Token Dissonance

Black & gay, young & conservative. A Southern gentleman writes about life and politics after Yale


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The Gay Republic

“President Obama promised to…heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.” –Mitt Romney

Gays want balconies now, too? Next thing you know, they’ll want dignity, respect, and to vote Republican!

Social issues are not merely wedge issues. The casualties of the culture wars are the broken families destroyed by failed policy and left to wilt in ruined American homes. These cultural struggles are deeply personal for those invested, and refusing to reckon with how much real people stand to lose when politicians make bad social policy is essentially punting the long game to claim what is, at best, an evanescent victory and, at worst, a Pyrrhic loss. Families in pain still vote, and they get angrier and more focused the more they’re wronged.

It is the armor of this knowledge that underscores the push to promote Todd Akin as the symbol of a Party that would enslave the wombs of American women to the rapacious whims of strangers. That Governor Romney has disavowed this position is an inconvenient aside to be overlooked. This knowledge also fuels the simmering debate over the fate of gay Americans after January 20, 2013. A recent salvo from the Huffington Post listed five reasons gay American should be terrified of a Romney presidency. So let’s evaluate the claims.

1. Romney is adamantly against same-sex marriage

Not to belabor a zombie horse, but this was true of the Obama-Biden ticket in 2008. The question now, as in 2008, isn’t really about what marriage positions a candidate professes. Rather, it’s about how much we should weigh that position against the total package a candidate offers. It is profoundly unlikely that a viable marriage bill of any kind will emerge in the next term, and even Obama isn’t calling for federally enacted marriage equality.

More to the point, any bills that manage to survive a Senate filibuster and a tumultuous House will almost certainly earn the president’s signature, whoever that president is. Romney is a pragmatist; if his campaign is any indication, he will not squander political capital just to screw over gay people or anybody else. To put it bluntly, this election is not about gay marriage, and to pretend otherwise is to jeopardize the future of America for a leprechaun hiding in a rainbow.

2. Romney’s a flip flopper on LGBT issues – Romney publicly supported LGBT rights in his 1994 campaigning for Senator against Ted Kennedy but…Over the past decade, though, he’s moved to the opposite side of the fence and vehemently opposes LGBT rights on many fronts in this current campaign.

This point is, at best, an exaggeration, at worst, a tendentious bit of flailing. Romney has consistently stood by his support for limited domestic partnerships. This is why he opposed the broadly restrictive no-gay-unions-period Massachusetts marriage amendment—even when the Democratic Speaker of the House and Romney’s own wife and son supported it—but not the narrower don’t-call-it-marriage federal one. More importantly, Romney never said he would be more liberal than Ted Kennedy on gay rights. What he promised to be was more effective in pursuing equality for LGBT Americans. His actual words were:

“There’s something to be said for having a Republican who supports civil rights in this broader context, including sexual orientation. When Ted Kennedy speaks on gay rights, he’s seen as an extremist. When Mitt Romney speaks on gay rights, he’s seen as a centrist and a moderate. It’s a little like if Eugene McCarthy was arguing in favor of recognizing China, people would have called him a nut. But when Richard Nixon does it, it becomes reasonable. When Ted says it, it’s extreme; when I say it, it’s mainstream. I think the gay community needs more support from the Republican Party, and I would be a voice in the Republican Party to foster anti-discrimination efforts.”

This point remains broadly true today. Marriage equality would not exist in New York without the Republican State Senate bringing it up for a vote and four Republican state senators voting for its passage. Likewise, gay marriage would have been annulled in New Hampshire but for the hundred or so Republicans voting against repeal. And let’s not forget the Republicans who helped push DADT repeal over the top.

It will not be possible to achieve LGBT equality nationally without conservative support. Although he has not pressed the point lately, Mitt Romney remains committed to that support, and his position as head of the Republican Party arguably gives leverage and cover to Congressional Republicans who believe “dignity and respect” have political content.

