Kim Davis has defeated us all

Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis is clearly a terrible person who should not be occupying so much of our collective attention. In an ideal world, she would have resigned in protest. And there’s little doubt that this whole controversy has been drummed up by movement conservatives who are eager to fund a media spectacle. It’s all made-up bullshit.

The thing is, that spectacle has been amazingly effective in showing liberals in the worst possible light. There may literally be no stereotype of liberals that is not confirmed in the response to Kim Davis.

Do you think liberals are often hypocritical? It turns out that all that rhetoric of sexual freedom doesn’t apply to the unconventional sex life of a Kentucky county clerk — and the knee-jerk critiques of conservative sexism ring hollow once you recognize the not-so-subtle undertone of shock and disgust that a woman who is not conventionally attractive can achieve such feats of promiscuity.

Do you think that liberals are authoritarian? Well, it turns out that — at least now that the powers that be have taken their side — liberals think you should obey the law and your employer unconditionally or else you can just go fuck yourself. Screw your conscience! Obedience is what made America great.

Do you think that liberals are smug assholes who think they’re smarter than everyone? Then you’ll be really pleased at all the superficial analogies and “gotcha” logic contradictions that they deploy against people’s religious convictions. The Jewish check-out clerk still lets people buy pork! Ha ha! Never mind the fact that the job requirement that Davis objects to was only added after she took the job. Would you tell the Jewish deli owner to go fuck himself and follow the law if the city passed an ordinance requiring all delis to sell ham? Again and again, these dumb talking points show an absolute lack of any thought or even the most minimal empathy — it’s all about feeling smart and building solidarity by pointing and laughing at the dumb Republicans.

Do you think liberals are intolerant? It’d be hard to shake that view as you watch liberals gloating over an ideological opponent literally being sent to jail.

I don’t know if there’s some Karl Rove-style master conspirator behind this, but if there is, I’m sure he feels pretty good about himself. This whole thing was a trap, and we fell for it — totally and enthusiastically.

14 Responses to “Kim Davis has defeated us all”

  1. gerrycanavan Says:

    The reporting on whether she “needed” to go to jail has been such a mess, and almost totally partisan in orientation. I found this pretty persuasive, though: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/122758/kentucky-clerk-kim-davis-never-should-have-gone-jail It seems like there was another way to do this that would have had both quicker and better results.

  2. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I couldn’t find an elegant way to work it into the post, but apparently liberals’ new best friend is intellectual property law! (The “Eye of the Tiger” thing.) It just gets better and better.

  3. Thursday Links, Inc. | Gerry Canavan Says:

    […] Kim Davis has defeated us all. Related: Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis Never Should Have Gone to […]

  4. Jordan Peacock Says:

    Yeah and amen. Lost an incredible amount of respect for a large number of people in short order.

  5. Matt Says:

    Your last paragraph makes me think this post should be reformatted in the style of the old Paul Harvey “If I Were the Devil” bit.

  6. Felix S. Says:

    Not exactly feeling this one considering the horrific persecution of gays throughout history and the almost impossible battle to guarantee same-sex marriage under law. I understand the disgust, especially when it’s toward one self-anointed martyr who breached basic human rights and tries to undo decades of hard work.

    Also, I observed many liberals and those on the left chastising those who took pleasure in Davis being jailed or criticizing her appearance or promiscuity. So it’s not like what you portray here is representative the liberal rhetoric surrounding this situation.

    I’m a little disturbed how sympathetic this post is toward religious conservatives in its criticism of liberal hypocrisy. I think it’s possible to criticize liberals while not implicitly demanding capitulation to a demographic that wants to deny human rights in the guise of “religious freedom.”

    I mean, yes, handing out marriage licenses to gay couples was a requirement added to her job after she took it—but she knew very well what she (and every other county clerk) was required to do and refused to step down and work another job that didn’t conflict with her religious beliefs.

    She hijacked that office to advance her agenda, which again, was denying gay couples the basic right to marry. That is far, far more objectionable than some liberals out there who crossed the line in mere rhetoric. Seriously, why even bother with this critique.

  7. Adam Kotsko Says:

    You may enjoy the first paragraph of my post, given your views!

  8. Felix S. Says:

    Yeah? But your emphasis is on the liberal response to this controversy, which again, is not representative and — given the context of the struggle for gay rights in this country — is trivial in comparison to injustices LGBT people regularly face.

