IS THE SIMON SPOT GAY-BAITING?
The Minuteman comments on the Simon-for-Governor radio add that Andrew Sullivan and I (now there’s a combination you don’t see every day) thought was anti-gay. He responds that (unlike the Montana ad or the Sanders debate comment or the Hawaii whispering campaign) it isn’t a personal attack on an opponent’s actual or imagined sexual orientation, but rather a discussion of a legitimate public issue: what, if anything, the public schools ought to say about sexuality, and in particular about the moral status of homosexual acts.
That’s fair enough, and a relevant distinction. The ad itself doesn’t attack anyone for being (or supposedly being) gay, or attack gays directly: it attacks Democrats for supporting a policy favorable to gays. Of course policy towards homosexuality is a real issue, and it’s fair to say that Democrats on average support being nicer to homosexuals than Republicans do. I think that the Republican position, or what has been the Republican position, is bigotry, and worth condemning. It’s not the same as making fun of someone personally for being gay, but it’s also wrong.
For Sullivan, who wants to be a supporter of gay rights and a right-wing Republican, this is a hard problem. He’s tried to escape it by pretending that some Democrats’ occasional use of anti-gay prejudice is equivalent to the Republicans’ systematic support for discrimination against gays and their opposition to programs that might reduce the extent of prejudice against gays. It’s part of the general libertarian problem of explaining why they support a basically authoritarian ruling party.
I think that what’s happening now is that public opinion, which was very anti-gay ten years ago, has begun to come around, and that the Republicans will follow in due course, just as they have with Jews, Catholics, and Latinos. (Being perceived as the party less friendly to black interests is so crucial to the Republican electoral coalition that they can’t practicably abandon it; that’s why they try to keep black voting down rather than seriously competing for a share of it.)
We can only hope that, as the Republicans slowly expand the circle of those they are prepared to treat as what the South African government used to call “honorary whites,” the newly-included groups will do what Jews have been, I think, pretty good about doing: remembering that “We were slaves,” and that the fact that one’s own group is no longer the particular target of prejudice and exclusion doesn’t make the practice of prejudice and exclusion any nicer, or the party of prejudice and exclusion any more worthy of one’s vote.