I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Election reveals true colors

Glenn Reynolds said yesterday that reports of Harold Ford's attendance at a Playboy party will help him in the election, because -- "post-Foleygate" -- voters want to be reassured that a candidate isn't gay (emphasis added):

Likewise, charging someone with partying with Playboy bunnies seems like pretty weak tea. I was talking about that with a Republican friend the other day, who said it was the best thing he'd heard about Ford so far. He's not alone: Few people will really be offended by that, and other voters will find partying with bunnies to be amusing and perhaps even appealing, and if nothing else it undercuts potential voter worries that Ford is a goodie-two-shoes or -- post-Foleygate, a risk for any unmarried male member of Congress -- gay, which would seem to do his campaign more good than harm.

The grotesque notion that the lesson of the Foley scandal is that gay men -- as opposed to Republicans or white middle-age males -- cannot be trusted around underage pages is being disseminated by the most toxic hate-mongerers and religious exploiters in the Republican Party, and it is entirely unsurprising to see Reynolds repeating it here.

Reynolds previously promoted John Hinderaker's defense of Denny Hastert, in which Hinderaker argued that Hastert had no reason to take notice of Foley's behavior with pages because Hastert knew Foley was gay and therefore would not have been the slightest bit surprised to learn that he was preying on teenage pages. Making this argument overtly, rather than through passive-aggressive links, is reflective, I think, of a general desperation infecting Bush followers as this election, and the collapse of their movement, rapidly approaches.

Does Reynolds have any basis whatsoever for asserting that "voters" see Mark Foley's behavior as reflective of gay men generally -- rather than reflective of Republicans or white males or Christians -- and that the Foley scandal has therefore made voters less likely to vote for a gay candidate and crave evidence of the candidate's heterosexuality? No, of course he doesn't. To the extent data exists on this question, it reflects exactly the opposite. Reynolds -- as is so often the case -- is just spouting his own incoherent and deeply irrational thoughts and ugly biases and then pretending to be above them by sitting back analytically and oh-so-knowingly attributing them, with no basis whatsoever, to "voters."

It isn't "voters" who are making a connection between Mark Foley and the issue of whether gay people are entitled to equal treatment. It's the likes of Glenn Reynolds (cursory support for gay marriage notwithstanding) who are doing that, quite deliberately, in the hope that the old reliable strategy of demonizing gay people will strengthen the cultural tribalism on which they depend and will save them in this election.

Reynolds is just following in the footsteps of the Tennessee Republican Party, which has been running commercials suggesting that Harold Ford isn't a true Christian because he attended a Playboy party. Trying to win elections by concocting a choice between the sexually moral and immoral is -- even when it's accurate -- about as desperate as it gets. But in light of the private sexual behavior of those whom the religious wing of the Republican Party has chosen as its leaders, that tactic is so dishonest and hypocritical as to be laughable. But inflaming racial, religious and sexual tribalism is what the Bush-led Republican Party knows and instinctively does.

Much attention is paid to the utter ineptitude and deceit which characterizes the way this country has been governed under one-party Republican rule for the past five years, but almost as destructive is the way they campaign and keep themselves in power. In light of the towering, transparent failures of their movement, these sorts of diversionary tactics, sexual morality parades, and hate-fueled sideshows appear insignificant and therefore don't seem to be working this time. But that doesn't mean they are inconsequential.

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