Like many of us here, I can be cynical about politics. But how can one be cynical today? The men and women of Ireland, in the privacy of the voting booth, made a global first by voting by an almost a 2:1 margin for marriage equality. 42 of 43 constituencies voted yes, rural or urban, traditional or cosmopolitan. Counters ran out of space to tally “Yes” votes on their sheets. The tide was overwhelming in Ireland and the celebration fixes to be as well. To see the land of my heritage, and a country where I have lived and whose passport I hold strong so firmly for the 21st century is moving. The people spoke, and spoke well.
But what I see as a lesson for the United States is this: there was fortune to be made off a no vote. A political operator could have built favors for the still powerful Catholic Church and curried affection from the hundreds of thousands who said no. Despite that, though, nobody of significance did — an occasional Senator turfed from their party perhaps, but few groups of any historical note. The nationalist Marxists in Sinn Fein said yes to equality alongside economic rightists in Fianna Fail. As far back as 2013, all political parties in the Irish legislature supported equality. That exploitable terrain of “no” was so poisoned by retrograde fear that few voices that command attention tread there. The leaders of Ireland led — they said “yes” because it was the right thing to do, and discharging one’s job with honor is more important than keeping it for another term. That makes the onward march of equality through the Emerald Isle sweeter tonight.