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Don’t be shocked if Republicans support Babeu

A Commentary

Timothy Kincaid

February 22nd, 2012

Will conservative Republicans support Sheriff Paul Babeu, now that he is out as a gay man? It’s hard to say.

Some will not. For some, Babeu’s orientation is a deal breaker, a fact that brands him as an enemy, an abomination, and inherently unworthy of public office. But a number of conservatives have already done so and I suspect more will. Some, specifically because he is gay.

Here’s why:

Group identity politics is often born out of discrimination and abuse. Often what establishes commonality, be it as African Americans, as the gay community, or any other minority group, is in reaction to how a group is perceived or treated by others. And often, it is through finding alliance with other groups – a coalition of the mistreated, if you will – that oppressed minorities can find a voice and state their case.

But while this process is empowering, it is also limiting. Because in entering into coalition, one takes on the allies – and the enemies – of those in your coalition. And by tying one’s goals to the goals of another, then each individual is burdened with advancing every goal and convincing every argument.

And even when winning their own argument, it can seem as though one has not. To illustrate my point, let’s look at the relationship between African Americans and the Republican Party.

For a time, the Republican Party was the political home of racists who opposed equality and championed bigotry. And accusations of racism were deserved. But the case for judging a person on the content of their character, hard work, and intellect rather than on the color of their skin is powerful and over time many Republicans ceased to care about race.

But they still didn’t vote for black candidates.

Many who observed this saw it as evidence that nothing changed; Republicans are all racists, always have been, always will be. Actually, many times it was evidence of an entirely different phenomenon. African Americans, as a whole, had adopted a set of positions that made it impossible for Republicans to vote for them.

Now there is nothing inherent to the amount of melanin one has which would dictate one’s views on environmental issues, governmental protection for labor unions, tax policy, distribution of wealth and resources, or immigration policy. Even opinions about education quotas, reparation, and non-discrimination policies are not the consequences of genetic determination.

But with few exceptions, black candidates held views on a range of issues which were strongly tied to Democratic goals and with few exceptions, Republicans voted against them. And were called racists for it.

Charges of racism hurt. People don’t want to think that they hate others for no good reason – whether they do or not. And consequently, whenever an opportunity to prove to others (or themselves) that they were not motivated by racial malice, some Republicans jumped at the chance.

This is, I believe, at heart of the adoration that conservatives hold for Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice (though both are far more moderate than their admirers). While they are respected for their contributions, they are adored for being “finally someone black who thinks like I do on issues.” And there really is no better explanation for the rise of Herman Cain (before he imploded) than that Tea Party Republicans could support someone who epitomized their good ol’ boy values and simultaneously prove themselves to not be the bigots that they had been portrayed to be.

Is this tokenism? Yes, in the sense that the candidate is advanced in part due to their race. Surely breaking assumptions about Republicans and race contributed significantly to the selection of George W. Bush’s cabinet. But it is not tokenism in the sense that the candidate was unqualified or would have no power and be merely a puppet. JC Watts rose to the position of House Republican Conference Chair and few suggested that either Powell or Rice were not competent or were merely mouthpieces for others.

I am not trying to suggest that there is not continued discomfort between the Republican Party and African Americans. Party leadership is often unwilling to take the necessary steps to appeal to black voters – or candidates- and sometimes appears hesitant to even consider which views are more consistent with the party’s stated ideals. And at times there seems to be a willingness to pander to those many racists still within the party ranks rather than shame them for the dishonorable nature of their positions.

Eventually, race will cease to be partisan. But that will not be before Republicans are willing to oppose bigotry within their ranks and develop concern about how their policies impact subpopulations nor until African Americans let go of affiliations that position them to be in conflict with that party’s perspectives. It has started (and sadly and ironically is currently being helped by shared anti-gay activism) but it has quite a ways to go.

Which brings me back to Paul Babeu.

The Republican Party is home to many homophobes. There are a good many people in that party who would toss out the window the content of one’s character, hard work, and intellect and base their vote solely on sexual orientation. If Ellen Degeneres’ being a lesbian makes her unqualified to push JC Penny products, then there’s no way they would vote for “one of them.”

But there is a mostly-invisible but quite large segment of the Republican Party who chafe at being called bigot and homophobe and would leap at the opportunity to prove their detractors wrong. They may poll as opposed to marriage equality, but some would still vote for a gay person who shared their views on environmental issues, governmental protection for labor unions, tax policy, distribution of wealth and resources, and immigration policy. And they would so precisely because this person was gay, not despite that fact.