3. Romney reportedly bullied gay classmates in high school

Wait, are you serious? We’re judging candidates for President of the United States based on incidents from high school? And you wonder why all this all this nonsense over Obama’s time at Columbia. If high school is relevant, college certainly is—you’re at least a legal adult in college. But in case it helps, Romney apologized. Now let’s move on.

4. Mitt has opposed LGBT inclusion on hate crime legislation – Mitt Romney vetoed a bill funding hate crimes prevention during his tenure as governor in Massachusetts in 2003. In fact, he cut all funds to hate crime prevention after taking gubernatorial office, which forced an anti-bullying focused Take Force to let its entire staff go. The group remains disbanded.

It’s unclear what actually transpired in this case. The only source is a Wikipedia article citing dead links. It may be referring to Gov. Romney’s disbanding The Governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth in 2006. However, that was tied to the legislature creating the functionally equivalent Massachusetts Commission on GLBT Youth. The commission has addressed bullying. In any case, a President Romney won’t overturn the Matthew Shepard Act, and his administration will prosecute crimes committed against LGBT people.

5. Romney doesn’t support same-sex parent adoption – The man with a large family – five children and 18 grandchildren – believes in denying children with no parents the chance to have a [dual]-guardian loving home if the two happen to be of the same sex. After accidentally mildly supporting same-sex parent adoption rights back in May, he retracted his statement and said, “I simply acknowledge the fact that gay adoption is legal in all states but one.” Back in 2006, Romney filed a bill in Massachusetts which allowed Catholic Charities’ adoption policies to overtly exclude same-sex couples.

This is actually two points: adoption and religious liberty. Adoption laws vary messily across the country, and it’s unclear what either president would do about this. Romney’s apparent waffling is not opposition. Moreover, his refusal to campaign against Obama’s support for marriage equality is curiously reminiscent of Obama’s refusal to actually oppose gay marriage while purportedly not believing in it before this year. Granted, Romney is no Obama. But behind the conflicting accusations of pandering, flip-flopping, and extremism is the reality of a pragmatic conservative who is playing the long game. Many staunch Republicans are broadly retreating from or outright opposing anti-gay policy, and a majority of Americans support gay unions. The pragmatist unwilling to make a campaign issue of gay marriage will not channel Tony Perkins in office with the Family Research Council well on the path to irrelevance.

To the second point, the state is not always obliged to accommodate religion, but it is not unreasonable for it to do so. You can believe in access to contraception without demanding a church violate its magisterium to provide it. You can believe a woman has the right to abortion without requiring that her bishop—or our government—foot the bill. And you can believe gay Americans have the right to marry and adopt without compelling the Holy See to blink. It does not follow from trying to compromise with Catholic charities—and thus keep them from closing—that Romney opposes gays adopting any more than tax exemptions for Scientology entail state endorsement of L. Ron Hubbard.

What matters in this election is that the president has failed. Unemployment is unyielding, entitlements court insolvency, the debt devours our inheritance, and all the administration has for us are tax returns and ad hominem. The Obama campaign has become a national analog to Ned Lamont, circa 2006—the Miltonian apotheosis of a monomaniacal fetish for being in opposition to the opponent. If that hackneyed approach couldn’t win in Connecticut for a Democratic nominee, what will it mean if we endorse it for the incumbent President of the United States?

The future is dim for any cause put in chains aboard a sinking ship. In a perfect world, Mitt Romney would be a perfect champion for equality. But as with Barack Obama in 2008, we cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good. I want to get married someday and maybe have kids, but first my loved ones and I need steady jobs and a functional economy. We’ve weathered four years of billowing hope. Now it’s time for some change.


