. . . Thursday November 4, 2004

The Morality of the Story

Andrew Sullivan provides some details about the role that anti-gay trends played in this election:

I’ve been trying to think of what to say about what appears to be the enormous success the Republicans had in using gay couples’ rights to gain critical votes in key states. In eight more states now, gay couples have no relationship rights at all. Their legal ability to visit a spouse in hospital, to pass on property, to have legal protections for their children has been gutted. If you are a gay couple living in Alabama, you know one thing: your family has no standing under the law; and it can and will be violated by strangers. I’m not surprised by this. When you put a tiny and despised minority up for a popular vote, the minority usually loses. But it is deeply, deeply dispiriting nonetheless. A lot of gay people are devastated this morning, and terrified. We have seen, and not for the first time, how using fear of a minority can be so effective a tool in building a political movement. The single most important issue for Republican voters, according to exit polls, was not the war on terror or Iraq or the economy. It was “moral values.” Karl Rove understood the American psyche better than I did. By demonizing gay couples, the Republicans were able to bring in whole swathes of new anti-gay believers into their party. With new senators Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn, two of the most anti-gay politicians in America, we can only brace ourselves for what is now coming.

You might think that Sullivan is overstating things a bit here. If you do, you probably live in a blue state. Ask a politician from the South how many votes he’d get if he came out in favor of equal rights for gays. Forget raising taxes. The new third rails of American politics are guns, god and gays. Don’t limit rights for first two and don’t give any for the last one.

As I wrote back in October:

You may think this election is about Iraq, terrorism and taxes. But there are plenty of people who think this and all elections are really about guns, gays and god. And if you live on a coast, you probably have no idea just how fervently some folks feel about these other election issues. You may not even notice that they are slowly making progress.

Now you’ve noticed.

Remember the Mary Cheney moment? The right and their backers in the press pretended to be angry that John Kerry dared to speak the name of the Veep’s daughter. In reality, it gave them one more opportunity to express their disdain for Mary’s lifestyle.

This brings us back to the desperate need to re-frame the very notion of moral values.

See, when I think of moral values, I almost never find myself concerned with what happens when someone’s pants are down around their ankles. To me, morality has more to do with giving people equal rights. Anti-gay politicians and those who merely preach hate for political gain are immoral in my book. Terribly immoral. And yet they get the moral vote.

Dems need to decide whether they want to pander to this version of moral hate (if so, I want out) or fight for what morality really means. Here’s a start.

Hate is not moral. Call limiting the rights of certain Americans what you want to call it. But don’t call it moral.

Concentration is important!