I can’t judge at present just how large that group is. Anti-gays are vocal and visible and also quick to claim to represent far more than they do. And polling seems to be specific issue driven leaving Republican gay support in the very broad range of about 75% on military service to about 25% on marriage.

Additionally, Babeu may not be the guy for “see I don’t hate gays” Republicans to rally around. His district may be so very conservative that those type of Republicans are in short supply. That his accuser is a Mexican immigrant could either hurt him or help him but the accusations of political abuse might make him less palatable than a squeaky clean conservative gay man. On the other hand, having illegal immigrant advocacy groups like Respect-Respeto attack him and being the target of the New Times will only increase his standing among many Republicans in Arizona.

So I don’t really think he’ll win his primary. But I’ll not be too surprised if Paul Babeu does far better than conventional wisdom dictates or if he receives more than a little “I never would have expected it from him” conservative support.

Comments

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andrew
February 22nd, 2012 | LINK

Tim, I think your analysis is right on. Think “hey may be gay, but he’s *our* gay”…

More importantly, I love that you raise the discussion of identity politics and the background dynamics (and consequences).

No where near enough attention is paid to this outside the realm of marketing and political advising, and yet tribal identification is so engrained in how each of us live every day.

Against my better judgement, I subconsciously purse my lips every time I see a jesus fish on a bumper sticker and do a little cheer everytime I see a darwin or FSM fish… and I get downright pissed every time I see a jesus fish devouring a darwin fish (with “TRUTH” stamped over it).

But… someone with a jesus fish AND a rainbow flag… or an NRA sticker and a HRC sign? now you’ve got my attention.

And this is just on the drive to work

It takes huge effort to put those default positions aside and actually open my ears when situations require it. Imagine how people who aren’t even aware of this are reacting…

Samiimas
February 22nd, 2012 | LINK

“But there is a mostly-invisible but quite large segment of the Republican Party who chafe at being called bigot and homophobe and would leap at the opportunity to prove their detractors wrong.”

If they actually want to prove they don’t hate gay people they should vote for our civil rights instead of against them.

andrew
February 22nd, 2012 | LINK

Sam.. Without being a smart alec, I think for those folks it comes in babysteps. First they want someone who thinks like they do. Then they’ll think about including them in their reindeer games.

Lucrece
February 22nd, 2012 | LINK

They want and Uncle Tom. Someone who won’t contradict them where they’re wrong, but because of political aspirations they’re willing to play monkey to the anti-gay music man (“Let the states decide!”).

If they vote for Babeau, it is because of tokenism. Not only because he’s gay, but because he’s served in a war and been sheriff. Sheer tokenism, given that those positions don’t necessarily involve a proper skillset for being a congressman.

We don’t vote on qualifications, anyway. We vote in being able to relate to someone , i.e. if we trust them.

Matt
February 22nd, 2012 | LINK

That his accuser is a Mexican immigrant could either hurt him or help him but the accusations of political abuse might make him less palatable than a squeaky clean conservative gay man.

What about the fact that he’s been accused of looking for sex on the sly while in a relationship?

Maybe he’s innocent of that charge — maybe his ex made it up — but, given the “shirtless with iPhone” pics, he doesn’t come off as “squeaky clean.”

I hope the Republican party does welcome more gay people, but I don’t see why they should welcome potential ticking sexual time bombs. (Nor should the Dems, for that matter.)

andrew
February 22nd, 2012 | LINK

It’s interesting, though, isn’t it. I’m not asking this and expecting an answer, I’m musing out loud. How does incremental change happen? Is a trailblazer also an uncle-tom? Does it depend on perspective, or… ?

We have a woman nominated for Best Actress for an Academy Award for playing a black maid; she’s leading in expectations, and if she wins, she’d be the 2nd African American to win Best Actress, ever. But she’s been roundly criticized for choosing a part that perpetuates stereotypes. Some argue that she’s been nominated for the part because of tokenism. Not everyone agrees, and she’s been incredibly cogent in her counterargument and choice of the part (and her performance is exceptional).

What will we do the day that a truly conservative gay man with charisma and speaking ability (also qualifications for office) runs for office? Someone who believes in every single plank of the Republican party that doesn’t specifically relate to gays?

Is that person a token, or is (s)he a candidate who’s unorthodoxy is overlooked because people just want to vote for him? Or does it have to be one or the other – can it be both?

Oh, and Andrew, with the shirtless pose, I think that almost makes him look like an incumbent Republican, no? (granted, there’s still Anthony Weiner for the Dems, but… )

andrew
February 22nd, 2012 | LINK

sorry – Matt… saw a previous post up there and thought you were also posting as “andrew” … dur…

Timothy Kincaid
February 22nd, 2012 | LINK

but, given the “shirtless with iPhone” pics, he doesn’t come off as “squeaky clean.”