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We Built This City

“It all started off with stirring speeches, Greek columns, the thrill of something new. Now all that’s left is a presidency adrift, surviving on slogans that already seem tired, grasping at a moment that has already passed, like a ship trying to sail on yesterday’s wind.” –Paul Ryan

“Tell them this: ‘These gods, who did not make the heavens and the earth, will perish from the earth and from under the heavens.'” -Jeremiah 10:11

Day Three of the Republican National Convention is over but my goosebumps tingle on. Paul Ryan’s speech was one of the most amazing I have ever heard, and I was paying attention in 2008. From channeling President Reagan on moral clarity and spiritual conviction to reminding Young America that he gets where we’re coming from, I witnessed a meteor rising in the aspiring Republican veep. My ears are still ringing.

Of course, Ryan was only the finale—a dessert transformed into a full meal. For our appetizers, Condi Rice waxed professorial in her edifying policy proposals and musings on America’s place in a rapidly changing world. Her paean to the transcendent promise of American Exceptionalism rang a glorious note only the woman born in a segregated world could hold. And the phenomenal reach of her vision shines brighter against the backdrop of a sitting administration long depleted of even the hope for new ideas. Rice’s understanding of education as the civil rights struggle of our time hearkens back to Chris Christie’s valiant charge against the teacher’s unions and the need to be respected before we can be loved. Hers is the lifted voice of a life testifying to the ultimate truth that all conservatism begins with loss and the will to rise and wrestle with the faceless gods of atrophy, grievance, and entitlement for control of our destiny.

As a chaser for Rice, Governor Susana Martinez offered up the simple truths of American conservatism. That welfare is a brace meant to heal, not a lifestyle. That a state expands on the backs of its citizens until their promise is consumed in its service—a new master-slave dialectic for a society deformed into Lost Boys and Last Men. That the wages of dependency are decay and oblivion. That these are the stakes. This election is not ultimately about budgets, healthcare, Medicare, unemployment rates, or tax minutiae. To be sure, these issues matter and must be dealt with. But in the end, our takeaway is that ideas and the visions built upon them matter. We should be wary of leaders who explain more than they govern.

From the rapturous reception of Condi Rice to the Martinez homage to the conservative story to Scott Walker’s enraptured tears at the Ryan oration, we see the promise of America at this Republican convention. These are what leaders look like. This is how they sound, how they resonate, how they cut through passé talking points about tax returns, murdered seniors, and the siren song of identity politics.

Take note, Mr. President. These are the bearers of the vision that will bury you. Like Atlantis and all the vainglory of its imagined pomp and circumstance, your empty promises will go the way of your squandered mandate and the broken promises of yesteryear.

“They’ve run out of ideas. Their moment came and went. Fear and division are all they’ve got left.”


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Right Quick: Hurricane at the RNC

Akin, please. We’ve survived the Obama years. We can handle this.

So it seems increasingly probable that Hurricane Isaac will hit Tampa just in time for the Republican National Convention. Maybe the Universe is trying to tell us something. I always suspected Mother Nature was a Democrat. Or maybe she’s a Republican who just wants to remind us, just in time for the Convention, that the storm is almost over. In any case, we might as well have some fun with it.

Original Lyrics:

I hopped off the plane near Tampa Bay with a dream and a ticket for change

Welcome to a city run by Democrats—Whoa!—am I gotta fit in?

Jumped in the cab, here I am for the first time

Look to the Right, and I see the Romney-Ryan sign

This is all so crazy, everybody’s here to save the country

But Isaac’s turnin’ and we’re feelin’  kinda worried

Too little pressure and it’s stormin’

That’s when Christie gave his keynote speech

And the RNC was on

And the RNC was on

And the RNC was on

So I put my hands up, Isaac’s in town

The Republicans fly away

It’s crashin’ the party like Biden

Spinnin’ hot air like Biden

Got the waves up, bringin’ a storm

But we’re all gonna be okay

Yeeeeeah! Hurricane at the RNC!

Yeeeeeah! Still no hope left for the DNC!


