Frank Rich – ‘The Bigots’ Last Hurrah’. Is it?

By pams
Monday, April 20, 2009 4:14 EDT
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I largely agree with Frank Rich’s POV in his NYT op-ed, “The Bigots’ Last Hurrah.” The professional homophobes are on the retreat, licking their wounds after a series of court decisions (IA), legislative successes (VT), and meltdowns (Rick Warren, National Org. for Marriage).

Far from terrifying anyone, “Gathering Storm” has become, unsurprisingly, an Internet camp classic. On YouTube the original video must compete with countless homemade parodies it has inspired since first turning up some 10 days ago. None may top Stephen Colbert’s on Thursday night, in which lightning from “the homo storm” strikes an Arkansas teacher, turning him gay. A “New Jersey pastor” whose church has been “turned into an Abercrombie & Fitch” declares that he likes gay people, “but only as hilarious best friends in TV and movies.”

Yet easy to mock as “Gathering Storm” may be, it nonetheless bookmarks a historic turning point in the demise of America’s anti-gay movement.

What gives the ad its symbolic significance is not just that it’s idiotic but that its release was the only loud protest anywhere in America to the news that same-sex marriage had been legalized in Iowa and Vermont. If it advances any message, it’s mainly that homophobic activism is ever more depopulated and isolated as well as brain-dead.

It is, but if you’re living in a state where the political climate is less hospitable, like the deep South, it’s a very different picture than the one Rich is painting. It’s a common problem that I see with those writing from more progressive enclaves — the mistake that the progress has some sort of magic trickle-down effect everywhere. It isn’t the bigot’s last hurrah, it is the spiraling downfall of the professional anti-gays, but they aren’t going down without a fight where the territory is still fertile.

As the case against equal rights for gay families gets harder and harder to argue on any nonreligious or legal grounds, no wonder so many conservatives are dropping the cause. And if Fox News and Rick Warren won’t lead the charge on same-sex marriage, who on the national stage will take their place? The only enthusiastic contenders seem to be Republicans contemplating presidential runs in 2012. As Rich Tafel, the former president of the gay Log Cabin Republicans, pointed out to me last week, what Iowa giveth to the Democrats, Iowa taketh away from his own party. As the first stop in the primary process, the Iowa caucuses provided a crucial boost to Barack Obama’s victorious and inclusive Democratic campaign in 2008. But on the G.O.P. side, the caucuses tilt toward the exclusionary hard right.

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. Palin even broke with John McCain on the issue during their campaign, supporting the federal marriage amendment that he rejects. 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.

This is a long-term win, don’t get me wrong, but it’s pretty clear that we cannot cheer the Republicans’ inability to find a winning formula for the future as long as Democrats tolerate the homophobes inside its party.

Even in Blue New York we see State Senator Rubén Díaz brazenly holding up marriage equality (“As long as you need me, there will be no gay marriage“) with the same tired fundie theocracy bigotry we see spewing from the Republican fringe. As I blogged earlier, he goes unchallenged by his peers because they fear the race card being thrown down. I don’t know what’s worse — open bigotry on the Right, or the enabling of homophobia within a party that should know better.

And in what is excellent timing on this matter, Andrés Duque of Blabbeando has posted about the National Organization for Marriage’s efforts to make inroads in the Latino community in New York with its bigotry. More below the fold, including video. These folks are clearly not aware of any “last hurrah” — they mean business.

So you would probably think that if a NOM Board Member spoke to media about the bill, everyone would be talking about how NOM’s Gathering Storm might have arrived in New York.

And it did (quietly):


The two clips above are from Friday’s edition of the weekly Spanish-language political show “Pura Politica” on Time Warner Cable’s NY1 news channel (CLICK on video to open larger YouTube window and read my full translation of the exchange). It features a debate between Pedro Julio Serrano from the National Lesbian and Gay Task Force and Luis Tellez from The Witherspoon Institute, as moderated by political reporter Juan Manuel Benitez. Mr. Tellez also happens to be one of five members of NOM’s Board of Directors.

So, while Rev. Diaz was huffing-and-puffing and grabbing everyone’s attention, here was NOM’s first media foray after the Paterson announcement – no big flashy display and no attention-whoring announcements – just an attempt to speak directly to Latinos in their language. In other words, a similar under-the-radar strategy that foes of marriage equality in California used with minority communities in their successful defeat of Prop. 8

Rich’s column, while it may make us feel confident, should be tempered by the realization that the hardcore bigots don’t give up. They never will. And we shouldn’t let down our guard.

It would be a pity to see the realization by the homobigot Republicans that they are heading down the wrong path but the Dems continuing to squirm and step away from promises to fight for equality out of fear.

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