Earlier this week, Mike Rogers of BlogActive, a gay activist, outed US Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho as an allegedly gay man. I don't support the practice, agreeing with Ezra Klein
that people have every right to live their life in private as they choose, as long as they aren't hurting anyone (which is where the Mark Foley situation differs). Reasonable people can disagree
, saying that someone who consistently votes against gays but is also gay himself displays rank hypocrisy, but then I'd like to find the politician who isn't a hypocrite at least in part.
The disturbing part of this to me is that it comes at a time when public attitudes about homosexuality are clearly changing, and in the direction of tolerance. Over the last week we've seen major Republican figures who were unafraid to defy the social conservatives in the religious right. They were in sometimes symbolic ways, like Condoleezza Rice acknowledging a gay man's "mother-in-law"
at a White House ceremony, and Mary Cheney writing a check
for a group opposed to Virginia's anti-gay marriage initiative on the ballot this year. By the way, that initiative, similar to the ones used as a wedge in 2004 by Republicans to turn out their far-right base, is only favored
by 53% of Virginians, far lower than any of those measures passed with just a couple years earlier. This debate is leading down the road of the inevitable, and we'll look back in a generation with as much wistfulness about it as we do anti-miscegenation laws today.
And the vice-like grip the religious right has had on the Republican Party will just as inevitably fade away. The hardest core will keep voting for those Republicans; I agree with Digby
that for them, there is a tribal identification and a decades-long belief that Democrats are simply ungodly, and Democrats who try to capture their vote are banging their head against the wall. But there's a certain separation coming between the party and their most committed supporters, as the non-evangelicals, those who worship a Jesus Christ whose primary concern was with the poor, shift the party away from this troublesome and dangerous extreme. This schism in the Republican Party has been coming for a long time. Nobody was fighting when they were winning, but now that there's a struggle in this 2006 campaign, the differences are becoming sharp:
Even before U.S. Rep. Mark Foley's cybersex scandal, Republicans fighting to keep control of Congress were struggling to hold on to "values voters" who usually are energized by issues like gay marriage and abortion.
While such issues motivated the Republicans' social-conservative base in the past, they are overshadowed in this year's congressional election campaign by concerns about the Iraq war, the economy and national security, according to opinion polls and political strategists.
"Poverty, the wealth gap, health care -- people can't afford Medicare. Something's got to be done about that," Sue Harrell, a school teacher in Monroe City, Indiana, said recently.
She said "Christian values" were important in previous votes but her top issues now are education and the prevalence of methamphetamine abuse and poverty in Knox County, Indiana.
More on the Republican blame game here
These are serious times. Worrying about whether or not a gay couple who love one another have a piece of paper that shows them to be married simply pales in comparison to the real problems we face. And there simply is not a monolithic group when you talk about religious people. Some of them have other concerns
and other ideas about what it means to be moral:
Weighing in on Connecticut's hotly contested congressional races, a group of religious activists have unveiled a giant billboard off busy Interstate 95 that accuses four candidates of voting to allow torture.
The billboard in Stratford names Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman and Republican Reps. Christopher Shays, Rob Simmons and Nancy Johnson as supporters of the Military Commissions Act of 2006.
The legislation, which President Bush was expected to sign into law Tuesday, allows military commissions to prosecute suspected terrorists and spells out violations of the Geneva Conventions.
Organizers say about 100,000 commuters pass the billboard in Stratford each day. The billboard - 14 feet high and 48 feet wide - was sponsored by Reclaiming the Prophetic Voice, which describes itself as a statewide interfaith network of religious leaders created in 2002.
The legislation would prohibit war crimes and define atrocities such as rape and torture but would otherwise allow the president to interpret the Geneva Conventions, the treaty that sets standards for the treatment of war prisoners.
"This is a shameful law," organizer Rev. Kathleen McTigue said Monday. "It grants extraordinary power to the president to interpret the Geneva Conventions, including which methods of interrogation will be considered torture."
Damn right. The real "values" voters have principles that tell them torture is simply wrong. That tell them the removal of habeas corpus is simply wrong. That tell them indefinite detention without counsel, convicting on the basis of coerced evidence and hearsay, and vesting the determination of who is an unlawful enemy combatant in one man, is wrong. Those are American values as sure as they are Christian values.
And that's why I thought it was wrong to engage in this practice of outing. The people most disturbed by gay Republicans are swiftly becoming the most irrelevant fringe
of the party. Why would you play the game their way? Why would you mock as much anger and shock as they would?
There's no more amazing an example of the change in the values vote than in Kansas
. Phill Kline is the antihero of Tom Frank's What's the Matter With Kansas
. He's the symbol of the divisiveness that has led to the split between the Mods and the Cons there. His policies are horrific, and he offends anyone religious by promoting a peculiar kind of in-your-face Christianism that is more concerned what you do in the privacy of your own home rather than whether or not you can make a living or have health care. If he should lose his state Attorney General seat, it would be a total repudiation of the fundamentalist extremist movement that has become so pernicious in this country. And according to one poll, he's down 13 points.
The times are changing. And we can advocate for that change in more constructive ways. Make no mistake, there's still horrific laws on the books with regard to homosexuals that need to be changed. The spouse of former US Rep. Gary Studds, the first only gay member of Congress, is the first person EVER to be denied federal death benefits
because he's gay. This and other issues are against the principle of equality, and I'll be as strong a voice as can be to advocate for that change. Destroying a man's life because he exhibits a behavior that doesn't make me uncomfortable doesn't sit well with me.