Thursday, November 04, 2004

Another reader (who is remaining nameless, only because it's 11:41pm and I forgot to ask his permission) doesn’t blame the “whole defeat” on gay marriage, but notes:
that homophobia was used as a tactic in this election to a degree we have never seen in our lifetime. Karl Rove, remember, said three years ago that, after the 2000 election, there was no middle in American politics. He noted that there were about 4 million evangelical Christians who did not vote in 2000, and determined that those four million could make the difference for Bush.

Abortion not being what it was as an issue on the political landscape, and stem cell research involving too much science for most people’s taste, Rove decided that gay marriage would be used as the bait to lure those people (a) into registering and (b) into voting. The constitutional amendment in Congress was only one part of that strategy. Similar (and worse) constitutional amendments on the ballots in key states (e.g. Ohio, Michigan) were placed there specifically to assure a higher turnout than would otherwise be expected from those “missing evangelicals.”

The strategy worked. First, Bush’s margin of victory in the popular vote was 3.5 million. Can’t say how many of those were from the missing 4 million from 2000, but the numbers are close enough for government work. Second, Bush’s victory margin in Ohio specifically tracks the difference between (a) the additional numbers of voters Democrats brought to the polls and (b) the additional number of voters Republicans brought to the polls. Among Ohio’s voters, 22 percent said that “moral values” were the most important issue for them. Not Iraq. Not terrorism. Not the economy (which, by the way, sucked in Ohio). “Moral values.” Read “gay marriage.” This 22 percent was a plurality among ALL issues that voters in Ohio said were most important to them. And of those, 85 percent voted for Bush.

Certainly, this election was about other things. But it sickens me, as a gay man, that the existing prejudice against us was used – that WE were used – as a tool of political strategy. Not since Nixon’s Southern Strategy has a political party (interestingly, the same political party) so nakedly used a minority against the other party.

Of course I regret that this tactic worked. But of course it worked. Karl Rove is apolitical and amoral, and he has an appallingly astute sense of the mechanics of ugliness, the machine of our dark souls. There were plenty of other gay issues that could have been talked about – and which a majority of Americans now agree on. A federal law protecting gays against workplace discrimination has over 54 percent support among all Americans. Even civil unions now enjoy broad enough support that George W. said he would not oppose them. But on marriage – and only on marriage – is there still majority support across the board against us. The President (and, to be honest the press) did not focus on any of those more acceptable areas. The focus was relentlessly, obsessively, on the single gay issue that a majority of Americans oppose.

I give political strategy an awful lot of leeway. I am, if anything, a political realist. But the use of gay marriage in this election is beyond the pale, is appalling beyond any measure. And I am confident that this victory will embolden the religious right in ways we can’t yet anticipate.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am strongly in favor of Gay Marriage and LGBT equality. I believe that, for reasons of gender and sexual orientation, to deny the option of marriage to a loving committed couple is unsupportable, unethical, and fundamentally wrong.

However and unfortunately, America is not there yet. Progress is being made, but as a nation we're just not there yet.

The whole nation learned on Tuesday what California learned with 3 Strikes, Affirmative Action, and Immigration -- The Reeps win by implementing a strategy built on fear, reaction, and divisiveness. Consequently, I am not sure who I am more angry with, the Reeps for feeding on such a strategy, or the Dems for sitting the Reeps to the table.

Pursuing gay marriage in 2004 did political harm. It was handled badly by Kerry. Additionally, it created an opportunity to exploit Gay Americans with the voters. For the next several years, conservative politicians can point to 11 states rejecting gay marriage and in some cases by wide margins. THE WILL OF THE VOTERS will be their battle cry.

This comes at a time when LGBT Americans were making tremendous progress. The most progress was being made with Republican women -- Mothers especially. Being Gay has become more main stream and their attitudes are changing.

Additionally, the attitudes of younger voters are very different today than the attitudes of older voters. As younger voters age, they are voting more and holding firm to their positive social opinions of LGBT issues and Gay Marriage. The will of the voters is changing, slow as it is, in the right direction.

But change in law is not going to happen immediately.

Unlike the Civil Rights movement of the 1960's, there is no "Brown v. Board of Education" calling for LGBT equality in the 21st Century. However, as the issue of defining gender becomes more and more murky, there will no doubt be a case one day (in the next decade?) that will recognize the inherent and fundamental discrimination created by a law that allows a man to marry a woman but leaves the status of their legal relationship in question should either party question or change gender.

When that case is brought foward and decided, it will provide a stronger legal basis and greater social foundation upon which to pursue Gay Marriage. However, until then, LGBT equality can only be realized by pursuing achievable changes in law and by changing social attitude.

In the one step forward, two steps back history of pursuing LGBT equality, 2004 will be recorded as a substantial loss. Gay Marriage in 2004 was the right thing to do, but politically and strategically it was premature. Americans are not ready yet.

It may have indeed cost Kerry the presidency. Gore had Nader, Kerry had Gay Marriage. This time though, we did it to ourselves. Democrats made it easy for Republicans to play political games with the lives of Gay Americans. All lost heavily in the process.