This Week in the Mayonnaise Clinic: Dating Across a Political Divide
Plus: What should you make for dinner in this heat?
Welcome to the Mayonnaise Clinic!
Before I get to your mail, I want to talk about the bill that passed the House of Representatives yesterday to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and create effective federal legal protections for marriage equality that are independent of the Obergefell decision from the Supreme Court.
The bill passed by a wide margin because 47 Republicans joined every Democrat in supporting it. Bringing this bill up was smart politics because the issue unites Democrats and divides Republicans — you can tell it was smart politics because of all the whining from Republicans about being forced to vote on it.
And it was also a good idea substantively. I think so, even though I am not as concerned as some people are about Obergefell being at risk after Dobbs.
Justice Alito’s majority opinion in Dobbs provides an obvious out for how to distinguish the two issues, even if you are a conservative who doesn’t buy the substantive due process analysis in the original Obergefell decision: on two key prongs of stare decisis analysis (workability and reliance interests) there is a much stronger argument for leaving Obergefell untouched than was the case with Roe and Casey.1 And even if Alito himself doesn’t want to take that out (his colleague, Clarence Thomas, clearly does not want to) I think it’s likely to appeal to other conservative justices on the court who don’t want to get on the wrong side of a better than 70-30 issue that — as we can see from the Republican Party’s near-total abandonment of the debating field on it — simply does not carry a similar level of moral weight to abortion with conservatives.
All that said, I don’t know that Obergefell is secure, and as a general matter, I also think it’s a good idea to conform statutes to public policy. If gay marriage is legal, then the laws of the country should say so, and this bill would achieve that. So I am eager to see the Senate take it up. Given how many Republicans voted for it in the House, I think it’s very plausible it could get over the 60-vote threshold in the Senate and become law.
I also think the good politics of this bill are a demonstration of why Democrats should bring up bills that protect specific aspects of abortion rights that enjoy broad public support, such as a right to abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy. Unlike on gay marriage, such laws wouldn’t simply be codifying existing rights created by court decisions — they’d be re-creating a foundation of rights that no longer exist at the federal level, which makes them more urgent. And like on gay marriage, they present opportunities to force Republicans to vote on issues where the public sides 2-1 or better with Democrats.
Here’s Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse apparently begging for the opportunity to vote on a bill that’s tied to a right that’s already being impinged in real life:
Okay, where’s the vote on a law to create a national right to abortion in cases of rape or incest — a need highlighted by the recent case of a 10-year-old girl who needed to travel from Ohio to Indiana for an abortion? That seems like a sufficiently non-hypothetical issue to address Sen. Sasse’s concern about the use of the legislative calendar.
How many Republican votes could proposals like those get in the House? Probably fewer than 47, and they’d probably have a harder road in the Senate than marriage equality will. But these bills would also put Republicans in an even harder political position. Many Republicans who think their base will forgive them for codifying gay marriage will face much more intra-party blowback if they vote to create a first trimester abortion right. But if they vote against it, they’ll put themselves on the wrong side of an issue with lopsided opinion, and where the right in question is actually in peril and likely to be top-of-mind for a lot of voters.
So, get on it, Democrats.
Now, the mail:
Parker from Utah has a question about dating and politics:
I'm into a guy who is liberal — great, dandy. But he is more of a pro-AOC, pro-Shaun King, “fuck the Supreme Court for crapping on abortion rights” kind of guy. I realize that last sentence might make him sound pretty wild, but of course in person, he's not. I'm more of a Josh Barro-Tim Miller-Bulwark/Dispatch kind of guy.
Any thoughts on how to manage political conversations with him? For example, in a hypothetical conversation where his position is pretty far out there, how could I show support for his positions and intentions but tell him respectfully and without escalation that he's too extreme? Or try to persuade?
On a related note: How do you stay calm and relaxed during your debates? Does your heart ever start pounding? Or you're trying to complete a sentence but you awkwardly run out of breath trying to make your argument?
One thing that’s healthy about having political opinions for a living is that it helps me not have intense and unpleasant political conversations in my off time. Arguing about politics is work, and if I’m not being paid, why would I be working? In one area of public policy, I have even made this into a firm rule: I will not discuss Israel if I am not being paid to have the conversation.
So that’s the first thing I’d say about how to talk about politics if you think it won’t be enjoyable: Maybe don’t. Practice listening to and acknowledging someone’s comments without either endorsing them or objecting to them. It’s impossible to have a political argument without an opponent, and if you starve the conversation of oxygen like that, the other party will usually give up and then you can talk about something else, like sports or food or travel.
Of course, stonewalling probably isn’t an appropriate course with someone you know well or are involved with romantically — or would like to be. Parker tells me he has been on a few dates with his left-wing romantic interest, but they’re not exclusive yet.
Maybe the two of you can enjoy arguing about politics (for some people, this is foreplay) or maybe you are both prepared to de-emphasize politics in favor of other topics you can discuss more enjoyably. But I don’t think “show support for his positions and intentions but tell him respectfully and without escalation that he's too extreme” is likely to work. It amounts to telling him he’s being trivial, and that tends to offend people more than telling them they’re wrong. It could also make you sound condescending. And I wouldn’t put a lot of energy into persuading him to change his views, either — this rarely works, and it’s also not great to be already trying to change the person you’re dating before you’re even officially in a relationship.
I’d also point to a couple of other red flags.