Doing Its Record Of Bigotry Proud, National Review Once Again Comes Down On The Wrong Side Of History

Our guest blogger is Elon Green, a freelance writer living in Brooklyn.

The National Review reacted to last Friday’s New York legislation granting gay couples the right to marry in a manner that can charitably be described as petulant. The Review’s output over the last few days has been overwhelmingly cruel, hateful, and, in light of its history, surprising.

To put it mildly, it’s rather unwise for the National Review — with its long paper trail of bigotry famously aimed at African-Americans (William Buckley, the magazine’s founder, pondered the “cultural superiority of white over Negro”) and less famously at gays (he wrote that how one feels about AIDS sufferers is “only uncomplicated…if one accepts the moral injunction that all sinners should be forgiven”) — to so eagerly claim that the adoption of gay marriage is a slippery slope that ends with a United States transformed into a totalitarian Stalinist dictatorship. And yet that’s exactly what they’ve done, with a few courageous exceptions.

Given that the National Review is still the flagship publication of the conservative movement — e.g., the Republican front-runner for president, Mitt Romney, has more than a half-dozen bylines this year alone — the magazine’s behavior is all the more disturbing.

When the New York Senate passed a marriage equality bill on June 24 at roughly 10:48 p.m., this is how the National Review handled the news:

● At 11:49, Maggie Gallagher, whose organization the National Organization for Marriage tried and failed to derail the vote, warned that the Republican Party will “pay a grave price” for allowing four of its members to vote for the bill.

● Two days later, editor Kathryn Lopez, in response to criticism of Archbishop Timothy Dolan’s contention that by allowing gay marriage the United States was no better than the Hermit Kingdom, told her colleague, “Do not be so quick to dismiss the North Korea comparison.”

● On Monday, George Weigel compared gay rights activists to Bull Connor, the Klan-sympathizing segregationist public saftey commissioner famous for turning a fire hose on blacks in Birmingham, Alabama.

● That same day, Rick Santorum was given space to accuse New York of “wreaking havoc not only with the definitions of the federal law and the majority of states, but…with the single most important and time-tested institution of every successful society.”

● A few hours later, Glenn Stanton, the director of Family Formation Studies at Focus on the Family, complained that a woman he saw on the subway — presumed to be a lesbian — was “playing make-believe daddy” with her child.

● Maggie Gallagher, in a separate piece, wrote that the vote is indicative of a civil rights movement that simply wants to “redefin[e] the Book of Genesis as bigotry.”

● Yesterday, David French, senior counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice, wrote that gay marriage is a “blow for self-indulgence and for adult-focused self-actualization.”

● Shortly thereafter, in an interview with Kathryn Jean Lopez, Princeton University’s Robert George said the equality vote promotes “forms of sexual conduct that were traditionally regarded in the West and many other places as beneath the dignity of human beings as free and rational creatures.”

It’s worth noting two exceptions. The first is longtime Deputy Managing Editor Michael Potemra; in the early morning of June 25, he wrote, “[T]onight, I see neither the face of anarchy, nor that of a nascent ‘North Korea.’ I see smiles on young people — and also, on some quiet senior citizens who are actually old enough to remember Stonewall 1969.” The second is editor Jason Lee Steorts, who wrote, “I would like to see the reaction of a North Korean refugee to your claim. […] It would also be nice if you troubled yourself to make an argument.”

A National Review staffer who hasn’t commented on the vote itself or the backlash by his employer is Jonah Goldberg, the magazine’s editor-at-large. As it happens, it was Goldberg who in 2002 wrote:

Conservatives should feel some embarrassment and shame that we are outraged at instances of racism now that it is easy to be. Conservatives…were often at best MIA on the issue of civil rights in the 1960s. Liberals were on the right side of history on the issue of race.

Nearly a decade later, it appears that conservatives — certainly Mr. Goldberg’s own publication — have once again come down on the wrong side of history. I hope it doesn’t take 40 years for the next apology.