Bathroom debate and the Overton Window
Recently, a debate arose concerning which bathroom a transgender person should use. North Carolina and Mississippi passed laws requiring people to use restrooms that correspond to their body parts, not their manner of dress. Seems fairly straightforward to me, but apparently not to a one-thousandth of one percent of the U.S. population. Oh, and we can add to that those who allow themselves to be targeted bullied by the LBGT community.
The backlash to the two states has been surprising, but so has the support. It appears that at least in North Carolina, the state government does not want to burden local governments or businesses with providing separate restroom facilities for transgenders or otherwise be faced with liability for mixing males and females in restrooms.
But aren’t transgender people just mild-mannered folks who want to decide what sex they are? Not so fast. Two years ago Target was targeted (no pun intended) by the gay community for its restroom policy. Target backtracked and now people can use a restroom according to one’s sexual identity, not physical makeup. A simple Internet search reveals dozens of complaints to Target of Peeping Tom activity, up-skirt photos, other inappropriate photos and unwelcome sexual advances. What more proof is needed? How did we get to this point?
Enter the concept of the Overton Window. Imagine a ruler. On either end are the extreme policy actions for any political issue. Between the ends lie all gradations of policy from one extreme to the other. The ruler represents the full political spectrum for a particular issue. The essence of the Overton window is that only a portion of this policy spectrum is within the realm of the politically possible at any time. You move the acceptable point on the ruler by proposing something so outrageous that the “compromise” is a new point closer to one end of the rule.
For example, if we paid $2 per gallon for gas for a long time, then it suddenly goes to $4 per gallon, eventually $3 per gallon doesn’t seem so bad. Here is another example. About 40 years ago, firearms were common in vehicles on public school grounds. Today, a pocketknife is considered a deadly weapon. Do you see how public acceptance gets moved?
This concept wasn’t named until 1992, but the process is touted in Alinsky’s book. The LGBT movement is a classic example. It wasn’t that long ago that liberal California overwhelmingly voted to ban gay marriage. One judge, backed up by three appellate judges, decided otherwise. That decision carried forward to other states and eventually the Supreme Court, who seems to have a bias toward interfering with states’ rights. Now that gay marriage appears to be legal, the next logical step is, you guessed it, transgender rights.
Sadly, the Overton Window has been applied liberally in other areas, while a complacent citizenry stands idly by. How else could we have a federal budget that doubles from the Clinton through the George W. Bush presidencies, and then doubles again under Obama? How can a Congress with an approval rating of less than 10 percent continue to be re-elected? How can Obama staffers blatantly break the law yet avoid prosecution? Hillary Clinton is just one of those.
What about government assistance? In the 1930’s there were no safety nets for unemployed or displaced people. Yet they somehow got by. During that time there was a sense of fierce independence. Going “on the dole” was a social stigma. The idea of government assistance has been persistently promoted until today it is not only not a stigma, it has become a source of price for some concerning how much government aid they can get.
It doesn’t take much thought to add more issues to this list. Gun control, government intrusion into our private lives, increasingly militarized law enforcement, ever more overbearing public lands managers, and the minimum wage debate are a few that come to mind. And that doesn’t even begin to address Washington, D.C.
Liberals have used the Overton Window to great effect, perhaps because they have apparently been working for so long at undermining values set forth by our forefathers. Their demands for equality, not to be confused with equal opportunity, and inclusivity are turning into the very things they are claimed not to be.
Why not turn their tactics back on them? After all, they have proven their effectiveness. Let’s start with legislation that every household must have at least three firearms. Wake up, America.
Tom Riggins’ column appears every other Friday. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.