The Bigots' Last Hurrah

It’s a great title for a great «column». Frank Rich of the New York Times sums up very thoroughly and very presciently the status of one of America’s favorite Culture War battlegrounds/sports grounds in which people like us are kicked around like political footballs (cartoon at left is from 2004, Steve Kelley of the New Orleans Times-Picayune).

Rich, who has long been a voice of reason and sanity in insane Bush world, starts by highlighting the hugely laughable and inept so-called ‘national organization for marriage’ gathering storm video, noting that the response, other than among those 22% who actually approved of George W. Bush as of 19-Jan-09, was either laughter or yawning. (By the way, that 22% approval rating is the lowest ever recorded for any occupant of the White House.)

Rich then moves on to the recent Iowa and Vermont victories and notes that resistance on the right is crumbling:

‘On the right, the restrained response was striking. Fox barely mentioned the subject; its rising-star demagogue, Glenn Beck, while still dismissing same-sex marriage, went so far as to “celebrate what happened in Vermont” because “instead of the courts making a decision, the people did.” Dr. Laura Schlessinger, the self-help media star once notorious for portraying homosexuality as “a biological error” and a gateway to pedophilia, told CNN’s Larry King that she now views committed gay relationships as “a beautiful thing and a healthy thing.” In The New York Post, the invariably witty and invariably conservative writer Kyle Smith demolished a Maggie Gallagher screed published in National Review and wondered whether her errant arguments against gay equality were “something else in disguise.” More startling still was the abrupt about-face of the Rev. Rick Warren, the hugely popular megachurch leader whose endorsement last year of Proposition 8, California’s same-sex marriage ban, had roiled his appearance at the Obama inaugural. Warren also dropped in on Larry King to declare that he had “never” been and “never will be” an “anti-gay-marriage activist.” This was an unmistakable slap at the National Organization for Marriage, which lavished far more money on Proposition 8 than even James Dobson’s Focus on the Family.’

Rich then points out the handwriting on the wall:

As the polls attest, the majority of Americans who support civil unions for gay couples has been steadily growing. Younger voters are fine with marriage. Generational changeover will seal the deal. Crunching all the numbers, the poll maven Nate Silver sees same-sex marriage achieving majority support “at some point in the 2010s.” Iowa and Vermont were the tipping point because they struck down the right’s two major arguments against marriage equality.’

He then rounds out the column with discussion about how the right’s ostensible 2012 candidates are still clinging to (yet one more) Lost Cause … and that it will probably hurt them:

‘In 2008, 60 percent of Iowa’s Republican caucus voters were evangelical Christians. Mike Huckabee won. That’s the hurdle facing the party’s contenders in 2012, which is why Romney, Palin and Gingrich are now all more vehement anti-same-sex-marriage activists than Rick Warren. … This month, even as the father of Palin’s out-of-wedlock grandson challenged her own family values and veracity, she nominated as Alaskan attorney general a man who has called gay people “degenerates.” Such homophobia didn’t even play in Alaska — the State Legislature voted the nominee down — and will doom Republicans like Palin in national elections.’

He then notes that more moderate (and sane) Republican leaders, including one in a very surprising place, are urging a move away from the madness. McCain-Palin 2008 campaign strategist has ‘come out’ this week in urging the party to endorse marriage equality, as has Meghan McCain, the candidate’s daughter, who memorably said this week, ‘Most people are ready to move on to the future, not live in the past. [and] Most of the old school Republicans are scared shitless of that future.”

The surprise? Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, a Mormon Republican presiding over the reddest of all American red states, who told Frank Rich:

‘“We must embrace all citizens as equals … I’ve always stood tall on this. … A lot of people gave the issue more scrutiny after it became the topic of the week,” he said, and started to see it “in human terms.” Letters, calls, polls and conversations with voters around the state all confirmed to him that opinion has “shifted quite substantially” toward his point of view.’

Did his stance hurt him in ultra-conservative, ultra-religious, ultra-red Utah? No. ‘Huntsman’s approval rating now stands at 84 percent,’ said Rich.

Rich then sums up the whole matter brilliantly in his final paragraph, sounding a much-needed note of optimism and hope:

‘As marital equality haltingly but inexorably spreads state by state for gay Americans in the years to come, Utah will hardly be in the lead to follow Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa and Vermont. But the fact that it too is taking its first steps down that road is extraordinary. It is justice, not a storm, that is gathering. Only those who have spread the poisons of bigotry and fear have any reason to be afraid.’

That stands repeating: ‘It is justice, not a storm, that is gathering.

We currently second-class American citizens thank you and say god bless you, Frank Rich. But we’re still second-class citizens. And it will be hard to continue waiting at the back of the bus for America’s promised ‘equal protection under the law.’ But we’ll hang in there.