On today's Times we find out that Barbara Bush, daughter of President George W. Bush, will break ranks with her father and come out in in support of gay marriage. My first reaction is one of astonishment. This is not because Ms. Bush will in fact come out against her father on this issue, but because such an announcement is in fact worthy of news coverage. In case any further proof was needed, this coverage would appear to confirm Kevin Phillips' assessment that our democratic experiment has taken a turn towards aristocracy. Why should anybody care what Ms. Bush thinks on anything? Note that the article does not explain why her views on this particular issue should carry any special weight, nor does it feel that it has to. Her name speaks for itself.
But then, if you keep reading, something very interesting crops up.
Barbara Bush is not only famous relative to come out in favor of gay marriage and against the public position of her father. Meghan McCain, daughter of John McCain, also has come out in support of gay marriage, and so has Mary Cheney. Laura Bush has also spoken out in support of the issue.
According to the Times, gay advocates point to these splits as proof that support for gay marriage is not a question of partisan affiliation or even family values. That seems right. But far more interesting to me is the fact that pseudo-public figures, such as relatives of former presidents, can speak out on sensitive issues in ways that their elected relatives cannot. If political socialization begins in the home, and political identification tracks family lineage, gay rights advocates have a powerful point. There is something about this issue that makes it different from others as a question of politics.
This makes me wonder: what is it that makes this issue so important to the conservative political establishment and its base? For the life of me, I cannot figure it out.