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January 05, 2012

The short happy (political) life of Rick Santorum

Despite his strong showing in Iowa, there is absolutely no chance that Rick Santorum will get the Republican nomination because the party establishment will shoot him down before he rises too far. The only question is how long it will take before he is crushed. This is because his social views are too out there even for a party that likes to see itself as the guardians of morality. His obsession with sexual issues, especially his reservations about the right to contraception, is too creepy and extreme for even the oligarchy and its media allies and they will never let him get the nomination. For a sample of his positions, see here.

Furthermore, he is already the butt of relentless humor about his name as a result of Dan Savage's efforts and The Daily Show also had fun with him.

Santorum's daughter Elizabeth has complained about it, saying that "It's disappointing that people can be that mean." In her father's defense, she says that she has gay friends who support her father's candidacy based on his economic and family platforms.

One of the telling signs that a particular bigotry is on the way out is when those bigots go out of their way to insist that they do not hate the victims of the bigotry but in fact have such people among their friends. The statements "Hate the sin, love the sinner" and "Some of my best friends are black/Jews/gays/(fill-in-the-blank)" have now become jokes because they are such obvious attempts at hiding their prejudices. Major changes in social attitudes tend to be accompanied by this kind of hypocrisy just before the new attitudes become accepted.

Dan Savage notes that this stage has arrived for gays. As Savage says, "[W]hat does it tell us about this moment in the struggle for LGBT equality that even homophobes like Elizabeth and her dad perceive a political risk in being perceived as homophobic?" Rick Santorum, his daughter Elizabeth, Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, Donny Osmond, and Sarah Palin all insist that they have gay friends, though those friends are mysteriously invisible. Either they are made up or they exist but do not want to publicly identify themselves and have to explain to others how they could be friends with homophobes. Savage says that reporters should ask who these friends are. Whatever the case, the very fact that such affirmations of friendship are now obligatory is a good sign.

Savage also says that reporters who listen sympathetically when such people complain about how others are being mean to them about their homophobia are not doing their job. What they encounter is nothing compared to the meanness of the policies that they would like to inflict on gay people. It is a good article, and the short video at the end about a gay couple that waited in vain for forty years to get married is very moving.

All those who predicted dire warnings of the collapse of the US military as a fighting force as a result of the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' (yes, you, John McCain) should apologize because the military has not fallen apart. Even the celebrated public kiss of two navy lesbians aroused little more than curiosity and celebration, the first kiss on shore being a navy tradition whenever a ship returns to port. Note that a similar photo was also featured on the official website of the US Navy.

We now have had multiple states give equal rights to gay people (at least as far as marriage is concerned), all of which were predicted to signal the end of civilization as we know it. And what has happened? Nothing. Life goes on just as before, as all rational people knew it would. Meanwhile the governor of Washington state is introducing legislation to legalize gay marriage which, if it passes, will make it the seventh state to do so, after New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Iowa and the District of Columbia.

We should just give gay people equal rights now in all areas of public life and be done with it. They are going to get them eventually anyway because it is the right thing to do and rights have always been expanded to include more groups of people, never reduced. The people who fight this trend are going to lose and lose badly and will be looked back in history as villains. And they will deserve it.

In the meantime, we can enjoy all the Santorum jokes that will fill the airwaves in the next few days before he fades off into well-deserved oblivion.

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Comments

Well said. I particularly think the point about being the villains of history as being especially poignant. We don't remember slave-holders and racists fondly--why does anyone think that their intolerance toward gays would be any different down the line? But I guess most people just don't think long-term that way.

Also: Bah, spammers.

Posted by Hunter on January 5, 2012 12:34 PM

I've just started following this excellent blog, my compliments.

Interesting point about a particular bigotry being on its way out when people parade their friendships with the group in question. I'm not sure if that's true all the time, though. Would you say Islamophobia is on its way out too? People always say they have a lot of Muslim friends.

Posted by Rahul Agarwal on January 5, 2012 02:17 PM

Rahul,

You raise an interesting point.

I am guessing that the people who say they have a lot of Muslim friends are not the same people who advocate policies that are aimed at discriminating against Muslims, as is the case with anti-gay prejudice, but are trying to counter the negative sentiment of others.

Also, in the case of Islam, it is a religion and as is the case with all ideologies, it is possible to criticize the ideology independently of the people holding it.

Posted by Mano on January 5, 2012 03:02 PM

Mano,

I agree with Dan Savage on many things, but I feel like he's misguided on the thing about pressuring allegedly homophobic celebrities to name the specific gay person they are claiming is their friend. It may seem trivial, but you have to remember that celebrities have circles of people close to them that are not celebrities. Since most of these people have expressed homophobic opinions due to their religious affiliation, the people in these circles often are also religious, which means that they can't just start outing people.

So imagine a reporter pushes the issue with, say, Donny Osmond, and he says "There is a young man in my neighborhood that I go to church with. He's my sons age and is over a lot, and once he confided in me that he's gay, but his family doesn't know." Can you imagine how horrible that would be?

Yeah, I wish that the man wouldn't toe the church's line on homosexuality, but I understand why he does--he could get himself in a lot of trouble. Well, that's a separate issue.

