by Jonathan Rauch
The economy is tanking. The country may be about to default on the national debt. And what are the Republican political candidates debating? Gays.
Michele Bachmann (whose husband's Christian counseling centers reportedly practice so-called reparative therapy) and Rick Santorum sign up to a pledge opposing gay marriage, sharia law (nice juxtaposition, there), and "intrusively intimate commingling among attracteds" in military showers. Dark horse Gary Johnson, seeing an opportunity to differentiate himself, issues a statement deploring the pledge as "offensive," along with a YouTube ad that looks to have been produced for about $10 but has a nice message. (Rick Sincere has a good rundown.) Poor Tim Pawlenty can't decide if homosexuality is a choice.
Gary Johnson's statement is strong and salutary:
The Republican Party cannot afford to have a Presidential candidate who condones intolerance, bigotry and the denial of liberty to the citizens of this country…. If candidates who sign this pledge somehow think they are scoring some points with some core constituency of the Republican Party, they are doing so at the peril of writing off the vast majority of Americans who want no part of this "pledge" and its offensive language.
Kudos to him for that. What's especially sad about the Republican debate is its frozen-in-amber quality. To listen to most of these folks, you'd never know that same-sex marriage is legal in six states and the District of Columbia, that an overwhelming majority of the public supports some form of officially sanctioned same-sex union (we're talking 70 percent of the public and half of Republicans, according to Zogby), and that only a third think homosexuality should be discouraged by society.
Nope, for Republicans it's still the old debate about whether homosexuality is a choice and how icky it is (you want me to shower with those people?). In the Grand Old Party, it's always 1977. Maybe they could put Anita Bryant on the ticket.