    So some people were gloating Davis went to jail? As bad as that is, gay people have suffered much worse historically and Davis, who gladly accepted that consequence, was guaranteed to come out of this as a “hero martyr.” And she did.

    It’s one thing to say, “Davis is terrible, etc.” and quite another to (1) headline this piece “Kim Davis has defeated us all,” and (2) indicate all liberals were suckered into a political trap that revealed them in the worst possible light – because some of them were a little too angry that a public official abused their position to deny gay couples the right to marry.

    All of that implicitly argues for capitulation to conservatives.

  9. Jordan Says:

    I don’t think Adam’s post is written in sympathy with Kim Davis or the position she represents. He is not asking us to capitulate to the conservative notion of marriage in any way, rather he is writing about the optics of a significant (if even not fully representative) portion of the liberal reaction to her in their willingness to show a spiteful indulgence of the feeling of victory that, not being a behaviour that inherently points to the rightness or logic of its own cause, is liable to signal that the time for reason and conversation has passed and that each should now retreat into the camp most like his own where he must take up whatever blunt weapons of defence at hand. What I mean is that the effect of a certain kind of triumphalism is that the people who might eventually have be open to persuasion in a more mild climate are deprived of the nuanced vision that might have allowed them to trace their way to “the more reasonable side” and, not having sufficient apparent incentive to move to that side (e.g., for emotional reasons or some other reward) will be swept up by the politics of outrage back into the conservative camps from which they had been drifting.

    Of course, optics might not matter to you, but at a certain point these things do begin to matter and have a real effect. It really depends what one thinks one’s team’s odds are for the alleged coming showdown and how many “potentially reasonable” people you think are left before all hands are fully played. The rise of a demagogue like Donald Trump *could* be a sign that the amount of energy waiting to be converted into reactionary power is still significant, or that there is enough of it sleeping to interfere with calculations, and that there might be a vested interest in trying to diffuse it rather than try to blow it up safely in an empty lot. These kinds of manners and social political graces– was this called prudence?–can be a very practical political tool, I think.

    But I shouldn’t presume to speak for Adam, these thoughts are only my own.

  10. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I think you’re being hugely unfair, Felix, to the point where I don’t even know how to begin responding.

  11. Adam Kotsko Says:

    Jordan’s account is reasonably close to my actual motives. Thanks.

  12. E. Lim Says:

    In my dreams, I organize for the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America. I’ve successfully unionized the cast and crew of RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE because watching drag, that fabulous proletarian spectacle of gender’s failure, submit to neoliberal labor discipline while enriching novel varieties of smug men in pricey suits was getting everyone down. The media’s robustest coverage of L’Affaire Kim Davis was led by neither CNN nor FOX but a newly labor-militant World of Wonder Productions, obliged to give the cast a majority share of producing rights until expiration of the contract in 2020.

    EPISODE 1. The girls give us TV Executive/Narkompros Realness as they deliberate over cocktails in the Absolut Spirit Lounge and Boardroom: how to turnaround the failing DRAG RACE franchise? And BAM! they’ve got it. America doesn’t want to crown its next drag superstar, hunty. Post-Obergefell America wants to meet its next Tammy Faye.

    EPISODE 2. The cast flies out to Rowan County, Kentucky. Kim Davis accepts $100,000 of MTV’s money to live with and be made over by the DRAG RACE girls, i.e., reeducated over six months of filming at an undisclosed L.A. studio. Her church and Karl Rove think it’s great PR and push her to take it. Can Kim beat out Gayle Haggard and Mrs. George Rekkers to become America’s next born-again faghag? Whatever, we watch the experience change her. But first we deprive her of ever claiming martyrdom to principle, since she takes money to live in sin. We also deprive her of the David-vs.-Goliath shtick because it’s not state power and it’s not the boss that keeps her captive and mercilessly chips away at her comfortable sense of self-adequacy, episode after tearful, penitent episode. Instead, it’s compulsively watchable radical queers in the labor movement. You sort of feel bad for Kim when the girls throw MOST VEHEMENT SHADE at this bigot bureaucrat and symbol of LGBTQ oppression, but you also wish she’d try harder to grow and become a better performer.

    EPISODE 3. Untucked, several girls reveal that they don’t give a FUCK about gay marriage. Oops! Sure doesn’t stop them from reading Kim to filth all season though.


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