Gordon Klingenschmitt

An Exercise in Contrasts

Garterbelt's head explodes. (Detail of frame from Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, episode 3, 'Pulp Addiction')

Michelangelo Signorile, on a looming spectre in the tale of equality, liberty and justice for all, and other such Americana such as virtue and citizenship:

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has finally lifted its ban on gay adults―except for those groups that still want to discriminate. Sure, it’s cause for optimism that the BSA is not enforcing the ban on every chapter and group. But by allowing some to discriminate by choice―at this particular juncture in American politics―the BSA is setting a dangerous precedent. By allowing the religiously-affiliated troops to still ban gay adults, the BSA is making a religious exemption seem like a reasonable compromise when in fact it is allowing the very people who would discriminate to keep discriminating.

(Boldface accent added)

That last is a particular point of Signorile’s; he raised it last week in a piece about the 2016 Republican presidential candidates we had cause to note for our own reasons. His point isn’t merely valid, it is important. This is the ostensible point of these religious freedom arguments conservatives keep asserting.

We would also remind that this is about more than gay marriage; this is about more, even than the Gay Fray itself.

This is dangerous.

But there is another recurring theme, as well; as Signorile noted, “The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has finally lifted its ban on gay adults―except for those groups that still want to discriminate”.

We would remind a point from our recent misfortune to consider Gov. Scott Walker’s response to the idea that the Boy Scouts of America would reinvest discriminatory authority in local leaders … er … ah … right. That’s the point. While the BSA has lifted its official national gay ban, they have simply chosen to reinvest discriminatory authority in local Boy Scout leaders.

Mr. Walker responded to the mere proposition by considering the “larger political and cultural debate” juxtaposed with “camping and citizenship and merit badge and service awards”, and therein we find the true measure of what the Boy Scouts of America has done: We won’t force you to discriminate, but, hey, you know, if you want to demonstrate citizenship and merit and service by going out of your way to be cruel and harmful to others, that’s just fine with us.

Downstream reinvestment seems to be the new trend for conservative resistance against equality. It’s hardly anything new; in 2012 we saw Republicans try to reinvest authority to deny contraception in employers. Then again, that’s not so far downstream as it used to be, when a woman needed her husband’s permission to do any number of things.

In the end, it is a poisonous formula. The whole point is to present a compromise in which, okay, discrimination is wrong and shouldn’t be allowed unless you want to discriminate. Downstream reinvestment might fit well into anti-institutional appeal to local sentiment, but its entire purpose is to ensure authority to discriminate is invested somewhere, with someone. The whole point is to protect the discrimination itself.

And perhaps the larger political spectacle of disruptive empowerment demands greater attention, but it really is important to remember what the Boy Scouts of America has done. Protecting bigotry stands among their virtues of proper citizenship.

This is problematic, to say the least.

It is almost enough to obscure the fact of even greater stupidity.

No, really, we promised a contrast. Kyle Mantyla tries to explain:

Today, the Boy Scouts National Executive Board is expected to lift the organization’s ban on gay scout leaders and Colorado state Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt is not happy about it, warning parents on his “Pray In Jesus Name” program today to remove their sons from the organization before they are molested.Say what?

“If your boy is in one of those organizations, you need to get the out of there,” Klingenschmitt said, “because what they’re going to do is promote homosexual men to mentoring and camping with your boys in the woods and it will lead to child abuse.”

Thanks, Gordon. We … really needed to know what was on your mind.

No, really, with everything else going on ....

Actually, it’s probably a better tack than trying to explain the whole discrimination thing. But there is also apparent irony in the idea of the traditional bigoted appeal about how the homosexuals are coming for the children.

Still, though, the contrast only begs the question: We take these people seriously … why?

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Image note: A preacher’s torment ― Garterbelt’s head explodes. Don’t ask. Detail of frame from Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, episode 3, “Pulp Addiction”.

Mantyla, Kyle. “Klingenschmitt: Remove Your Sons From The Boy Scouts Before They Are Abused By Gay Child Molesters”. Right Wing Watch. 27 July 2015.

Signorile, Michelangelo. “Why the Boy Scouts New Policy on Gays Sets A Dangerous Precedent”. The Huffington Post. 28 July 2015.

—————. “The GOP Plan to Stoke Anti-Gay Bigotry in 2016”. The Huffington Post. 23 July 2015.

Another Look at Voters and What They Just Voted For

The U.S. Capitol is pictured at dawn in Washington D.C. on Oct. 15, 2013. (Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)

And that’s where the confusion kicks in. The American mainstream strongly backs the same policy agenda Democrats want, but that same mainstream just elected a Congress that will make it impossible for Americans to get what they say they support.

Steve Benen

It might seem to need some unpacking, but in truth the point holds.

There is, for instance, the temptation to point out the Senate shift, and remind that this was the “mainstream” in places like Iowa, where voters clearly prefer uneducated, tinfoil trash and threats of sedition from elected officials. Or Kansas, where voters are cheering on the destruction of the state government. Or Colorado, where 2010 saw Sen. Michael Bennet win a narrow victory, but only because it was a statewide election, and just enough voters were offended at the idea of sending a prosecutor who aids and abets rape to the U.S. Senate; it should be noted that in the state’s Fourth Congressional District, Colorado voters had no qualms about sending the abettor to the House of Representatives. Of course, voters in the states’ Fifteenth Legislative District also sent a paranoid, homophobic exorcist to the legislature, and in the overlapping Fifth Congressional District, returned Rep. Doug “Tar Baby” Lamborn to the House in celebration of ignorance and hatred. Looking at the Senate swing, it’s easy enough to fall back to the comfort that, for the most part, Democrats lost where they were expected to lose.

But a broader picture of voters can also be found in the midterm election; Republicans made enormous gains in state government across the nation. Certes, in a state like Washington, where ballot measures were the only statewide votes, things went about as expected; we don’t match the national trend, but that in part is because we had nothing to do with the question of Senate control.

But it seems this will be the defining legacy of the 2014 midterms. Voters said they want something, and then voted against it. At this point, we cannot begin to explain the result without accounting for irrationality in the psychopathology of everyday life. A dialectic of neurosis might explain the preference of party labels over real results, but is it a twisted identity politic or something deeper, like a craven need for perpetual Manichaean dualism? Close, low-scoring contests are the height of professional sportsα, but disastrous for political outcomes.

It’s easy enough to express what just happened in the sense that Republicans just won big in an election. The harder answer is to figure just what that actually means in terms of voters. As to governance, the answer is clear: The ability of governments in the United States to function appropriately will be further degraded as Republicans move forward feeling empowered to prove their thesis that government just doens’t work.

It is, furthermore, easy enough to say we want nice outcomes. It is harder to accomplish those nice outcomes, though, and nearly impossible for voters to admit that, no, they don’t really want that stuff. And that, too, might well emerge from a dialectic of neurosis, that people only say they want good outcomes because they fret about what the neighbors would think if they came right out and admitted what they’re really after.

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α The basic principle: Offense wins games; defense wins championships. Football, baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer … you name it, the principle holds. And let’s face it, outside the SEC, most American football fans are pretty much sick of sixty-point blowouts.

Benen, Steve. “NBC poll: Public attitudes clear as mud”. msnbc. 20 November 2014.