If you’ve been looking for further proof that American politics is going thoroughly bonkers as partisans claw for increasingly personal labels to hurl at and discredit foes or those who don’t agree — it’s a lot easier doing that than debating someone on such piffle as actual policies and offering alternative solutions — then look no further than Pennsylvania where one Democrat has now outed another Democrat….for really being straight.
It’s bad enough that in the past 10 days two conservative Republicans (a blogger and an activist) have claimed people with whom they don’t agree were gay since (the bottom line) gay is a bad thing to be among some voters and it’s a way to put someone on the defensive and discredit them. In both instances the people targeted have not said they are gay and among most thinking Americans, it would not make one iota of difference if they were.
But now, in something that seems like it was a Saturday Night Live sketch, we get this. And, no, I am not making it up: it comes from a great newspaper known as the Philadelphia Inquirer:
It’s happened so often that it’s now a cultural cliche: the gay politician pretending to be straight. In most parts of the nation, homosexuality or bisexuality is a clear electoral liability.
Not in Center City’s 182d state House district. There, it’s a badge of honor.
Veteran Rep. Babette Josephs (D., Phila.) last Thursday accused her primary opponent, Gregg Kravitz, of pretending to be bisexual in order to pander to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender voters, a powerful bloc in the district.
“I outed him as a straight person,” Josephs said during a fund-raiser at the Black Sheep Pub & Restaurant, as some in the audience gasped or laughed, “and now he goes around telling people, quote, ‘I swing both ways.’ That’s quite a respectful way to talk about sexuality. This guy’s a gem.”
Kravitz, 29, said that he is sexually attracted to both men and women and called Josephs’ comments offensive.
“That kind of taunting is going to make it more difficult for closeted members of the LGBT community to be comfortable with themselves,” Kravitz said. “It’s damaging.”
Some even say, why, this is a wonderful development that marks great progress in American political life:
“We’ve hit a new high point when candidates are accused of pretending to be gay to win a seat,” said Mark Segal, publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News and a pioneering civil rights advocate.
“I’ve been doing this for 40 years, and I never have heard of this kind of charge in any race in the nation,” he said. “I take that as flattery. It shows how far we’ve come.”
No. It isn’t progress. The issue here really isn’t whether someone is gay or straight.
It’s yet another sign of how mean-spirited American politics has become, where people can’t stick to issues but feel they MUST — on the radio, on cable talk shows, among bloggers, in blog comments, in political campaigns — go after someone personally if they dare to a)see things differently or b)somehow stand in the way of their ambition or the ambitions of a person or political party that they support. It all seems to tie in with road rage on the highways, shopping cart rage at supermarkets and more. It’s as if America has become converted to a nation of sullen teenagers.
It isn’t progress. It’s one more sign of the coarsening of America where the decibel level is what matters, news show hosts smirk approvingly as right-left set panels turn into screamfests (GREAT TV!), political zingers candidates cast at each other are what gets the headlines and sound bytes and snark can even make someone a political celebrity.
Presumably the candidates in the race have some issues to debate rather than the sexuality of anyone who’s running.
But that’s ohhhhhhhh so boring and so 20th century. Isn’t it?
UPDATE: There has been some reader feedback. Since we have not cleared use of the readers’ names we’ll omit them.
–One reader says this:
I would call it 19th century, actually.
–Another offers this:
Maybe it’s not about whether someone is gay or straight. Maybe it’s about whether someone is a liar. …or does “politician” already make that point moot?
–And then there’s this:
I remember when Josephs was first elected, because I lived in her Center City district back then. The only way to describe one of her advertisements that appared at our door was manhating. It was clear that she had no intention of representing me. She is hard-core.
–And, my favorite one which is this:
“among most thinking Americans, it would not make one iota of difference if they were
Except that most “thinking” Americans actually have REASONS to view being gay negatively. Of course you can’t possibly admit this, you only discredit the very idea that people who disagree with you could possibly have rational reasons for you. “moderate voice”? Right, like Lenin was a moderate.
Why do I love this one? Because if you re-read the above post this comment confirms some of what I noted about hatred and mean spiritedness in today’s politics. Also, as I have mentioned in many posts in TMV over the years, if a moderate doesn’t agree with someone then they MUST be right, or left. A far left liberal considers a moderate a conservative Republican if he disagrees. A far right conservative considers a moderate a liberal if he disagrees. Someone who is dating a sheep will say a moderate isn’t a moderate if he isn’t dating a sheep. (I say BAAH! to that one).
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.