Buck on being gay: A choice *and* a disease

The Republican nominee for the Senate from Colorado manages to annoy alcoholic and gays with a single dim-witted statement.

Proposition: Never in the history of the Republic has there been a party as chock-full of mental and moral midgets as today’s Republicans.

Evidence: Dialogue between Ken Buck, the Republican nominee for Senator from Coloado, and David Gregory:

GREGORY: In a debate last month, you expressed your support for don’t ask, don’t tell, which we talked about with Mr. Gibbs. And you alluded to lifestyle choices. Do you that believe being gay is a choice?

BUCK: I do.

GREGORY: Based on what?

BUCK: Based on what?

GREGORY: Yeah, do you believe that?

BUCK: Well, I guess you can choose who your partner is.

GREGORY: You don’t think it’s something that’s determined at birth?

BUCK: I think that birth has an influence over it, like alcoholism and some other things, but I think that basically you have a choice.

It’s hard to keep count of how many ways this is wrong. But as a political move, it’s likely to annoy lots of alcoholics and their family members as well as lots of gays: and amuse everyone with a higher-than-room-temperature IQ.

This is what I meant about the service Christine O’Donnell has done the Republicans this year: in any other year, Buck and Angle and Toomey would seem like prize nut-cases. This year, they’re barely noticeable.

Footnote Is there some point at which the glibertarians figure out that the Tea Party crowd only counts as an ally if they forget all that stuff about, y’know, liberty, and concentrate entirely on making the income distribution more unequal?

So far, apparently not. But I keep hoping.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

12 thoughts on “Buck on being gay: A choice *and* a disease”

  1. The Denver Post has endorsed Michael Bennet for Senate. The Post has endorsed a number of Republicans and this endorsement was not obviously a done deal from the start.

    Ken Buck has alienated the extreme anti-abortion faction in the state for having backed off his endorsement of a ballot iniative that would have conferred personhood on fertilized ova. This they see as a betrayal of their principles. Buck still is uncomfortably high in the polls. Maybe enough voters will be alienated from him due to one or another issue, but there is still much to be nervous about.

  2. About your proposition – I'll call it and raise you, I dunno, 5? Once you correct for population size, it's hard to believe that the ante-bellum Democratic party didn't at least equal the current GOP. Believing in the rightness of slavery, or even in popular sovereignty has to top homophobia. You can rationalize it as self-interest, which I don't think you can homophobia, but that still requires a helluva a lot of moral midgetude.

  3. Many self-styled libertarians fail to understand that that adjective means more than selfish/greedy, as if a government that makes hash of economics can be trusted to discern who should and should not be able to copulate.

  4. Maybe it's a religious dogwhistle? After all, there is good evidence for genetic predisposition to both homosexuality and alcoholism, but there's genetic predispositions known for lots of things (most of them bad, because that's where the effect is striking and so is easier to study, and the imperative to understand the problem and learn to help is strong). The assholery is in listing homosexuality and alcoholism as a pair, so as to imply some equal status. But, more than that, there are a lot of people who've been trained to firmly believe that alcoholism is something within you, innate to you, that is evil and must be overcome – and that you can only do so by placing yourself in the hands of a higher power. ASFAIK, this is a core piece of the Twelve Steps, and its deep penetration into the public consciousness is why Buck's false equivalence is especially pernicious. Consider, for example, how George Dubya Bush was able to use this precise narrative (in it's original form, about alcoholism) to connect with the Evangelical community.

  5. "Footnote Is there some point at which the glibertarians figure out that the Tea Party crowd only counts as an ally if they forget all that stuff about, y’know, liberty, and concentrate entirely on making the income distribution more unequal?"

    Is there some point at which gliberals figure out that defining the freedoms you don't approve of as not being, you know, liberty, doesn't make you actually GOOD when it comes to liberty? Just self-deluded.

    As for the quote, I can see how it would annoy homosexuals. Alcoholics? I suppose many of them might object to being compared to homosexuals, too, but the choice bit? Of course, one does not chose to be an alcoholic, any more than I chose to have depression, but the actual drinking is certainly a choice. (You'd be shocked by the extent to which the actual being depressed can, at any given instant, be a choice, too. Of course, one could say that of breathing, too…)

    But as to labeling homosexuality a disease state, when dealing with conditions which directly relate to what you're going to want, can wanting to be the way you are really be the decisive matter in whether it's a disease? Are paranoids not mentally ill just because they don't want the nice doctor to treat them?

    The whole matter is a lot more complex than you're making it out to be.

  6. In the visual arts a spot of color points up and draws attention to a like color even to the point of drawing it out of obscurity. This seems to be counterintuitive and is often surprising in action. I wonder if the case of O'Donnell may not be similar. She seems to be the extreme crazy that draws attention to how many crazies there are in the GOP/Tea Party. Not only crazy but plain old dumb, and proud of it too.

    On another point: I'm never quite sure why it is so important to insist that gay is born in the bone and not just a choice. Not that I doubt gayness is an inborn trait but even if it is not it neither breaks my bones or picks my pocket. Never heard of a traffic fatality due to gay driving so excessive gayness doesn't worry me too much.

  7. "On another point: I’m never quite sure why it is so important to insist that gay is born in the bone and not just a choice."

    It's because homosexuality is so widely regarded as icky, that the "I didn't have any choice in the matter!" defense was essential. The movement has been continually equivocating between choice and genes, because not having a choice gives you an excuse to be icky, and it being a choice rules out calling it a disease.

  8. Note the way Gregory backs off from his deadly question ¨Based on what?¨ when Buck can´t answer, and reverts to the more comfortable pure matter of opinion ¨do you believe that?¨

  9. "It's because homosexuality is so widely regarded as icky…"

    Thinking about anybody's sex life is a bit "icky" so as an adult I've cultivated the art of not thinking about what people do in their bedrooms. That way it is possible to have conversations with all kinds of people without thinking about them in (or out of) their underwear. It's also possible to respect them and their relationship choices.

    We all may or may not be born into sin but we are all born "icky". I guess what is really troubling me is why some people want to claim that their own brand of "icky" is superior to anyone elses brand.

  10. Brett: "The movement has been continually equivocating between choice and genes, because not having a choice gives you an excuse to be icky, and it being a choice rules out calling it a disease."

    Since we don't actually have it all sorted out scientifically, is it really eqivocation, or just adept political argument? Ultimately, gay liberation, as a movement, isn't going to commit itself to anything, but protecting the freedom to make these highly personal, intimate and associational choices. The strategic freedom, in argument, to change premises, is powerful and effective. A foolish consistency is . . . foolish.

    fred raises the broad and interesting political question: "why some people want to claim that their own brand of “icky” is superior to anyone elses brand".

    A lot of people seem to be confused by the Tea Party, which sometimes seems "populist" in tone, even while it actively promotes or defends inequality, social and economic. The psychology of Social Dominance and Right-wing authoritarianism would seem to have direct application. The leadership of the Tea Party are going to express the values of a Social Dominance Orientation, but modified by a strategic consideration for the effect of their expressions on a presumed followership of right-wing authoritarians.

    The interest of the followers — the right-wing authoritarians — in defining a blessed in-group (themselves) and various feared and despised out-groups is quite different from the interest of the leadership, who are committed to Social Dominance, in a social hierarchy with themselves at the top. But, there's a potential complementarity, which leads those pursuing social and economic dominance to exploit the ease with which right-wing authoritarians can be led, using the resentment of empty "populist" messages.

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