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Babeu banks on conservative support

Timothy Kincaid

February 27th, 2012

The Washington Blade has interviewed Paul Babeu, recently outed conservative sheriff of Penal County, AZ:

In an exclusive interview with the Washington Blade, Paul Babeu, who’s running to represent Arizona’s 4th congressional district in Congress, said his election would be “very impactful and helpful” in changing “the views, perceptions, beliefs about who we are.”

“If they know me first as a sheriff, as a police officer who has responded to, literally, thousands and thousands of emergencies, has fought criminals, has actually saved lives and served our country in the military for 20-plus years … and when regular people see those accomplishments and those results first, then understand at a later point that I am gay, it changes people’s beliefs and perceptions and understanding,” Babeu said.

While this may seem a bit like wishful hoping, it is possible that we are watching a social shifting right before our eyes.

When this story broke, I expected the usual. Babeu would bluster and slink off, Republican leaders would be “hurt by his deception” and the everyone, right and left, would agree that his presumed guilt over the abuse of power allegations was what they found objectionable.

But to my surprise, the revelation about his orientation and accusations of abuse of power did not result in broad rejection from the right. Even with the charge of abuse as a handy cover for homophobia, the Republican Party leadership didn’t jump.

When the Phoenix New Times looked for quotes from those calling for Babeu’s resignation or investigation, they were limited to his primary opponents and pro-immigrant activists. In contrast, on Saturday night, the California Rifle and Pistol Association honored him with their Defender of Freedom Award.

For me, this is a story that is difficult to process. As much as I long for the day in which one’s orientation plays no role in evaluation one’s worth, I do not see that day as here. Like the first poll that reported a majority support for equality, I do not accept one instance as compelling evidence.

But I do think I may be seeing an interesting political development. For some, Paul Babeu may have become an opportunity to jab at The Liberals and take them on at their own issue. For some, this could be seen as an opportunity to, in effect, say, “see, we aren’t homophobic. We aren’t attacking this gay man, you are!”

But for perhaps more, Babeu’s outing has done the unexpected. He may be right. As unlikely as it sounds, Babeu may be changing the minds of his constituents.

At a meeting of the Yavapai Tea Party, the discussion about the sheriff did not play by script. (Arizona Daily Star)

Yet voters, Republican voters in particular, are also asking some questions of themselves, about acceptance and identity and values, about what really matters most to them.

Said Bill Halpin, a 64-year-old ex-Air Force pilot who serves on the local tea party board: “I care less. I just care less. Don’t preach it on me. Don’t push it on me and, by golly, I respect your rights.”

Mona Patton, the 60-year-old real estate agent who is the group’s president, put it this way: “I’m a Christian, but who am I to make a judgment about somebody else?

“I still believe in him. I still back him.”

It is impossible to tell at this point to what extent the perception of Paul Babeu as “our guy” will outweigh long-held beliefs about homosexuality. And the answer to that question may never be known.

Because there is another twist to the story. An Arizona ABC affiliate is claiming that a private school for troubled youth that Paul Babeu ran from 1999 to 2001 had abusive correction policies. That’s not the issue; frankly, getting tough with troubled teens is not going to be seen as a negative by Babeu’s constituents.

But sleeping with them will be. And Babue’s sister Lucy is claiming that he had a relationship with a 17 year old student while he was headmaster of The DeSisto School.

This could be the final straw. This could sink his campaign. Even though a 17 year old is above the age of consent in Massachusetts, sex with teenagers – especially those under your supervision – is not acceptable to rural Arizona voters.

But it is still possible that this could be taken differently. If Babeu denies the charge and can reasonably paint his sister as having suspect motivations, there is a remote chance that it may actually help him. If conservative voters see this as an aggressive witch hunt by the Liberal Media, it could position him as a symbol around which to rally.

Regardless of how this all turns out, it is fascinating to watch. I am truly amazed.

UPDATE: AZCapitalTimes has fuller coverage of the Yavapai meeting. It will leave you wondering if this is an anomaly or if while we were busy battling the professional anti-gays, the world shrugged and decided to take a giant step forward.

Comments

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Craig Howell
February 27th, 2012 | LINK

We live in marvelous times.

