I know I’m risking starting yet another SSM war, but I wanted to point out an interesting op-ed in today’s New York Times. Thomas Frank writes that the constitutional amendment movement was designed to fail:
They went with a constitutional amendment, the one method where failure was absolutely guaranteed — along with front-page coverage. Then again, what culture war offensive isn’t doomed to failure from the start? Indeed, the inevitability of defeat seems to be a critical element of the melodrama, on issues from school prayer to evolution and even abortion.
Failure on the cultural front serves to magnify the outrage felt by conservative true believers; it mobilizes the base. Failure sharpens the distinctions between conservatives and liberals. Failure allows for endless grandstanding without any real-world consequences that might upset more moderate Republicans or the party’s all-important corporate wing. You might even say that grand and garish defeat — especially if accompanied by the ridicule of the sophisticated — is the culture warrior’s very object.
I think Frank overstates his case somewhat; after all, many culture wars are indeed fought to be won. But I think he’s on to something as regards this particular skirmish. Constitutional amendment supporters seem to have wanted the glory of defeat — and they got it.