Could Anti-Gay Politics Sink A Presidential Campaign?


Michele Bachmann did a wonderful job dodging Meet the Press host David Gregory's questions about her homophobic policies this weekend.

"I'm running for the presidency of the United States" became the Republican presidential candidate's mantra as Gregory asked her why she has built a career on anti-gay rhetoric yet won't admit any bias against the LGBT set.

Bachmann clearly wants to avoid such questions, and the only explanation I can think of is that she's fearful her extreme politics will turn off voters. This got me wondering: could anti-gay politics sink a presidential campaign?

Read more, AFTER THE JUMP...

As we learned during George W. Bush's 2000 and 2004 campaigns, the right-wing once salivated over stopping equality. John McCain, however, did not rely as much on social conservative fear-mongering in 2008. Though many in the conservative camp still oppose hate crime, non-discrimination and marriage rights, the nation is clearly moving toward a more inclusive place.

A Gallup Poll found that 53% of Americans support same-sex marriage. The Public Religion Research Institute, CNN, the Washington Post and ABC News have also all found majority support. What's more, most of the nation supported Don't Ask, Don't Tell's repeal and are against DOMA.

All of these numbers reflect the fact that LGBT people are becoming more visible, and therefore more accepted, than ever in American history.

With the 2012 race heating up -- and as LGBT activists in states like Oregon and Maine trying to put same-sex marriage on their respective ballots, and as the Proposition 8 trials continue, virtually guaranteeing the issue a national spotlight -- it will be interesting to see if the right starts unearthing and highlighting their archaic, exclusionary politics, or whether they'll try to avoid the issue all together. Most have already said they support a federal ban on gay marriage, but will candidates who have employed hyperbolic homophobia -- see also: Rick Santorum -- start saying they are "evolving" past such hate?

And, most importantly, how will the public respond to the possible revival of homophobic politicking on a national level? As voters become more accepting of their gay friends and neighbors, will they be revolted by Bachmann and company's discriminatory ways? Will being seen as intolerant and exclusionary help or hinder presidential candidates?

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  1. in a word: YES

    Posted by: matt | Aug 15, 2011 1:13:23 PM

  2. I sure hope so.

    Posted by: Brad | Aug 15, 2011 1:14:15 PM

  3. Someone needs to say: Yes, we know you're running for president of the united states. That's why we're interested in your thoughts on human rights for US citizens.

    Posted by: mike128 | Aug 15, 2011 1:20:54 PM

  4. I think so too. The quotes that Gregory used were from 2004 (I think) and these words are coming back to haunt her. She suggests that LGBT issues are 'frivolous', but it probably has become clear that a lot of people think otherwise. It's really not a good wedge issue for the Republicans to use anymore and it's likely to loose some voters.

    Posted by: Married in MA | Aug 15, 2011 1:31:38 PM

  5. her positions should be pushed so people can really see the real michele not the plastic front she puts on. also a big deal should be made of her taking all kinds of money from the government for her mortgage medicare payments and her families use of farm payments, while the while opposing government spending.

    Posted by: walter | Aug 15, 2011 1:39:09 PM

  6. While support for gay rights is clearly increasing I don't think it is a front-burner issue for a lot of Americans. I think a lot of people who would otherwise support us would not let glbt equality carry as much weight in their political decision making as other issues.

    Posted by: David | Aug 15, 2011 1:42:43 PM

  7. What a sad state of affairs that a Presidential candidate is expected do DEFEND HER OWN WORDS!!

    And she wants the spouses of candidates to be 'off limits'? Where was that sensitivity when she used something Michelle Obama said to question Barack Obama's candidacy?

    I swear, it's gotten to the point where you can't say hateful and judgmental things about people without them turning around and doing the same thing right back to you. Aww... what a tragedy. [/sarcasm]

    Yes, now that acceptance of gay marriage has reached or just passed the 50% mark I think homophobia like Bachmann's can be a spoiler. It's important we remind voters that the "Tea Party" governors elected during the mid-terms said the same thing. They ran on Issues but the minute they were in office they went after their real goals, "social issues," unions, and "entitlements."

    Posted by: Codswallop | Aug 15, 2011 1:50:01 PM

  8. I agree with David that LGBT issues are not a high priority to the majority of voters. Therefor I have come to question if equality is actually that important to Americans in general or if its just a catch phrase for the American Brand.

