Bloggers and the news media are buzzing and fretting about Ann Coulter [indirectly] calling John Edwards a faggot at a prominent right-wing political gathering. To me, this is actually a distracting ploy that dangerously obscures the right’s greater insidiousness.
True, Coulter’s popularity baffles me. I always suspected that she suffered from undiagnosed Tourett’s syndrome. Whatever hateful thing enters her mind, she says freely. Concern for other humans does not register in her mind. This suggests to me that she needs serious medical treatment.
Whatever the case, Ann Coulter just isn’t smart. Her writings, instead, appeal to people’s worst elements. These types of slurs, which are common for Coulter, show her intellectual poverty. She gets attention more for her bizarre irrationality than any type of reasoned argument. Indeed, Coulter never puts forward interesting or insightful plans for government, whatever her political agenda.
All of that means it’s better to simply ignore her. If people read her or don’t read her, I don’t really care – She just isn’t that important. People in power (on either side of the political spectrum) seemingly consider her an irrelevant side-show.
What I find dishonest is that she becomes a means for the other right-wing extremists to make themselves seem more palatable. Every single Republican (and most Democrats) who have declared their intention to run for president have stated that they think queer relationships are less valuable than hetero relationships. Most Republicans, moreover, explicitly argue that queer people are less worthy citizens than their hetero counterparts.
Mitt Romney, for instance, is building his presidential campaign around the unusual strategy of disparaging the state and people whom he governed. In particular, Romney disdains the “radical” idea that equality should exist under the law. This has recently won him the top-spot in a poll among conservative activists. To get that honor, Romney has firmly come-out against sexual freedom. Indeed, he has ignored the social (and even religious) complexity of the nation and created his own fantasy vision of the United States.
Romney outright rejects queer relationships and parenting. "Today, same-sex couples are marrying under the law in Massachusetts. Some are actually having children born to them,'' he told a mindless crowd of fanatical conservatives, "It's not right on paper. It's not right in fact. Every child has the right to have a mother and a father." It's funny, I always thought that children had a right to a safe and loving home, access to medical care, and a free education. Apparently, though, I was just way off base. All of those things are much less important than making sure that every household has a little penis-vagina sex going on inside.
Romney argues that even being friendly with gay folk disqualifies you as president. He has attempted to discredit his political rival Rudy Giuliani by calling him “pro-gay” (an appraisal of Giuliani that I, as a gay man, would not share). In Romney’s mind, being “pro-gay” and Republican don’t mix.
Don’t think, though, that Romney only hates the queers. He has plenty of hate to go around, including single hetero parents. "The family structure is critical to our society,” Romney recently stated, “We will not succeed if 60 percent of our children are born out of wedlock," he said.” For this candidate, they only possibility of success is if the nation conforms to a narrow model of “family” based on heterosexual marriage. Romney, I can only guess, must watch a lot of Donna Reed reruns.
Even as he takes stabs at single hetero parents, Romney knows that [verbal] gay-bashing will bring in the most votes and cash. He can predict doom and chaos if queers form families or are too visible in society. Romney has basically argued that God granted the hating of queer people as the special privilege and duty of fanatical Christians.
Like any good Republican, Giuliani quickly responded to being wrongly labeled “pro-gay.” The former New-York mayor assured the nation that he believes that gays and lesbians should always be treated as second-class citizens. "Marriage should be between a man and a woman," Giuliani told the conservative talk show host Sean Hanity, "Here's exactly the position I've always had. And it's the same — and I feel the same way about it today that I did eight, ten years ago when I signed the domestic partnership legislation: marriage should be between a man and a woman. It should remain that way."
Now we all know that I don’t think gay marriage should be the number one issue for queer activists. Like it or not, though, gay marriage has become the means through which the right-wing can mobilize the existing hatred and fear of queer people in this country for their own political purposes. Let’s not forget that Bush’s 2004 election victory was built, in part, on the backs of gay-men. All of these Republican candidates figure they can do likewise.
Yet, at the news of Coulter’s remark, these same Republican candidates made it an opportunity to present themselves as not at all hateful. Romney’s spokesman Kevin Madden said, "It was an offensive remark. Political discourse ought to be more substantive and thoughtful." McCain and Giuliani called Coulter's words “inappropriate,” according to the New York Times. These carefully crafted responses did not actually make any reference to the real violence and harassment that queer people face at the hands of people like Coulter. Instead, the best they could come up with was that such words just weren’t nice.
Much of the attention on this issue has been focused on how unfair it was that John Edwards, a straight man, should be subjected to such torment. The fact that gays and lesbians face this type of harassment on an almost daily basis in some parts of this nation gets little mention.
These Republican candidates get to play it both ways. They can appear magnanimous by condemning a hateful epithet, but promote policies that guarantee that heterosexuals have special rights and privileges denied to queer people. These campaigns tacitly make us the objects of both verbal and physical assaults even as they claim such things are "unfortunate."
Romney, Giuliani, and McCain might say that it’s not right to call us faggots, but they make it clear that it’s just fine to treat us like faggots.