When Karl Rove resigned I made a remark about Republican homophobia that drew a hostile comment. This week Republican homophobia is in the news again—and the morning papers say that it will claim its next victim, a Republican Senator, by the end of the day. Republican hypocrisy is, of course, a source of satisfaction to any good Democrat like myself, but I still find this episode more depressing than satisfying, and it proves at several levels how far we have to go.
In the wake of the revelation of Larry Craig’s arrest and guilty plea for suggestive (though not overtly obscene) actions in a Minneapolis airport rest room, one of his local newspapers published an article indicating a long history of rumors, accusations, and even unsolicited denials, going back to another Congressional page scandal (of which I had no memory at all) in the early 1980s. Craig, in fact, got married for the first time, when in his early forties, in the wake of that scandal. Whether Craig is gay—or perhaps I should say, how gay he is—I have no idea. Some evidence suggests that whole issue is more complicated than a lot of us think. Not long ago I saw an extraordinary documentary about a
In any case, Craig seems to have had impulses he could only pursue furtively. What I speculated a few weeks ago, in effect, was that his whole-nine-yards conservative Republicanism might be a defense against those impulses, a frantic attempt to repudiate unacceptable parts of himself. Certainly the Reverend Ted Haggard seems to have been in that predicament as well. It makes me sad that people are driven to such denial, but it makes me very angry that their problems have become our problems through the mechanism of the political realm. Not content with suppressing whatever nasty impulses they might have, “conservatives” are determined to suppress them in everyone else, too—and that right, as the Supreme Court has fortunately recognized, they do not have.
Craig’s arrest is a consequence of various kinds of homophobia. I was stunned, perhaps naively, that gay men are still trolling in public restrooms. Gays, like straights, can now troll in bars, on the net, or in the ads in their local alternative newspaper without having to fear offending a totally unwilling target—but not, of course, if they feel they absolutely have to conceal their impulses. But I was even more stunned that the
For the past forty years the
The contrast between our views of public and private transgressions is most depressing as well. We can’t take any action against officials who subvert the constitution or corrupt the political process through the Justice Department, it seems, but we can drive any closeted gay out of public life. It reminds me of one of my favorite episodes in American history, the election of 1884, in which reformer Democrat Grover Cleveland was favored to beat machine Republican James G. Blaine, who had had to admit taking a bribe to influence legislation. Then, after