Lucrece
February 27th, 2012 | LINK

I’m just curious why all this came out during election season, and not during his tenure as sheriff.

It does make me be highly suspicious, even if it irks me that the man has the gall to say that Romney might be a friend to the gay community.

I may not like the guy, but I like people who make up crap just to skewer someone for holding an unpopular view among progressives on immigration.

TominDC
February 27th, 2012 | LINK

@Lucrece

He is still the sheriff.

Charles
February 27th, 2012 | LINK

The charge from his sister that he slept with a 17 year old teenager at the school could indeed be the last straw. My question is why is she making such a charge? Can she be considered as someone who is credible and will there be some type of investigation into her charge?

pax58
February 27th, 2012 | LINK

From what I have read the 17 year old boy friend was common knowledge among the studets at the school at the time. I am pretty much live and let live when adults are involved in intimate relationships. But in my professional life I have seen too many preditors using those whom they had power over for sex. If he was in fact having a relationship with a 17 year old while he was in an authority postion it is abuse and he shouldn’t be serving in law enforcement much less be an elected official.

Mitz
February 27th, 2012 | LINK

What the Babeu case shows is that if you build a constituency based on reviling & oppressing the “foreign-born,” if you relentlessly marginalize racial minorities, if you denounce the President as “diabolical” and a traitor, if you accuse him of a “master-plan plot,” a conspiracy to cause mass murder in Mexico and overthrow the US Constitution — in short, if you make yourself the embodiment of insane hatred, then you get a pass on being gay. If not, not. And how exactly does that help the rest of us?

Timothy (TRiG)
February 27th, 2012 | LINK

Some countries have a higher age of consent where the younger party is under the supervision of the older.

TRiG.

Charles
February 27th, 2012 | LINK

“What the Babeu case shows is that if you build a constituency based on reviling & oppressing the “foreign-born,” if you relentlessly marginalize racial minorities, if you denounce the President as “diabolical” and a traitor, if you accuse him of a “master-plan plot,” a conspiracy to cause mass murder in Mexico and overthrow the US Constitution — in short, if you make yourself the embodiment of insane hatred, then you get a pass on being gay. If not, not. And how exactly does that help the rest of us?”
- Mitz

The sheriff and Arizona want to enforce this nation’s immigration laws. Where is the “insane hatred” in doing that? No other nation on the face of this planet would tolerate the illegal immigration that we have tolerated. We have over 10 million illegal aliens living in this country.

James Brunk
February 27th, 2012 | LINK

Cant not comment on this one. I work in Pinal county. It is very much more like the “old arizona” before the tea partiers moved in and took over the state government. No one I know cares that he is gay…it was like a ripple in a pond…not much to it.

Mitz
February 27th, 2012 | LINK

Charles, you may not be familiar w/ what Babeu’s been saying on the stump. He presents v. well on TV, but in small local gatherings & on rightwing radio he’s a seething mass of rage, & often seems on the verge of losing control of himself. How much of this is an effect of the pressures of the closet? On the stump, Babeu routinely calls Obama a “demonic traitor,” publicly acts out a bizarre fantasy of smashing his face in w/ a frying pan, claims he’s harboring deep, dark secrets, spins weird conspiracy theories about him, claims that he (the President) has been personally out to get him for years. So yes, the impression he leaves is of insane hatred.

Trev
February 28th, 2012 | LINK

Was the misspelling of “Pinal” intentional? :)

Ben Mathis
February 28th, 2012 | LINK

“What the Babeu case shows is that if you build a constituency based on reviling & oppressing the “foreign-born,” if you relentlessly marginalize racial minorities, if you denounce the President as “diabolical” and a traitor, if you accuse him of a “master-plan plot,” a conspiracy to cause mass murder in Mexico and overthrow the US Constitution — in short, if you make yourself the embodiment of insane hatred, then you get a pass on being gay. If not, not. And how exactly does that help the rest of us?”
- Mitz

The sheriff and Arizona want to enforce this nation’s immigration laws. Where is the “insane hatred” in doing that? No other nation on the face of this planet would tolerate the illegal immigration that we have tolerated. We have over 10 million illegal aliens living in this country.

