I’ve always wondered what would happen if someone’s closely held political beliefs were challenged by real life. How would a politician’s views on issues like abortion or gun control change if those issues moved out of the world of rhetoric and into his or her real life. Rep. Lisa Heddens (D-Ames) told us on the show Friday that everyone who chooses a political life brings with them personal experiences that shade their views on policy. While I have no doubt of that truth, I know politicians also bring with them certain “world views” that help determine, at very least, on what side of the aisle they sit.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) brought all of this into focus this week when he told the media that he’s had a change of heart on the issue of gay marriage prompted by his 21-year-old son Will, who came out to Portman and his wife two years ago. Portman says he now believes
that everyone deserves the right to marry whomever they want, including his gay son.
Understand, Portman’s political work showed a strong opposition to gay marriage. He voted for the Defense of Marriage act, and supported a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as only between a man and a woman. My guess is that these political, rhetorical issues were easy to voice because they were largely abstract--they affected “someone else.” For Rob Portman, that “someone else” is now his own flesh and blood.
I’ve long thought that, on an issue like abortion, those who have strong “pro-life” views might temper them a bit if they knew just how close to home they might actually come. Ubeknownst to them, their moms, wives, sisters, or daughters may have made that decision
at some point in their lives. That vitriol that they target at “others” may actually be hitting those they hold most dear.