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Identify the Vote

“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” ―Oscar Wilde

I got my first card from the U.S. Department of Defense in 1999. I was far too young for whiskey or cigars, but it came in handy for occasional trips to the Commissary, the Post Exchange, my school, or even to get home. In 2001, the Department of State issued me a passport ahead of my family’s relocation to Germany. I used it to cross the English Channel and for a few international flights. By the time I got to Yale, which gave me yet another ID card, I had a driver’s license from the State of Florida (since traded for one from Virginia). Four IDs, one man. Guess I was popular with the bureaucrats.

In more than 30 states, new voting laws are stirring partisan rancor. Current and proposed requirements range from none—including some vetoed (e.g. N.C. & Minn.) or ruled unconstitutional (Wisc.)—to photo-optional to particularly strict photo standards in five states. The GOP claims to be preventing fraud it can hardly find; Democrats argue 750,000 voters will be unable to vote in Pennsylvania alone. Throughout the South—where Texas, Mississippi, Florida, and South Carolina are courting federal preclearance (as is New Hampshire)—the laws are being compared to Jim Crow, as many critics see a concerted effort to disenfranchise minorities and the poor. Nevertheless, most people favor voter ID laws. What ought a reasonable person to make of all this?

While I was growing up in the Army, the cards were free and ubiquitous, and they did what they were supposed to do. I doubt it’s feasible to standardize voting laws across the states, but two lessons from the military community seem broadly applicable:

1) It is reasonable to require reliable identification to access restricted activity.

1a) Voting is (supposed to be) a restricted activity and a fundamental right.

2) Reliable identification ought to be provided to anyone entitled access to some restricted activity.

Put simply, we should require IDs at the polls, and state governments should make sure all registered voters can attain IDs with reasonable ease or avoid the requirement. As it happens, many states, including Georgia and Virginia (both already precleared), already do this. I suppose some on the Left will nonetheless maintain that these laws persecute the poor and the brown among us. But while some concerns are reasonable and noted, the audacious claim that these common-sense checks are everywhere malignant strains credulity even more than Hank Johnson’s continued presence in Congress.

The expectation that registered voters acquire proper identification is no more cumbersome than requiring that they leave their houses in order to vote. If the response is that certain demographics will not read their mail or otherwise notice new laws—and thus be disproportionately harmed—then I wonder how we expect these people to know where to vote, let alone for what. After all, voting locations change and redistricting happens. Are we actually to believe a sizeable portion of the electorate is impervious to information? If so, to what end are we to move heaven and earth—and their unidentified souls—to drag such ignorance to the polls? And how are we to do so?

Then again, I don’t know anybody—young, old, black, white, poor, brown, or other—who completely lacks identification. I’m just a middle-class guy from the suburbs. What do I know?


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Right Quick: Rachel Mischief

I hate to pick on Rachel Maddow. Her ebullient, ostensibly serious charm makes intellectual laziness and systemic dishonesty look downright magical. I feel smarter and better about myself when watching her show, kind of how President Obama feels better about his campaign by pretending somebody else made all the negative stuff happen. And Maddow is so much fun! In my more liberal days, I even found her segments singularly compelling lights in the darkness.

I suspect this old affinity is the fount of my persistent addiction to her show. You see, I keep watching and hoping that, one day, she’ll experience an epiphany and become credibly inspiring, rather than gleefully disingenuous. A guy can dream, right?

With this happy thought in mind, I clicked on her latest link in my minifeed and discovered, to my horror, that Fox News was burying the Akin story! How unseemly! Brimming with outrage (or should I say, OUTRAGE!), I immediately went to foxnews.com to see what horribly biased front page they were pushing. I even took a screenshot. See for yourself:

Well, this is awkward. It’s almost like she was too lazy to actually check the site or something.

Wow, not only is the Akin story front page in all its nuance, but Fox News even featured a video on a gay man’s struggles with his homophobic father! The right-wing scoundrels. I guess Maddow’s real point is that the bloodshed in Syria clearly shouldn’t overshadow Todd Akin’s world-shatteringly important remarks. Thanks for alerting us to insidious media bias, Rachel! I, for one, will be more careful in the future.


