether the two parties were true believers in biblical marriage, for the simple reason that at least Nigel Farage and the Le Pens were willing to fight and play by rules other than the ones that the globalized left had rigged. The masses decided early on that they would rather have a right-wing warrior who might not be perfectly Christian but who would fight to win than a flawless Bible-quoter guaranteed to lose.
Moreover, class loomed as the deciding factor. Why ally with Christian leaders who championed "conservative fiscal policy" when so many Christians (myself included) see our rights as workers threatened? The far right figures who might not be entirely biblical in their reasoning tended, ironically, to be more in tune with the struggles of working Christians. Their heightened sympathy for the worker was one reason they had daring but popular stances on immigration, pushing for a stop to cheap labor flowing into their countries and depressing wages for citizens.
After Obergefell was decided, I saw that the conservative movement had little incentive to continue protecting those of us who had spoken out for marriage. Lackluster orators had hogged all the airtime during the lead-up to the marriage debate and now claimed they were the only ones brave enough to stand for marriage during the dark hours when biblical chastity was doomed. In truth, they doomed biblical marriage by making terrible decisions about how to fight for it and by yoking social conservatism to Bush-era fiscal policy. Sarah Palin was right about crony capitalism; it turns off the vast majority of poor and middle-class Christians who hold conservative views on sexuality.
I found myself on the road to Damascus by the end of 2015. When California State University Northridge moved to sanction me based on charges that I had discriminated against gays by organizing a pro-family conference at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, I was on my own. The Reagan Library did not come forward to defend me. A Republican congressman who had received letters from constituents begging him to intervene in my case sent one letter to Chancellor Timothy White and washed his hands of the case.
It was clear that I was no better than the average French or British citizen rallying to Brexit or the Le Pens. I was no better than the average American getting egged or called racist at Trump rallies. I was a fool who'd been taken advantage of. I wanted the whole system to be broken down. I wanted a wrecking ball candidate to come to D.C. and start over.
I have no naïve expectations of Donald J. Trump. I doubt he agrees with me on all things that I have fought for. But he holds an irreplaceable value: he fights where others are happy to lose comfortably. I need someone who actually wants to win and who isn't going to play these deceptive games with causes for which humble supporters are staking their families' livelihoods. If he is crass, so be it. So am I. It is easy to side with the NeverTrumps and feel smugly superior to everyone else. The problem is, when you do so, you are on the wrong side of history.