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Saturday, October 16, 2004

The debate rages

Kerry is going to regret that Mary Cheney comment, because the Republicans have decided to flog it. But he's not going to lose votes over it because people are angry with him. He's just going to lose votes because this will be an effective tactic in keeping Kerry's message in the third debate from reaching the public who did not watch the debate and will be relying on the political talk about it to inform them of what was said.

I don't think mentioning Mary Cheney is wrong. The Republicans have used gay-baiting to scare their constiuency for so long they have exactly zero right not to be held accountable for it. Kerry was holding Bush and Cheney accountable for their willingness to play with the lives of gay people, including family members, in order to further a political agenda. The right is just resorting to one of their favorite tactics, which I call It's Worse to Call Someone on It Than to Do It. That's what they are doing when the whine about bigots and racists being called out for what they are. And that's what they're doing now with the whining that Democrats shouldn't be helping civil rights leaders fight voter supression efforts, because that implies the Republicans want to supress the black vote, which they do. And of course that's what they are doing when they call it poor taste to call Bush a liar, which he is.

The tactic works, but generally only on people who vote for the Republicans anyway. It just helps them sleep at night is all. And that's why I strongly disagree with this article from Salon that states that the comment about Mary Cheney is going to cost Kerry female voters.

It's the moms, all those women who are married to the men who voted for Bush in 2000 because they thought they'd like to have a beer with him. We know some of those moms -- we all do -- and we're guessing that they won't be happy with a candidate who uses somebody's kid as a political tool.

I have a strong suspicion that women who voted for Bush last election because their husbands did are mostly going to vote with their husbands this time around, too. And those who have gone through the painful process of realizing that their Bush-loving husbands are wrong and are going to vote for Kerry are probably going to have their convictions in Kerry strengthened after that debate, due to his support for abortion rights and raising the minimum wage.

I think in the end how the comment is remembered will differ wildly between those who originally watched the debate and those who didn't. What this letter-writer to Salon explains is what I think those who actually watched the debate will remember.

By asking the candidates if they think homosexuality is a "choice," Schieffer deliberately left them plenty of room to maneuver -- or to make fools of themselves. Bush dodged the question and focused on his constitutional amendment. Then Kerry brought the question back to personal reality, citing Mary Cheney and implicitly condemning Bush for dodging the "choice" question. ("Choice" is a loaded right-wing word: it's used to suggest that gay people want "special rights" because they "choose" to be gay, and of course it echoes the abortion rights issue.) Kerry's tactic reminded antigay Bush supporters that the VP's daughter is a homo. It also allowed him to stand up for gay people ("it's not a choice") even though he's still publicly against gay marriage.

But for those who watch only the post-debate spin might walk away with the impression that Kerry was picking on Dick Cheney. Or they might not. I think how those who only watch the post-debate spin will perceive it will depend entirely on their own attitudes about homosexuality. Those who think it's fine aren't going to see what the fuss is about. Those who are homophobic are going to think that it's beyond the pale that Kerry brought this up.

5 Comments:

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