I agree with Mitz completely. The insane hatred comes from the fact that every person getting upset about illegals are upset about the brown ones. No one gives a shit about white canadians or europeans overstaying their visa. Not to mention if you’re white, it’s the height of hypocrisy to feel entitled to the land here in North America, seeing as it was stolen violently from the natives.

It always amazes me the lengths Timothy will go to paint conservatives, and conservative gays especially, in a favorable light. The disgusting politics of the american right deserve no admiration, only disdain.

Charles
February 28th, 2012 | LINK

“I agree with Mitz completely. The insane hatred comes from the fact that every person getting upset about illegals are upset about the brown ones. No one gives a shit about white canadians or europeans overstaying their visa. Not to mention if you’re white, it’s the height of hypocrisy to feel entitled to the land here in North America, seeing as it was stolen violently from the natives.” Ben Mathis

I am against illegal aliens of all colors. Anyone with a grain of sense knows that we have a huge problem with our Southern border. There are over 10 million illegal aliens who crossed over that border living in the United States. That is more than the populations of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina combined. The president of Mexico even thinks that Mexicans have the right to cross over our border and live in the United States. Mexico would be outraged if 10 million Americans crossed over their border and said that they such a right.

Ben Mathis
February 28th, 2012 | LINK

Oh, look at that, you focused on Mexicans. Quelle surprise.

Reed
February 28th, 2012 | LINK

“I care less. I just care less. Don’t preach it on me. Don’t push it on me and, by golly, I respect your rights.”

And by golly, as long as he’s respectin’ my rights, mebbe he could take a second to check his own excess rights at the door – because I sure as hell don’t have an equal amount. But there I go, bein’ all uppity and preachin’ and pushin’ (i.e., “mentioning the truth.”). Why golly, I care even less about his opinion than he does about my dad-gum rights.

Blake
February 28th, 2012 | LINK

“Even though a 17 year old is above the age of consent in Massachusetts, sex with teenagers – especially those under your supervision – is not acceptable to rural Arizona voters.”

Is the above-quoted really acceptable to anyone? I certainly wouldn’t vote for / support anyone who thus abused their position of authority. & I would hope a majority would agree regardless of their geographic location.

Timothy Kincaid
February 28th, 2012 | LINK

Thank you, Ben, for clarifying just who is entitled to speak about immigration. And since, as a Native American, I am granted that rare privilege (thanks, Mom), I’ll correct one mischaracterization.

As we say here frequently while reviewing fraudulent claims on wacky studies: correlation does not mean causation.

That opponents of illegal immigration appear to be targeting Latinos is not necessarily evidence of anti-Latino sentiment. Rather it may be because about 65% are from Mexico with another 10 – 15% from other Hispanic countries.

Your assumption is that racism is the motivation. That anti-Latino animus existed prior to anti-illegal immigrant sentiment and is what caused it.

I suspect the opposite occurred. I think social consequences of unfettered immigration led to resentment of illegal immigrants. And much if not all of the anti-Latino sentiment came as a result of this being the demographic which is largely responsible for illegal entry.

I very much suspect that if Russia, for example, were the source of illegal immigration the situation would be the same. In fact I’ve heard complaints about Russian legal (I assume) immigrants.

Interestingly I have never heard bitching about immigrants from Africa. It may be that African immigrants seem to have a desire to be a productive part of the nation, participate in the culture, speak English in public, and don’t self-segregate – or so observation and stereotype suggest. Many others (including Latinos and Russians) do as well and seem not to face personal dislike.

So while it might be convenient, the ‘white American hating on brown people’ scenario you have presented is not an explanation that fits all the facts.

Oh, and thanks for creating rules which give me the right to speak. Do you have that right under your rules?

andrew
February 28th, 2012 | LINK

This is why folks need to hang out with people outside our community, especially conservatives and have these conversations. I really think that things are going look increasingly weird as gays continue to gain acceptance into the mainstream, and the old stereotypes about political values – of both gays and conservatives – may be sorely challenged.

Timothy Kincaid
February 28th, 2012 | LINK

geez, here i am back in the comments again… despite my best intentions. But, yes Andrew, it’s gunna get bizarre.

