Kerry, Gay Daughters and Blue Hairs
Christopher Manion, a conservative critic of the neoconservatives, is the author of among the more trenchant Christian critiques of Bush’s approach to Christianity and of the Iraq war. He writes for the conservative site LewRockwell.com, and yesterday upbraided me for my analysis of the Kerry-Cheney contretemps over the Cheneys’ gay daughter. He writes
‘ . . . having worked 45 years in Republican politics, permit me to tell you why Kerry brought up the Cheney girl: he is reminding the “little old ladies in tennis shoes” (remember them? Goldwater days) that Cheney is culturally opposed to their notion of life, sex, and marriage. Bill O’Reilly to the contrary, not everybody knows the Cheney situation.
We call these millions of folks the “blue-hairs” – they never forgive. Remember Phil Crane’s Brother? Dan? Representative of Illinois? . . . Crane was trounced after a 17-year-old intern testified that she’d tried (and eventually succeeded) to seduce him [while other candidates on the left have survived far more damaging allegations.] They never forgive.
And remember Bush’s DUI conviction revelation 4 years ago? It almost sunk him.
These are the blue-hairs. Kerry was talking to [them]. Deft. Daring. Very Clintonian.
Manion is saying, as I read him, that one important constituency of the Republican Party is very uptight moral conservatives who will relentlessly punish Republican candidates for what they see as peccadillos. He is saying that some percentage of these “blue hairs” still did not know that Cheney had a gay daughter as of the third presidential debate, and that the Kerry campaign wanted to make sure they did know, so as to ensure that they punished Bush-Cheney for it at the polls.
I am not sure this analysis actually contradicts what I said yesterday, which is that for Kerry and other liberals, gayness is not anything to be ashamed of, while conservatives either see it as akin to pedophilia or bestiality (e.g. Pa. Sen. Rick Santorum) or at best see it as a sort of physical disability. We currently have a moral economy on this issue. From Kerry’s point of view it would not be wrong to mention the fact of someone’s gayness where it was already well known, whereas from a rightwing point of view, bringing it up is either gauche or a horrible insult. That the mention was an attempt to game the blue hairs is entirely plausible, and I thank Manion for the suggestion. But my answer to the ethical question of whether Kerry was in Lynne Cheney’s words “not a good man” for doing so is that by his lights, he was doing nothing morally wrong. If Cheney has people in her party who are bigots, she should tell them they are not good people.