I hope the Republican party does welcome more gay people, but I don’t see why they should welcome potential ticking sexual time bombs. (Nor should the Dems, for that matter.)

…please dear god don’t let matt ever find my camera…

Neon Genesis
February 23rd, 2012 | LINK

If the Republicans were becoming more gay friendly, we would have seen Fred Karger at least one GOP presidential debate but so far he’s been kicked out of every single one of them. And have we already forgotten about all those Republicans who booed that soldier who was openly gay?

Jim Hlavac
February 23rd, 2012 | LINK

Now this statement of yours is rather intriguing: “For a time, the Republican Party was the political home of racists who opposed equality and championed bigotry.” Yes, well, “for a time,” indeed, the Democratic Party was the political home and font of racists, who set up Jim Crow laws when they found they could no longer keep the slavery they wanted, and they started up the KKK and they stood on the courthouse steps and yelled “segregation now, segregation forever.” In fact, “for a time,” the Democrats stood in stark opposition for the Republican call for fair mindedness and liberty for all and all the civil rights legislation of the 1950s-1960s.

And during those same times, both parties were quite sure gay folks were even less than blacks, and subject to a lot more law and harassment and bigotry.

Oh, no party is exempt from this “for a time” stuff of bigotry. Nor is one party or the other even now, “for” us — after all, the very same blacks who are against racism, from any party, are still quite sure, if polls are to be believed, by margins of 85% and more, that gays don’t deserve a civil right of any kind. And the Democratic Party is quite comfortable in having us and they, opponents on civil rights for gays, within the same party.

Perhaps that’s why they’re “Evolving.” Meanwhile it’s quite easy to be an economic Republican and still be a gay man. For gayness is not a political position, and one’s views on taxes and defense do not stem from one’s smooching habits.

blue-heron
February 23rd, 2012 | LINK

Republicans will do as they always do. They will take Gay Support, ie: Tax Dollars, but then after elections are decided, they offer Zero real support in return.

Sam Arora comes to mind.

blue-heron
February 23rd, 2012 | LINK

If the GOP Platform has not changed, then nothing has changed. They only seek to ride the fence.

Case in point would be Cindy Mccain on CNN last nite saying:

that the GOP is “Diverse”,
that it’s not “full of bigots”,
it’s “not against Gays”,
that the Media only “PORTRAYS” them this way,
that most of the people in the GOP are (ahem! get this) “tolerant”.
———————–

Has she read the PLATFORM lately?
Is she freaking brain dead??
Does she REALLY think that Moderate Americans are buying any of that Caca?

I mean really, c’mon Cindy!
Who does she think she’s fooling?

Republicans should at Least be candid about their PLATFORM. They can’t even do thaaat.

I only see one mouth but it moves from one side of her face to the other at the speed of light. She’s the perfect go-between. And we thought she was on our side – Geez!

Republicans will play both sides, but then Legislate categorically against Gays.

Neon Genesis
February 23rd, 2012 | LINK

“Oh, no party is exempt from this “for a time” stuff of bigotry. Nor is one party or the other even now, “for” us — after all, the very same blacks who are against racism, from any party, are still quite sure, if polls are to be believed, by margins of 85% and more, that gays don’t deserve a civil right of any kind. And the Democratic Party is quite comfortable in having us and they, opponents on civil rights for gays, within the same party. ”

I’m not sure which I found more ridiculous; your baseless false equivalency argument or your utter thanklessness towards to the Democrats for repealing DADT. But yes, let’s forget the Democrats passed the Matthew Shepard Act which made killing gays a hate crime. Let’s forget the Democrats voted overwhelmingly to repeal DADT whereas the majority of Republicans opposed it. Let’s forget that Obama and the Democrats are no longer defending the constitutionally of DOMA. Yes, let’s forget all of that because clearly the Democrats supporting equal rights for gays in the military must mean that they’re not really for us and are just as evil as the Republicans. Again I ask. If the Republicans won’t allow Fred Karger into any of their presendetial debate, what makes anyone think they’re suddenly going to magically start putting up pink triangles and rainbow bumper stickers on their cars that say “I Support Babeu!” just because Babeu is a gay man who also happens to be a racist bigot who hates Mexicans and wants to kick out all immigrants? Are we really that desperate as a community that we’ll bow down and start worshiping the first gay Republican we see regardless if he’s a racist anti-Mexican hypocrite or not?

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