And I have a prediction. The first time you hear some conservative fire and brimstone preacher condemning the promiscuous homosexual and demanding that he should find one man and marry him like God intended, remember you heard it first here.

pax58
February 28th, 2012 | LINK

On the issue of undocumented persons in our country, just my thoughts:
1) I work on the border, I see more border patrol than actually regular citizens on most days. The facts are that within the last few years the number of agents on the borders is up and the number of undocumherted entrances is down. Does that solve the problem? Of course not, but the people like this sheriff pander to the worst in us to gain power, not to address the problem.
There is a more complex problem with Mexicians and Central Americans coming to our country. I recently read a book on the history of the banana. The politics of these countries is all the evidence we need of the evil American colonialism in that region which has nearly destoyed these cultures. Peoople live in adject poverty because of US businenss backed by US military. Care to guess how many times the US miliatry has invaded these countries when the upstart locals were giving trouble to US companies? And we wonder why they are driven to our borders. There is cause and effect here and until we get honest about that, we will never solve border issues. Those pesky brown people are human beings with a right to live without the outside influences the US has pressed on them so a few US companies can make a buck.

Ben Mathis
February 28th, 2012 | LINK

The fact you are 1/16 native american doesn’t prove anything more than the Republican party putting a black man as chair. Judging from your photos you have no trouble navigating society as a white person anyway.

The economic problems of this country lie at the feet of conservatives entrenching wealth in the hands of the few, removing economic mobility, and eliminating social systems. To try to instead pin it on *this* generations poor hard working immigrants is indeed racist, regardless of the fact you think you have a trump card with some indian blood. There are Uncle Toms of all stripes.

I like box turtle bulletin for it’s non-political gay news, but gain a bit of vomit in my throat every time I have to read one of your thinly veiled conservative stump posts in the guise of covering relavent gay news.

Brian
February 28th, 2012 | LINK

“There is a more complex problem with Mexicians and Central Americans coming to our country…”

Thank you pax58; this is an issue the people shouting themselves hoarse about immigration tend to ignore. El Salvador is a particularly sickening example and it is cruel irony that the social problems left over from the civil war have spilled over into the US in the form of abhorrent gangs like MS-13. And we thought the Crips and Bloods were the worst it could get.

Of course, the local elite (minority) of many Latin American countries were complicit in a lot of this, not to the benefit of the vast majority of the population; but it doesn’t change the fundamental dynamics.

Timothy Kincaid
February 28th, 2012 | LINK

Oh, Ben. You silly little race monitor.

Of course my Native American heritage proves nothing, other than that race and ethnicity really say very little about a person.

So instead judging by a person’s photos (what, exactly, do you think American Indians look like?) or insisting that one either behaves as race dictates or is a striped Uncle Tom, try thinking about issues. Go way out on a limb and imagine that people don’t see the world through the race prism you use and dare to think that other factors may come into play. You will find it astonishing. You might even discover that people aren’t always stereotypes or predictable cartoon images.

And as for reading my commentaries making you vomit, well there’s an easy fix. Don’t read them.

Unless, of course, you have a vomit fetish. In that case, go ahead and read them just not anywhere near me.

Ben Mathis
February 29th, 2012 | LINK

If you were to admit you view these issues through a race prism, you’d have to admit to being racist. Just like Maggie Galager, your subconscious has to come up with statistical reasons to assuage your conscious, since only “bad people” are bigots. Do you really think there are many people who will admit they are anti immigrant because they hate people of color? Outside of the KKK there are few.

I think you’re the one that needs to examine why it’s a problem for you, since all actual facts and studies will show that the US’s current economic, crime, and population problems are related not to immigrants, but to the conservative policies of the last 100+ years that you try to trumpet when drumming up support for these conservatives with a tiny gay-white-male-rights slant.

And the point of “looking” white or not, is how society will treat you. People who look white don’t get stopped by the anti immigration bigot crowd on the street by police, the airport by security, or face systematic economic discrimination. People who look heavily hispanic or muslim and especially black, do.

