Whatever I might think about Rick Perry or Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann or Ron Paul or Herman Cain or whoever, I never forget this: at least they’re not Rick Santorum.
I can usually at least try to see the Culture Conservative point of view. A lot of the time, their arguments — on abortion, gays, drugs — make some sense to me even when I disagree with them. But whenever Rick Santorum opens his pie-hole, I’m just slack-jawed.
Santorum is running, as far as I can tell, on the anti-gay issue. He has this bizarre metaphor that a napkin isn’t a paper towel and so … actually I’m not sure what his point is. He is trying to argue that marriage has been the same throughout history and across cultures (i.e. a napkin is always a napkin) but this isn’t even close to true. For much of history, for parts of the world today, marriage has involved one man and several women and has been more about protecting property and status than love. In our own society, it has progressed from an institution where men provided support and protection for women in exchange for sex and progeny into something more like a partnership. Adultery was once a crime only a woman could commit and was punishable by death. Levirite marriage is mandated in the Bible. Divorce is forbidden in Santorum’s faith but not mine or that of most protestants. Some branches of Islam allow for temporary marriages for pleasure (nikah al-mutah). I could go on and on. A napkin clearly is not just a napkin and never has been.
(Actually, if you look closely, Santorum’s listeners are using paper towels as napkins. My favorite Texas BBQ places always used paper towels as napkins. I don’t know what that means but, great Scott, do I miss Texas BBQ.)
He concludes by defending his remarks comparing gay sex to bestiality, incest and child molestation. Because allowing consenting adults to engage in sex is naturally the same as allowing people to have sex with people (or things) that can’t consent. He clearly isn’t terribly familiar with what was actually written in the Lawrence decision.
And finally, he claims that he is the victim of a “gay jihad”. I think the inventor of Rick Santorum’s Google problem says it best:
Why are gay people so darn mean to Rick Santorum? All Rick wants to do is write anti-gay bigotry into the Constitution, ban same-sex marriage, make it illegal for gay people to have or adopt children, make sure gay people can’t make medical decisions for our partners during medical emergencies, make gay sex a felony again, prevent queer widow and widowers from accessing their deceased partners’ social security or pension benefits, reinstitute DADT, split up binational gay couples—and on and on—and, golly, it’s so unfair that gay people don’t want Rick Santorum president. (Also, jokes.) And so long as we refuse to accept second-class citizenship status—so long as we insist on squirming while Rick and his buddies pound those nails home—we’re persecuting him.
I agree with Dan Savage on politics about once a Neptune year and I actually think the Santorum Google response was an over-reaction. Rick Santorum did not invent anti-gay sentiment. But I think, for once, Savage is right. For Santorum to portray himself, for others to portray him as a victim is ridiculous. Santorum is a rich and powerful man surrounded by sycophants. Gays are not talking about breaking up his family or denying him sex. They’re hitting back because of anti-gay things he has said and endorsed. He’s not being bullied; he is a bully, picking on a minority and getting angry because his victim has pushed back.
(How exactly does a gay jihad work, incidentally? Do they stone you to death with throw pillows? Do they pillage antique shops and forcibly do women’s hair? Do their scimitars all match?)
The gay issue has been on my mind lately because I’m worried that the GOP is going down another rabbit hole. I may have said this before but can’t find it beyond the site reboot horizon. So forgive me if I’m retracing old steps.
Back in the 1970’s, the GOP stepped back from their previous support for civil rights to support the so-called “Southern Strategy”: an effort to woo segregationists from the Democrats. The idea was not to embrace segregation, per se, but to jump on racially sensitive issues like welfare to build a power base in the South.
While it managed to get a few politicians to defect (Trent Lott, Strom Thurmond), it never really helped their electoral prospects. In Presidential races, they won the whole country in 1972, lost the South in 1976 and 1980, won the whole country in 1984 and 1988, split the South in 1992 and 1996. It was only in the mid-90’s that the South turned and, by that point, no one gave a crap about segregation issues. The turn was over economic issues. And by 2008, Barack Obama was able to dominate the South in the primaries and compete in the general election, winning three states.
However, the Southern Strategy did have one palpable effect: both on its own and through liberal harping about it, the Southern Strategy alienated black voters to the point where the GOP is lucky to poll in single digits. This is despite a fair amount of conservatism among blacks, who are heavily pro-life and pro-school choice. P.J. O’Rourke said that Clinton’s popularity among blacks was because he allowed them to vote for a Republican without throwing up.
I’m afraid the GOP is going down the same path again with their stance on gay issues. The country is shifting rapidly on these issues, especially among young voters — much more rapidly than it did on racial issues. Huge majorities oppose DADT, including a majority of conservatives. Gay marriage is closing in on majority support and large majorities favor at least civil unions. And barring gay adoption or gay sex simply isn’t on the radar for any but the most ardent cultural conservatives. Yet the entire GOP field supports DADT and DOMA, most favor the Marriage Amendment and Santorum favors just about every anti-gay measure you can think of.
Some of this support is in name only — the FMA, for example, has zero change of happening. But their vocal support for these policies is going to come back to bite them and probably not too far in the future. As more gays come out of the closet, as more people have gay friends and relatives, as more gays get married and have kids and as the world fails to end despite this, people are going to remember where the GOP was on this. People with gay kids are going to remember that the Rick Santorum wanted to deny their in-laws and take away their grandkids. People whose lives were saved by gay soldiers will realize they would have died had DADT been in place.
We are going to pay for this crap. And we are going to pay and pay and pay (literally, given the spending habits of the Democrats).
(Irrelevant PS — OK, this is irrelevant. But how on Earth did tagaroo come up with “Knights of Malta” as a suggested tag for this post? Is there something about the Knights of Malta that wikipedia isn’t telling me? Did they get really lonely on those crusades or something? Honestly, computers baffle me sometimes.)