Joint Blogging: Mobilizing Hatred this Campaign – OK

by PBW and “the boy”

There has been a lot of talk about the way race and gender have been mobilized this campaign season to keep people from voting with their interests – a stable economy, job creation, equal access to services like health care, etc. But very few people seem to be talking about the “fear of the queer” that has once again risen in local elections.

In 2004, Gay Marriage ballot initiatives were on several states local election ballots. When Kerry and many of those ballots failed, a queer backlash came from within the Democratic Party claiming that pushing gay marriage had mobilized the conservative vote. Republicans also used the gay marriage initiatives during their campaigns and afterward to vilify the Democrats making the backlash seem all the more real to those who want us to put our rights on the back burner “for the good of the nation.” In one swift shift, gay marriage become the sole foci of both parties as a pariah to Democratic success ignoring the swift-voting, the rumours about Kerry’s service, voter fraud, Kerry’s own lackluster presence with Democrats as well as undecided voters, etc.

While all of the candidates have come out against gay marriage in 2008, the spectre of queer rights in the form of gay marriage has once again captivated local election as varied as California, Arizona, and Oklahoma.

This ad from Republican incumbent Inhofe about his Democrat opponent Andrew Rice typifies the half truths and sexist and homophobic language that are being leveled in the local OK race to cast Democrats as fringe:

Inhofe is not only questioning Rice on the basis of his “moral compass” but also banking on his soft spoken voice and demeanor to make people who think “they know queer when they see it” question Rice’s own sexuality and subsequently the truth value of anything he says or offers.

Further the connection between him and Obama is then negatively self-reinforcing, mobilizing Victorian sensibilities about the “deviant” body in order to warn “good Americans” that their country and their way of life is at stake. In this case, Obama’s blackness further queers Rice and Rice’s supposed queerness further otherizes (or renders more foreign) Obama.

Andrew and his wife, Apple, and 2 sons

The reality is that Rice is a moderate to conservative Democrat who has worked tirelessly across party lines because the Oklahoma state government has an even 50% split between Republican and Democrat representatives.

Unlike many liberal Democrats, he supports gun rights and unlike our image, he comes from a working class community and is a Christian. He ran for office in Oklahoma precisely because he wanted to support the development and equality of his hometown Oklahomans rather than be another New York liberal.

He [Cornel West] talked about the gramscian idea of the organic intellectual, that if you go from a rural area to a place of culture and gain knowledge and experience there, it is your organic responsibility to return to your community to effect change. This [returning to OK w/ wife Apple] was my chance. (ColbyMagazine)

Like most liberal Democrats he is also a strong supporter of the troops and VA benefits while believing this war to be a misguided response to the horror of 9/11. All of these issues have been co-opted as part of the Republican platform, despite consistent reports that they vote against VA benefits and proper equipment for soldiers.

Andrew Rice’s brother was killed in the 9/11 bombings prompting him to run for office; he wants to get back to a place when the “country came together” with a spirit of aid, heroism, and hope. His personal connections to 9/11 should further resonate with a conservative base, some of whom still believe that Iraq had something to do with the attack on the towers.

So what is so scary about Rice?

  • he advocates for women’s and children’s rights – including full health care and reproductive rights benefits and the Children’s Health Insurance Program which both Inhofe and McCain voted against
  • he works for Indigenous rights alongside tribal leaders supporting their access to service against Republicans, including education benefits Republicans tried to cut
  • he supports education at a time that local and national Republican leaders are voting against education funding including his support for – the Teacher Pay Raise Initiative, Higher Learning Access Program to get more Okies into college, & he is the only OK rep to endorse the US Public Service Academy Act which would give 4 years free college for 5 years of public service,
  • He supported medicaid against cuts led by Republicans including Inhofe
  • He supports health care reform including advocacy for coverage for poor and marginalized families
  • He supports some gay rights
  • read his total platform or just learn more here

In other words, Rice is committed to a vision of the nation that is open and supportive of all its members: the hardworking middle Americans, the elderly, the indigenous, women, children, poc, and yes gay people. He also comes from and embraces a middle American lifestyle and background that should easily appeal to both conservatives and moderates.

In looking at the Oklahoma race, we are left with one question: what is so frightening about extending marriage to everyone in this nation who is part of a consenting and loving partnership that would make people ignore their eyes, the public record, and their own needs?

Until Democrats (or N. Americans in general) can answer that question, Democrats will continue to be beholden to local scare tactics and the queer community will continue to be blamed. This works against not only one of the potential bases for Democrats but also against Democrats being critical and self-reflexive about their platforms, their tactics, and their constituents replacing such an important step with the simplistic “fear of the queer” and making it that much easier for our weaknesses to remain intact election after election.

—–

images
  • Sage Stossel, Sage Ink, the atlantic, 7/31/2003
  • campaign image. unattributed.
  • Sept 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows 2/15/2003
  • Sen Rice at a Steffanie’s Law Rally (would extend medical coverage to poor patients who participate in clinical trials rather than deny them benefits for said participation)

2 thoughts on “Joint Blogging: Mobilizing Hatred this Campaign – OK

  1. Good questions. Gay-baiting is still a big strategy in these state and local campaigns, as you say, so thanks for bringing attention to these campaigns that those of us outside of the state in question probably won’t see or hear about otherwise.What, indeed, is so threatening about same-sex marriage? Part of it is the conservative authoritarian world view, in which there always has to be a boss or a big daddy. In queer marriage, who’s the boss? Who wears the pants? (This is also why feminist straight marriages push their buttons.) The indeterminacy of the situation is deeply unsettling for coservative authoritarians.The other thing at stake here is the narrative about GLBTQ people that conservative authoritarians have historically told themselves through the 20th C, namely: inverts/perverts are a menace to society because they are promiscuous and non-monogamous, unlike us virtuous straight married people. Now that GLBTQ people want the right to marry, this interrupts the old narrative (and I might add, subverts it brilliantly–it’s just good politics.) Straight conservative authoritarians are left without a legitimate explanation for their presumed moral superiority–which is why their arguments against gay marriage are so fear-driven rather than logic-, evidence-, or reason-based.Good luck to Rice. (I’m also glad to hear that you say he’s good on Native people’s issues.)

  2. that is an interesting assessment: normal = married, abnormal = unmarried and presumed promiscuous and I think you are right.For me there is something problematic with countering that formula by trying to appear “normal” instead of questioning or queering normal to make room for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, within a more accurate reflection of normal.

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