I love to tell the story about how the congressman I worked for had a child out of wedlock, which was exposed during a reelection campaign. As we were out on the trail, most constituents we met brushed it off. I heard more than once, “At least you're not sleeping with boys.”
We cruised on to a big win.
That was an anomaly. Back in those days, character meant something. The dustbin of history is filled with candidates who were forced out of races for personal peccadilloes, inappropriate remarks, lewd behavior, and illegal campaign expenditures, among dozens of other reasons.
I remember when former Colorado Sen. Gary Hart, who was leading the Democratic presidential field in 1988, dropped out over his affair with Donna Rice. That was considered a huge disqualifier. Now grabbing a woman by the genitals is just shrugged off.
Then there was the case of Carl Paladino, a Republican candidate for governor of New York in 2010. The bloviator bigot said in not so many words that homosexuality was not how God created, that children would be more successful if they were straight and that being gay was a “dysfunction.” He was also caught sending racist emails.
Paladino failed to mention that like my former boss, he had a child out of wedlock. He had the baby with his longtime mistress and told his wife 10 years after the fact. I won’t tell you what after that came out. Bottom line, if you are pushing family values as he did, it’s best to heed your own advice.
How far away are we now from those days when the standards of a candidate mattered? Apparently, for the Republican Party, standards are a thing of the past, a relic, an antique, a very distant memory.
I was watching Morning Joe this morning during my workout and saw host Joe Scarborough nearly blow a gasket, rightfully so, about a new poll conducted by Politico and Morning Consult that showed a majority of Republican voters could not care less about a variety of issues.
The poll asked if certain allegations — such as that a candidate had committed domestic violence, sexual misconduct, or felonies, was anti-Semitic, or had made homophobic or racist remarks — would be a “major problem,” “minor problem,” or “not a problem” in the minds of respondents.
The largest proportion of “not a problem” responses was the 14 percent who said “homophobic remarks” would not keep them from voting for a candidate, followed by “racist remarks” at 9 percent.
Among Republicans, only 25 percent said it’s a major problem if a candidate makes homophobic statements. Conversely, that’s a big deal to 71 percent of Democrats. Of course, it shouldn’t surprise you that that 25 percent is the lowest vote for “major problem” on the chart. Thirty-eight percent of Republicans would be aghast if you made racist remarks (80 percent of Democrats said that’s a nonstarter), and 47 percent of Republicans would think it’s a major problem if a candidate made anti-Semitic remarks (71 percent of Democrats would frown on that).
So why all the hate toward us? To start, if you’re a Christian conservative, detesting us is already baked in. We are an abomination, and these people feel that God didn’t “create us” since we “choose” this lifestyle.
How do I know this? I can only speak for myself and my interactions with family and friends who put themselves first, the Bible second, and others third — and if you’re gay, that falls to around 12 or 13. They treat me in a very syrupy manner, which comes across as phony. Then the knives come out when I’m not around. They say about me, “Poor thing.” Or “I hope God forgives him.” And this one: “He must live in a dark world.”
I’m so over it by now, but that last one is wack!
And just as an aside, many of these same so-called devout people say they would tolerate Jewish people, and many also don’t want to be accused of being racist; however, since Christian conservatives make up a big bloc of Republican voters, then wouldn’t these numbers be higher?
OK, another reason for the abhorrence of our community, and it’s an obvious one — the rush for anti-LGBTQ+ bills and the media storm they are creating. On the dark channels, Fox News and Newsmax to name just a couple, the politicians putting forth these bills and policies, most prominently Govs. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas, are perceived by the radical right as heroes for shutting down gay talk, pulling library books off shelves, and locking trans athletes out of their correct locker rooms.
All these discriminatory proposals get played on a loop on conservative media and get shriller by the likes of Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, and Tucker Carlson. LGBTQ+ individuals and their allies are now at the center of the cultural divide that Republicans are trying to create. We are poor things who God can’t forgive, living in our dark worlds.
That means that more Republican candidates in this midterm election sense this shift and are jumping on the bandwagon to vilify us. And when they see polls like the Politico/Morning Consult poll, that’s ammunition to pump up the volume of vitriol against the LGBTQ+ community without any blowback.
We are not only in the crosshairs, but the arrows are also already coming at us and will start hitting the bull’s-eye at a more frequent rate once the midterms fire up. So, what are we and Democrats to do?
Scarborough referred to the results of the poll, saying that they represent the “fascist strain” of the Republican Party.
“The Democrats have so many opportunities to show just how out of the mainstream the Republicans are, not only in a lot of their legislation in protecting the richest of all Americans but in their viewpoints about what America means,” he said.
Scarborough added, “2022 is really going to be a referendum, not on Joe Biden, it’s gonna be a referendum on the Republican Party and the future of the Republican Party, especially when you look at some of the people that are running in the primary and some of the horrific things that they are saying.”
In order to make that happen, Democrats are going to have to shift their current strategy, in essence touting the bills they have passed to the American people, including pandemic relief and infrastructure bills. But that isn’t going to cut it for most voters.
If Republicans can yell and scream about the evils of LGBTQ+ individuals, people of color, or Jewish people, why can’t the Democrats be more vocal about how, as Scarborough suggests, Republicans are out of the mainstream with their hate and divisiveness?
I wrote earlier this month about why people aren’t more pissed off about what’s going on. “Why do we hear from all these heathens who are hell-bent on passing these laws when they are being debated or being signed into law? Why are they always the loudest voice in the room? Why does a 'grooming' tweet by [Congresswoman Majorie Taylor Greene] elicit news coverage? Why, when Gov. DeSantis put his name on the 'don’t say gay' bill, did we just get perfunctory 'statements' from all the LGBTQ+ organizations? Even by President Biden.”
If these poll results don’t piss off Democrats that Republican voters don’t care if GOP candidates scream about bigotry, then we will be trampled in the November election. Speak up, Democrats, and demonstrate the importance of “character” in a candidate.
John Casey is editor at large for The Advocate.