by Sara Robinson
In the end, it might just turn out that the net effect of the Foley debacle could be more evangelicals at the polls this fall -- as well as a much more complicated and nuanced gay rights debate in the years ahead.
The GOP has been worried about turning out their evangelical faithful this year -- and with good reason. James Dobson, Pat Robertson, and other leaders on far religious right have been squealing ever since last spring that the Republicans had better straighten up and deliver on their social agenda, or their voters might just stay home this fall. As summer turned to fall, their outrage got increasingly louder -- and the September polls began to back up the reality that this time, they may not be bluffing.
But, as Rove only knows, there's always a way to get those folks to the polls. They've been trained for 25 years to respond with Pavlovian reliability to the dog-whistle call of two issues -- abortion and gay rights -- by lining right up in front of the voting booths. If there are pregnant women to harass or faggots to flog, they will be there, salivating under their Sunday hats, without fail.
2006 was shaping up to be a quiet year on both fronts. Somehow, those brilliant GOP strategists weren't able to get anything issuized in time to hang a campaign on it. Maybe they noted the extreme disappointment on the far right, and made a calculated decision that the so-called values voters were getting too skeptical and restive, and wouldn't stand for another round of bait-and-switch. Maybe they were distracted, thrown off their game by the continuing stream of bad news from Iraq. For what ever reason, it was looking for a while there like this would be the first campaign year in memory without some abortion- or gay-related issue occupying the front and center of the GOP's campaign.
Foley changed all that. Ironically, the net effect of this debacle may be to bring the homosexual bogeyman back to the fore -- and, thus, the evangelical base back to the polls for an election they were otherwise determined to sit out.
You can see the outlines of this already spinning into place. The right-wing blogs and media are already inferring that this whole mess was the direct result of a "gay cabal" in the GOP that wielded enough power in the House to keep this thing covered up for over a decade. The implication will not be lost on the faithful: This is all the fault of those Satanic gays and their Satanic gay agenda again. Only this time, the conspirators are right here inside our own party! The only way to purge the evildoers will be to get out to the polls and vote out everyone with any connection to this plot. Witch-hunts R us! Pack up a picnic basket, and bring the whole family!
And, of course, it proves once again (and perhaps once and for all) that they were right all along about that homosexual=pedophile calculus, too. You put these guys anywhere near kids, and they'll seduce them and recruit them to the homosexual agenda. It is, after all, the only way they can reproduce. We told you so. And now, you liberal idiots are never going to hear the end of it. We're going to jam this in your teeth every time gay rights gets mentioned for the next 20 years.
The problem here, of course, (as I mentioned last week) is that liberals don't equate homosexuality with pedophilia because most of the gays on our side of the spectrum tend to be well-integrated and comfortable with themselves. They're out, they're self-aware, and they've been allowed the chance to grow into their own adult sexuality. They're grownups, with normal lives and normal relationships. Since these are the gays we know, we're quite clear that gay men aren't any more likely to be child molesters than straight men are. When we talk about gay issues, these are the people we've got in mind.
But, as we're learning this week, when conservatives say that gays are pedophiles, they may also be accurately reporting what they see on their own side. As I've discussed here before, a core reason people become conservative because they're afraid of losing control. (Words like "repressed" and "tightly wound" may apply here.) Psychologists who work with pedophiles -- both hetero and homo -- say that virtually all of them suffered some major innocence-shattering life trauma when they were at a similar age as their victims. Their psychosexual development stopped right there, and never went any further. Thus, in a real sense, pedophiles are sexually still children themselves, and thus simply seeking out their developmental peers.
It follows that somebody who sustained a severe trauma like that in adolescence -- especially if the trauma was all bound up with the dawning awareness that they were attracted to other men -- might become a) conservative and b) a potential pedophile. The whole desperate quest for control began with the need to control their own unresolved desires, and radiated out from there to form the foundation of their entire worldview.
The upshot here is that, if you're a Republican, it seems quite possible that an unusual number of the gays you know really are pretty sick and twisted characters who prey on boys. Evidently, there's a nonstop parade of these guys in God's Own Party: in fact, what we're seeing this week is that they're so pervasive that Sidney Blumenthal recently called the GOP the "largest walk-in closet in Washington."
Which means that we may need to realize that when our conservative friends start going on about those gay child sex perverts, they're just calling it exactly as they see it. And we, in response, think of the well-adjusted, healthy gay folk we know, and wonder what in the hell they're talking about. It may be time for both sides to consider the possibility that, just maybe, we are both telling the truth. Or, at least, two different truths about the same issue.
The irony here, of course, is that the right wing uses perversion as their excuse to stigmatize gays, without understanding that it's that very stigma that creates the perversion in the first place. This is what happens when gay adolescents are shamed, sanctioned, and threatened to the point where their natural progression into adult sexuality is stunted. For generations, pubescent Catholic boys cursed with these forbidden stirrings got religion, swore off sex entirely, and entered the priesthood -- and we all know how well that turned out for everyone concerned.
Now the Republicans are reaping the same whirlwind. It's going to be damned ironic if their turnout this year actually increases due to the sin discovered in their own ranks.