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A Legitimate End

Image courtesy of 'Around the Wicket Gate' by C. H. Spurgeon

“You’re all alone in a parallel universe, dude. You can take off your tie.” –Dracopol

Let’s start with the obvious: Todd Akin is an idiot. Indeed, his contemptible asininity renders his presence on the House Science Committee at once bemusing and disturbing. So before I continue, let’s all have a hearty laugh at his expense. I’m glad we all agree that Todd Akin is not fit to represent anyone.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s deal with the Left. Predictably eager to avoid their failed policies, our liberal friends want to make Akin a general indictment of the Right. Sure, Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and the National Republican Senatorial Committee have abandoned Akin to his madness. And yes, Ann Coulter called on him to make the sacrificial play for the good of the Party, with the editor-in-chief of RedState being far blunter about it. And ok, the leader of the Party, Mitt Romney, did not mince words in condemning the congressman and rebuking the policy of forcing a rape victim to give birth. But the Family Research Council defends Akin, right? Surely, they must speak for the conservative movement! (Spoiler: they don’t.)

The defenders of the president would have us believe this election should hinge on fringe social positions pushed by a conspiracy of monomaniacal extremists. So let me make this clear: I do not support Todd Akin. In case the preceding paragraph has not made this obvious: the Republican Party does not endorse his inanity. Are there conservatives in Congress who oppose abortion? Of course. Do some of them have uncomfortably hardline views on the issue? Definitely. But you need only look to the failed Personhood Amendment in Mississippi to see there are limits to how far the pro-life movement goes. And some Republicans, albeit a small minority, are still prochoice.

The GOP is a diverse party, and reasonable people can disagree about the extent to which abortion should be legal and available, and how federal law should differ from state law. But Todd Akin is not normal. He is an invidiously cruel joke told at our expense to confirm every liberal reduction of conservatism to pathology. For his complicity in this, Todd Akin deserves and will get no sympathy from the Right. Duly have we cast him out to beg his fortunes from the streets, and duly will we move on beyond him.

I trust Akin will meet a “legitimate” fate. As for you, Mr. President, onward to November.

Update: Rep. Akin is refusing to bow out gracefully and has released an ad seeking forgiveness. That might be an easier pill to swallow if he were not insisting he meant “forcible rape” instead of “legitimate rape”. As surprises nobody who is not Todd Akin, this “clarification” does not remotely reduce the mendacious idiocy of his original statement. “Forcible rape” is the source of many unintended pregnancies, and is closely linked with family and domestic violence. Mr. Akin, if you won’t take “No” for answer, then do us all the minimal kindness of caging your unrepentant hostility to truth and good decency.


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Right Quick: Enraged

If you’ve been on twitter in the last few hours or so, you’ve probably noticed some curious happenings. First off, Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) got caught betraying an appallingly facile impression of female anatomy while discussing abortion. Why he was talking about anything other than the economy and his differences from incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) is beyond me. Of course, that doesn’t make his opponent any better of a candidate, but let no one accuse me of unfair reporting. Akin subsequently clarified that he misspoke, after which he presumably expects everyone to forgive and forget his insultingly puerile ideas about rape. We’ll see how that goes.

Anyway, it seems #LegitmateRape started trending on Twitter, and a liberal friend tells me the DNC Court Jester Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz wasted no time expressing her outrage through a fundraising email. And who can blame her? It’s not every day your political opponents fumble golden footballs at  the ten-yard line.

At some point afterward, for reasons largely unclear, #ThingsThatEnrageRepublicans and rival #ThingsThatEnrageDemocrats emerged. As I write this, the latter has been trending for several hours. The former has not. It would seem the conservative movement has much stronger modern appeal than some might think, Todd Akin’s machinations to the contrary notwithstanding.

If you’re feeling mischievous, witty, or simply need to vent, add your contribution. Mine is below: