I’m a fairly politically astute guy. I live in New York City, I’m active in a number of major political causes and charities, and I hold a master’s degree from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. I’m also a gay dude who knows a lot of gay dudes who know even more gay dudes than I do — like, 10 times as many. Which is why initially I found it difficult to believe that gay men and women who intend to vote for Mitt Romney actually exist. I’d always heard about them — these members of the mythical fringe of self-hating whack jobs — but rarely, if ever, had I seen one up close and in person. Well as it turns out, many of them have been under my very nose the whole time. Too many of them. And I can thank Big Bird for this shocking revelation.
If you watched or simply heard about the first 2012 presidential debate, a surreal event in and of itself, you will recall Mitt Romney’s promising that, despite his declared love for Big Bird, he would cut funding to PBS, which, on a good day, makes up approximately .014% of the entire federal budget. Of course the Twittersphere went ballistic with Sesame Street–related jokes and jabs. I contributed to the mania, now a distant meme, with my own snarky tweets: “Did Romney just say he loves Big Bird?” “Mitt Romney just f*cking fired Big Bird. Who does that???” “Outsource Big Bird to China to fix Apple Maps!” You get the idea. These tweets were automatically forwarded to my Facebook page, where I tend to get even snarkier, if not completely crass. Which is why I was surprised when a Facebook friend, a gay man and someone I know personally, albeit not well, responded to one of my tweets telling me to “Grow up.”
Now, notwithstanding the fact that my tweet was, like all of the others, an obvious joke, or the fact that this friend had never posted anything on my Facebook page before, I was still shocked. But I was shocked not so much by this friend’s approach as I was by his position — he was pro-Romney! I had to make sure of this, so after politely suggesting to him that he go f*ck himself for telling me to grow up, I checked in with his partner, who’s a better friend of mine. The better friend, let’s call him Don, apologized for his partner’s comment and confirmed via Facebook messenger that not only was his partner a Romney supporter but he was too! Here’s some of what he wrote:
“I typically deflect political discussion with friends that I know are more liberal than me. It’s a decision that I have made after many years of nasty exchanges with close friends. I respect everyone's political views and always expect the same in return, however things always become impassioned and people say terrible things.…To answer your question [my partner] is conservative and a supporter of Romney — as am I.”
Wow. This is someone I’ve known for years telling me matter-of-factly, if not preemptively, that he’s going to vote for someone who, God forbid, as president, fully intends to amend the U.S. Constitution in order to take away not only Don’s inalienable rights but also the inalienable rights of people Don presumably loves and cares about. Wow.
At this point I don’t need to preach to you, my reader, about how twisted this is. Like most of you, I’ve heard every counter-argument there is to make, and, of course, each falls pathetically flat. If the importance of the number of zeros in your bank account supersedes the importance of your own basic human rights, then clearly greed is your motivator and therefore greed is what defines you. At least own up to this. Show your true stripes. The problem is, not surprisingly, most people won’t, unless they’re like Don and they have to be probed or put on the spot. It should be noted as well that Don, his partner, and every other gay person I know who plans to vote for Romney (several more have since percolated) are white. I’m praying this is coincidental.
The question, or the challenge, now sits with me. What do I do with this information? Should I defriend Don and his partner from Facebook? Should I defriend them from real life? Should I engage in fruitless debates with them in the off chance that I might change one of their minds? Should I “out” them to our mutual social circles as the Uncle Toms they are? After all, each one of their votes counts twice against me and many of you — one vote represents bigotry and the other vote represents a crucial opportunity lost. So, what should I do? What would you do?
EDWARD YAEGER is a serial digital entrepreneur based in New York City. He is currently working with grassroots organizations in support of the Obama campaign in the swing state of Florida.