Jared

Posted by Jared A on January 5, 2012 05:57 PM

Jared,

I don't think that Savage is asking for the outing of closeted gay people here. That is not something that he has ever called for, as far as I know, except in the cases of closeted people who hypocritically take strong anti-gay stands that harm gay people.

I think that he is asking here about people who are openly gay but keeping their friendship with these homophobes secret. Even here, he is not asking that they be named publicly, just that the reporters be given enough information to verify that such alleged gay friends actually exist.

Posted by Mano on January 5, 2012 10:20 PM

Question: Is anyone allowed to have an opinion contrary to yours?

Question: Is Homophobe a bigoted epitaph?

Question: How does one arrive at the conclusion scientifically that if one opposes the promotion of homosexual practices it follows necessarily that one is afraid of such practices or bigoted?

Question: Is it acceptable practice to encourage people to associate vulgar terms with a name of someone that they disagree with?

Search under "santorum" and defend the contention that this term associated with his name is not vulgar or at least base and tasteless.

If you are not able to defend this contention with good conscious then defend your implicit and explicit support in your blog of such activities.

Question: If I associated (for google search purposes) the name Mano Singham with a vulgar image or term would that be ok because I disagree with Mano Singham?

Question: Is this the kind of public discourse you are promoting?

Posted by Arthur on January 6, 2012 09:12 AM

Mano,

Yeah, I listen to Savage quite a bit, and I know that he isn't asking for outing of closeted gay people. And I should say that I agree with pretty much everything he says in the article you discuss in your post. Santorum's daughter Elizabeth is bringing these personal things out unsolicited, she's being kind of terrible, and she should be challenged on it.

So what I'm nitpicking about is the naivete of applying this "I think that he is asking here about people who are openly gay but keeping their friendship with these homophobes secret." to everyone. My very limited experience with entertainment celebrities is that they try to keep their public and private personas separate. Even if the friend is out of the closet and their friendship isn't "secret", it doesn't mean it would be appropriate to force them to discuss their relationship in public. That would be the friend's prerogative.

Incidentally, we don't really need Donny Osmond to provide examples of gay people he is close to because his brother, Alan, is clearly one of those closeted people who hypocritically takes strong ant-gay stands that harm gay people. And, yes, I agree that we should out him.

Posted by Jared A on January 6, 2012 09:25 AM

Arthur,

1. Of course. Why would you think otherwise?

2. I don't understand the question, maybe because 'epitaph' may not be the word you were looking for.

3. I use the word bigot to describe anyone who discriminates against an entire group of people purely on the basis of their group identity. People are perfectly free to dislike homosexuality. What I am objecting to, and calling bigotry, is depriving gay people of the rights enjoyed by others.

4. Santorum has certainly become associated with something vulgar and tasteless. That was in response to his associating homosexuality with something vulgar and tasteless. There are lots of public figures who openly express their opposition to homosexuality who did not elicit a similar reaction. Ask yourself why that is.

5. I am not sure what you mean by 'ok' here but you are certainly entitled to say what you want to, subject to the usual constraints of libel and slander.

6. It is not a question of what I want to promote. It is the nature of internet discourse that public figures can no longer use their greater access to the media to say things without fearing repercussions.

Posted by Mano on January 6, 2012 09:56 AM

1. Because it seems OK to you to apply a terrible search term to any person you disagree with provided their disagreement is vulgar enough.

2. Sorry right "my bad" spell check error; bigoted or derogatory "epithet" is the word I was seeking.


4. So here is an example where Santorum disagrees with homosexual practices and you think that it is vulgar so one good vulgar deserves another? Show me the Santorum vulgarity that equals the vulgar and base term associated with his name.

4. So Santorum can not say what he wants without fear of repercussions including having his name associated with a vulgar term even if the vulgar term incites a mental image that is repulsive and tasteless, I would dare say even to people who practice homosexual acts. If the person associating the term to Santorum did not feel its vulgar and repulsive effects on the readers, it would have no purpose.

5. By "OK", I mean acceptable, commendable, appropriate strategy in public discourse. So if I associate your name with frothy lube and feces, so that it is the first thing one sees when they search under your name, that falls within your bounds of libel and slander? Maybe we should rethink those bounds.

6. It seems disingenuous to suggest that you do not want to promote a view or way of thinking or a way of conducting a public discourse. You must believe your way of thinking is better or more rational than some other ways of thinking or a blog from you would be without meaning or purpose other than making many words.

If you think your way of thinking is better or more rational then don't you want to see more adherents to your way of thinking as we "progress" as rational beings?


I hope you post this but don't suspect you will long endure opposition to your views.


Posted by Arthur on January 6, 2012 02:08 PM

Arthur,

As for 3 and 4, Santorum compared acceptance of homosexuality to allowing "man on dog" sex, "man on child" sex, and incest. The mental images conjured by those words go well beyond mere vulgarity, don't you think?

As for 5, what I meant was that people should be allowed to say what they wish as long as they stay within the usual legal bounds of libel and slander (and copyright, etc.). I was not making a judgment as to whether those particular terms fell into that category.

As for 6, of course I am advocating a point of view. But I write what I want to in my own style, as do others. If people don't like what I write, they are welcome to disagree or not read.

I am not sure what your point is, actually. You clearly dislike what Savage has done. Why complain to me about it?

Posted by Mano on January 6, 2012 04:19 PM