    Posted by: shayne | Aug 15, 2011 2:10:13 PM

  9. Well, with roughly 10,000,000 gay folks of all ages, and our oh, say 40 to 60 family members a piece - and our neighbors and co-workers and friends in the hetero lifestyle, I'd say 250,000,000 Americans now know a gay person, (the other 50,000,000 are in denial,) and really can't see what the bother is -- and it's hard to win elections when you miff 250,000,000 voters with arrant nonsense about how hairdressers are ruining the world. I think the Republicans, and the Democrats, are seeing this reality. But boy is this going to be the Big Gay Election as every candidate from dog catcher to president is asked their views on gay folks. It's quite a sight to behold. And they're not going to get away with "gays bad," and pull out a can of "gay-be-gone" and do a thing about it. Oh well, they'll survive. And with NY with gay marriage, it's hard to argue hetero marriages are somehow wrecked because of the gays down the block.

    Posted by: Jim Hlavac | Aug 15, 2011 2:10:44 PM

  10. I think what Bachmann's performance on "Meet The Press" showed is that she is aware that getting caught up taking the bigoted side of a discussion of gay rights could hurt her when it's in the national media. It also demonstrated that she thinks that her repeated slandering of gay people, and her far right positions on gay issues as a whole, are of such minuscule consequence to the nation's voters in the aggregate that she can afford to be dismissive of our very existence when and where it suits her.

    "I'm running for the Presidency of the US..." means, in this context that us homos are such a small part of the country that her long record of agitating against our equal rights should hardly make a difference to the heterosexual voters in America.

    And she knows that she's got the FOTF, the AFA, and FRC all in her back pocket, with their massive radio operations and Sunday morning church bulletin "alerts" ready to go to mobilize the Christian conservatives to elect her so that she and they can take the fight to the gays without her ever having to gay bash in the national media again.

    Posted by: Vann | Aug 15, 2011 2:23:34 PM

  11. I want to make a prediction that Obama's "evolving" views on same-sex marriage will lead him to announce he now supports it during the 2012 campaign. I think his splitting the difference position in 2008 -- that he personally believed that marriage should be one man-one woman while opposing DOMA -- was a political calculus that being pro-marriage would have been too risky in 2008. But now, I think things have changed enough that he will want to force his Republican opponent to again and again take positions on social issues like gay marriage and abortion that turn off the all-important independent voters. Announcing that he has had a change of heart will rally liberals behind him just as they have been disappointed by the debt deal and it will make the Republicans look even more mean spirited.

    Posted by: David N | Aug 15, 2011 2:25:38 PM

  12. the bigger question for the right wing candidates is 'If you support a federal ban on gay marriage what evidence are you using to support such a ban?What proof do you have that gay marriages hurt straight marriages? In the States that have gay marriage is there ANY evidence that straight marriages have been affected in any way at all ? Is there any evidence children have been affected in any way? the answer is a big fat no. Infact the divorce rate in MA is actually lower than the rest of the country.

    Posted by: paul | Aug 15, 2011 2:28:53 PM

  13. We've got to stop treating ourseleves like the "100 Neediest cases" The figures on gay rights in general and gay marraige in paritcular shwo we're now part of the (wait for it)


    Making Bachmann choke on her own words is no side issue. Not jsut because we have more across-the-board support than we imagine but her handling of this shows her true colors. She's a "Dominionist" and she must be made to confront that with no "ifs, and or buts."

    Likewise Governor Goodhair.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Aug 15, 2011 2:31:31 PM

  14. I hope you're right, David N. It would soothe a little of the liberal vitriol aimed against him, at least.

    Posted by: Gregoire | Aug 15, 2011 2:34:15 PM

  15. Thanks Andrew for posting this. I listened to the words of La Bachmann on TV...
    She is clearly hateful, spiteful, bigoted and prepared to use any device at her disposal to avoid having her bigotry exposed.
    She could never be in a position to swear an oath to uphold the Constitution....she could not uphold the laws nor could she treat all citizens equally.
    I think she has disqualified herself.
    @David N : you make some great points ....let Obama make some bold moves towards his liberal will come out in droves !

    Posted by: JackFknTwist | Aug 15, 2011 2:35:39 PM

  16. I don't think it deters any republican from running. They thrive on wedge issues during campaigns. If it were a democrat, then I'd say it would be harmful to a run.

