Another election day has come and gone, and while I’ve grown leery of predicting anything in an era when crazy is the most prominent characteristic of our political environment, the results may justify a cautious optimism.
Despite the constant references to the “gay agenda,” anyone sentient has long recognized that the group having the real “agenda” has been the extreme religious right—and it’s an agenda that doesn’t have much place for anyone who isn’t one of them. It’s anti-gay, obviously, but it is also anti-immigrant, anti-woman, anti-freethought….pretty much anti-modernity, actually.
So it was heartening to see results from a referendum in Mississippi, of all places, where the usual subjects were promoting a measure that would have given “personhood” to fertilized eggs—thus outlawing not only abortion, but several methods of birth control. This proved to be a bridge too far even for Mississippi voters, who are not generally considered pinko/socialist/liberal types.
It was also gratifying to see the recall of the Arizona State Senator who had spearheaded that state’s mean-spirited and draconian anti-immigration frenzy. There are legitimate arguments to made about immigration policy, but these sorts of punitive efforts are clearly based upon animosity toward people who “don’t look like us.” (As I have often noted, my own son-in-law is an immigrant who has been in the US for 30 years, and has never encountered any anti-immigrant sentiment. He’s never been asked whether he’s here legally. It’s hard not to attribute that to the fact that he’s a very fair-skinned white guy from England, with a cute British accent, rather than a brown-skinned person with a Spanish accent. But the anti-immigrant movement is all about the rule of law—not bigotry. Right?)
In Ohio, voters overwhelming rejected a mean-spirited effort to punish teachers, firefighters and other public employees for the perceived transgressions of “big” government.
And here in my hometown, we achieved a milestone of sorts with the election of an openly-gay candidate to the City-County Council.
Not only did Zach Adamson, the candidate in question, win election easily, his orientation never became an issue—not overtly, not covertly. If there was any sort of “whisper” campaign, the whisper was so soft no one heard it. Zach ran a close third among the four Democratic at-large candidates (and third among all ten running at large), and focused his campaign upon the issues most important to voters: infrastructure, business climate and other matters with which a municipal government must deal. He stressed his experience as a small business owner, and treated his orientation in the same matter-of-fact fashion he treated everything else. His partner was visible and involved.
Little by little, gay and lesbian candidates around the country have been running similar campaigns—not hiding their homosexuality, but placing sexual orientation in the same context that heterosexual candidates do. It’s one more piece of information about a particular, complex human being. Increasingly, out gay candidates are winning elective office—not just on the coasts, but in places like Indiana and even Texas, where Annise Parker, an out lesbian, just won her second term as Mayor. (Her campaign was successful despite significant anti-gay activity, however; here in Indianapolis, as I noted above, there was no such activity evident.)
I’d love to believe that these elections were a harbinger of a return to collective sanity, but I allowed myself to believe that in the wake of Obama’s victory and I’ve been forcibly reminded otherwise. On the other hand, it’s hard not to see the vicious backlash against Obama as the last gasp of people who “want their country back”—whether they are reacting against an African-American President or simply against the rapidity of social change. The November elections seem qualitatively different, and for that reason more promising.
But I’ve been wrong before.