Timothy Kincaid
February 29th, 2012 | LINK

This blogsite isn’t about me so I try to keep my personal life out. And I know that sharing this will invite hurtful comments of a very personal nature. But I hope that this provides a little perspective – to someone, maybe – on why I don’t readily accept presumptions about what race and ethnicity “mean”. It’s probably because I don’t exactly have a firm grasp on my own.

I grew up white. It wasn’t something that came up much, but I generally understood that was the term that could apply to me and most people I knew.

But in looking back it seems that I lived in an area where “white” included Latino and part-Native people (full blood, or those who strongly affiliated with their tribe, were “Indians”) and was more a catch-all for those who were not Wintu (or perhaps Hat Creek) or the few Blacks and Asians in the area than it was some description based on shared characteristics.

Once I left my hometown, I discovered that your ethnic identity is very important to other people. And I distinctly remember feeling out of place because I didn’t have one. Everyone was Italian-American or Polish-American or Mexican-American or African-American; I had no idea. And even after a class on immigration and emigration set me on a the path of genealogy, I didn’t have a good answer. I still don’t.

When my mother’s parents first came to California as migrant farm workers in the 30′s, any Cherokee support system was left behind in Arkansas. And when a family breakup resulted in my grandmother being the bread winner, there was no community or even much family of “people like us” to rely on. So my mother experienced the joys of being “exotic” as a teenager in the 50′s in an area where having olive skin and handsome features were not the norm.

I suspect that experience played some part in where my parents decided to settle, and when coupled with my mother being fiercely private, I was raised without any connection to a Native community or identity. (I don’t even know what my maternal grandfather’s ethnicity would be considered.) In my small town, I was just “white” like everyone else.

But since leaving my small town I learned that whatever it is that my ethnic identity should be, it could be “white” but it certainly doesn’t seem to be “like everyone else”.

As Ben indignantly charges, it is true that I’ve not been the victim of racial discrimination. But, then again, as I’ve spent my adult years living in distinctly ethnic communities (Nihonmachi, Pico/Fairfax, Echo Park, Historic Filipinotown) I don’t know that its some evidence that I “look white.”

When I fill out forms, I look at the descriptions and, well I’m not really exactly any of those other things, so I tick “white” or “Caucasian”. For the purposes of demographic statistics, it’s as good as any answer. And in reality it should be enough, and probably is the term most easily applied.

But a culture obsessed with identities, especially ethnic identities, doesn’t know where to place me. How can you assume a person has certain attitudes if you don’t know what “people like them” group to assign. And how can you know in advance that a person is a privileged racist who seeks to subjugate the brown people if you don’t know where he stands on the White-Brown scale?

Mostly I’m kidding. That does come up from time to time, but little of the questioning is for those reasons. Mostly, people are more comfortable if they know what box to put you in and I guess it isn’t as obvious to the people that i meet as it is to Ben. So at least a few times a month – most recently yesterday – I’ll get asked “so what are you?”

Or sometimes I’ll have people just assume that I’m part of their community. Occasionally someone will speak to me in French or assume that I’ll be part of a Jewish event. But most of the time I get asked, with the expectation that the answer will be either Mediterranean or Eastern European.

I used to say “oh, just a generic white guy” but that never worked. And sometimes I can get away with saying, “I’m a mutt”, but that doesn’t seem to satisfy those who have a strong connection to their culture. So I often have to go through the laundry list of geographic identifiers until they hear something that gives them the ability to find an identity for me. “Oh, well that explains why you are…”

For me, it doesn’t “explain why I am” much of anything. I don’t know that being “a white guy” has led to any attitudes of Privilege or that being not exactly quite “a white guy” has led to any identity with the Oppressed Peoples. I think it has perhaps allowed me to be accepted more broadly by diverse communities than if I had a strong association based on ethnicities, but it’s hard to tell.

One thing that I do know, however, is that simplistic notions about what race says about me are amusingly wrong. And so I believe (and hope) that it has allowed me to see people as people and to recognize that while race can impact experience which impacts perspective, when it comes down to it everyone is unique and race-based prejudices can leave you missing out on a whole lot of people who just aren’t the cartoon stereotypes you expect them to be.

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