Keeping the glory locked in: Otherization seems to be a basic human instinct.
It certainly runs all through American politics! Consider what Candidate Clinton said about yesterday’s Supreme Court decision, Jeremy Peters reporting:
PETERS (6/27/15): Absent a surprise change of heart by one of the Republicans, the Democrats will look to use same-sex marriage to their advantage. Democrats see the issue as one that allows them to hold up their nominee as empathetic and compassionate, while portraying the Republican as retrogressive and out of touch. Hillary Rodham Clinton hinted at the party’s line of attack on Friday when she said, “As love and joy flood our streets today, it is hard to imagine how anyone could deny the full protection of our laws to any of our fellow Americans—but there are those who would.”We thought the highlighted statement was odd. For Clinton’s full statement, click here.
It isn’t exactly clear what Clinton meant by that highlighted statement. But is it really “hard to imagine” how anyone could oppose the Court’s decision? Is it “hard to imagine” how someone could oppose the right to same-sex marriage?
We don’t know why those things would be hard for Clinton to imagine! She opposed same-sex marriage herself until two years ago!
Now, she seems to find it “hard to imagine” how anyone else could hold the view she apparently held for the first 65 years of her life! After a vote of the analysts, we’ve decided to call that an act of “otherization.”
We wouldn’t criticize Candidate Clinton for her past views or positions. Same-sex marriage has been a major wedge issue in the past several decades, and Clinton was a major figure in national electoral politics. We refer you back to what James Clyburn said to Chris Hayes about this week’s political change, by Nikki Haley and others, concerning the Confederate flag:
HAYES (6/22/15): You know, there are obviously folks who are celebrating this [change of stance] and welcome it. There are others who are sort of saying, “Well, this was done in the face of a kind of crescendo of public outrage and the initial instinct to both Governor Nikki Haley and Senator Lindsey Graham were, if not to outright defend the flag, kind of hem and haw on it.”From there, Clyburn went off in a different direction. For the most part, he declined to criticize Haley’s motives. Earlier in the interview, he had seemed to praise her for her new stance.
How do you understand this decision? As one of conviction, or kind of following the momentum of where things were headed anyway?
CLYBURN: Well, you know, I understand politics, and I know the difference in the Republican voters’ psyche about the flag and Democratic voters’ psyche. I would say generally two-thirds Democratic voters have got problems with the flag flying on the State House grounds, about two-thirds of Republican voters want it to fly on the State House grounds.
Why did Clyburn react as he did? When he said, “Well, I understand politics,” we took him to be saying that the flag had been a major wedge for Republican pols in South Carolina, and that, as a politician, he understands the way such matters inevitably work.
In our view, the same considerations apply to Candidate Clinton and same-sex marriage. But good grief! Just two years after she came out in support of marriage equality, she seems to say that she “can’t imagine” how anyone else could possibly hold that view!
We’d have to call that “otherization” on a major scale. In Clinton’s statement, we’re being encouraged to think the worst of those in the other tribe.
We liberals often decry such conduct by those on the right, but we’re sometimes happy to engage in such conduct ourselves. Regarding yesterday’s decision, consider this rather strange excerpt from Justice Alito’s dissent, as presented in the hard-copy Washington Post:
“Today’s decision usurps the constitutional right of the people to decide whether to keep or alter the traditional understanding of marriage. The decision will also have other important consequences. It will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy. In the course of its opinion, the majority compares traditional marriage laws to laws that denied equal treatment for African-Americans and women. Today’s decision shows that decades of attempts to restrain the Court’s abuse of its authority have failed...I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools.”
As part of a constitutional ruling, that strikes us as a strange set of considerations. But will dissenters be labeled as bigots? Of course they will! People will be otherized for holding the same positions Candidate Clinton (and President Obama) recently held.
In our view, otherization tends to lock the glory in. Human nature being what it is, we liberals often criticize otherization when it’s being performed by The Others. But we sometimes seem to enjoy the ancient practice when we do it ourselves.