    Posted by: Robert in NYC | Aug 15, 2011 2:35:55 PM

  17. It's funny that the election is touted as a nation-wide contest. In reality, nearly every state is already decided. There are probably ten to 15 swing states which, in the way our elections work, are the only states that matter in November '12. IA, GA, FL, WI, NC, etc. in these socially conservative states, I think it is very tricky to have any kind of socially liberal agenda. It won't help any candidate to have a pro marriage equality stance. Now the question is, will it help to have far right position as bachman, santorum, and possibly perry and romney 2.0? They are far right on gay rights and seem to support a federal constitutional amendment. I don't think the mainstream wants this, but they certainly don't want gays to have equal treatment either.

    Speaking of the election. Perry is going to be a problem. If he's smart, he's going to pick Marco Rubio as his running mate. That will be an unbeatable team. Half of the swing states, FL, NM, AZ, NV have very high latino populations and picking rubio pushes these states out of obama's reach.

    As the economy continues to wither, the left is not rallying for obama, I have an increasingly sinking feeling that we may have a perry presidency. I guess a lot of you who are disappointed with obama will finally have a real enemy to hate.

    Posted by: dms | Aug 15, 2011 2:39:07 PM

  18. I think you nailed it DMS. I wish we could all ignore Michele Bachmann from now on. She is NEVER getting past the primary.

    Our great fear is Rick Perry. Everybody who reads this blog should be flipping at the idea of that man as president. All the whining about Obama -- some justified -- will pale in comparison to having this man in the White House.

    Posted by: Gregoire | Aug 15, 2011 2:56:26 PM

  19. "I'm running for the presidency of the United States" -- it kills me how she thinks this makes her views on gays (well documented in the past; clearly the same at present) not an issue.

    Honey, it is A BIG ISSUE.

    So ... answer the damn question and kiss your candidacy goodbye.

    Posted by: Michael in Toronto | Aug 15, 2011 3:10:11 PM

  20. Oh ... and we mustn't ignore her. On the contrary, if she visits your state, go and see her and ask her "the question."

    Posted by: Michael in Toronto | Aug 15, 2011 3:12:19 PM

  21. anti-gay + liberace husband + medicaid fraud = sunk campaign?

    Posted by: JH | Aug 15, 2011 3:18:22 PM

  22. What MIke128 said!

    Posted by: Really? | Aug 15, 2011 3:23:13 PM

  23. Hopefully.

    Posted by: Matt26 | Aug 15, 2011 3:30:51 PM

  24. This deliberately self indulgent misuse of the word "hate" not only smacks of queer fundamentalism, it blinds us to the actual dynamics of the politics which affect us as a community.

    For example, it's not only extraordinarily unlikely that Rick Santorum "hates" LGBTQ people, but irrelevant if he does. Like most politicians, his positions on social issues are contrived to manipulate the voters he's targeting. He needs Christofacists to get and maintain power, and so adopts poses that appeal to them. Not long ago he would have taken racist and antisemitic stances; now he adopts homophobic ones. How politicians feel and what they personally believe couldn't be less relevant.

    The distinction is crucial for any number of reasons, not least of all that to attack Santorum's for his ridiculous rhetoric without condemning the religious bigotry of his supporters is akin to playing Whack-A-Mole. So long as the notion that "faith" renders discrimination excusable in a society allegedly based on equality goes unchallenged, there will be an infinite supply of Rick Santorums popping up just as fast as we can smash them down.

    To address the puppet and ignore the hand that controls it is stupid. It's time to stop whimpering about who hates us and address the issue of the violation of the Constitution inherent in any attempt to legislate religious law. In a democracy we all have a perfect right to hate anyone we like; we have no right to establish a de facto theocracy.

    Posted by: Bryan | Aug 15, 2011 4:02:44 PM

  25. @DMS "Half of the swing states, FL, NM, AZ, NV have very high latino populations and picking rubio pushes these states out of obama's reach."

    I don't believe the voting Latino population of this country is as homogenous as you imply. Rubio is Cuban-American, a group which has had political support in the US for 5 decades. The Mexican- and Puerto Rican-American segments of the population don't necessarily share their Cuban compatriots love of Republicans, nor have they shared the political advantages which have flowed from it. After all, it has been the GOP vs the brown-skinned in this country for many, many years. The GOP has not been shy about building fences, advocating mass deportations, "papers, please" laws and other assaults on Latino people. And while it is certainly true that non-citizens don't vote, many of their children who are citizens are of voting age and many have extended families which include US citizens. Perry would be foolish to count very much on Latino voters. Lastly, do not discount what Obama could do himself, as President, between now and election day to firm up Latino support.

    Posted by: RWG | Aug 15, 2011 4:37:04 PM

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