Guest Column by Michael T. McRaith
While we can agree to discourage negative commentary about any Democrat, a candidate who panders to our community should at least be truthful.
Not since Richard Nixon has a U.S. President inspired such animosity in Democrats as does George W. Bush. In 1972, Nixon defeated George McGovern by a margin of 60.7% to 37.5% of the popular vote, winning the electoral college by 96.5% to 3.5%, by any definition an outright bloodbath.
Like Nixon, Bush justifies a war based on false assumptions premised upon deliberately misleading non-intelligence and with an objective that, even today, remains nebulous. Bush pontificates with remarkable condescension and arrogance for a man restricted to monosyllabic words during a State Of The Union speech.
Yet, ignoring the history of 1972 and the lessons in success of the Clinton era, many liberal Democrats have been wooed and seduced by Howard Dean. Without a divorce from this shallow infatuation, we stand doomed to repeat McGovern's grim history.
Dean of 2004 is merely a weak parallel to Bush of 2000: a former governor without any national or Washington experience, without a legislative track record, and with few specific plans. Notwithstanding Dean's membership in the National Rifle Association—which he fails discuss with his liberal supporters—his rhetoric will not sway the independent electorate.
Republicans are lathered up and foaming at the mouth, ready to foist another bloodbath on Democrats. After Bush's re-election, at least two and probably four Supreme Court justices will retire or die. Chief Justice Rehnquist, who sided with the majority in the hateful Bowers v. Hardwick decision of 1986, and who sided with the dissent in this year's Lawrence v. Texas decision, was nominated by President Richard Nixon in 1971. The Lawrence decision will be the sweet unlucky doe trapped in the headlights of Bush's eighteen-wheel evangelical crusade.
Simply because Dean gives voice to our passionate distaste for Bush does not render him viable, nor does his knack for sound bites. Opposition of the American people to the Iraq debacle, while strong, remains an infinitesimal fraction of the opposition to Nixon and Viet Nam.
As governor of Vermont, Dean signed the legislation by which that state became the first in America to recognize civil unions. The Dean campaign, though, has misled us, fostered the illusion that he was a standard-bearer, a leader, that he proudly steered Vermont to accept legal rights for same-sex couples. The truth is quite different: Dean refused to support Vermont legislation supporting same-sex marriage.
On Dec. 21, 1999, the day that the Vermont Supreme Court recognized the legal rights of same-sex couples, The New York Times reported that Dean said 'same-sex marriage makes me uncomfortable, the same as anybody else.' Six days later, the Post-Standard of Syracuse, New York, observed that Dean 'favors domestic partnership legislation because so many people are uncomfortable with the idea of gay marriage,' then bemoaned Dean's refusal to push for the legal equivalent of same-sex marriage despite the Vermont Supreme Court's instruction to do just that.
On Jan. 27, 2000, the Burlington Free Press reported that a Republican state senator intended to offer an amendment to Vermont's constitution clarifying that 'marriage is a special label for the partnership between a man and a woman.' Dean's response? As reported by the Burlington Free Press, 'Dean said at his weekly press conference he has no opinion about a constitutional amendment [prohibiting same-sex marriage].' The Burlington Free Press reported on April 27, 2000, after Dean signed the domestic partnership legislation behind closed doors, 'Though [Dean] makes a public ceremony of signing many other bills into law, he said he signed the civil-unions bill behind closed doors in deference to the many thousands of Vermonters who oppose it.'
Dean's ultimate position, frankly, is not nearly as problematic as his misleading exploitation of the decision imposed on Vermont by its highest court. Other candidates have worked for our community but, unlike Dean, have not misled us about their leadership.
John Kerry is the best-qualified—the anti-Bush. He has a record of successful and honest public service dating to the 1960s, when he volunteered to serve in Viet Nam. In 1996, Sen. Kerry was one of only 14 Senators to vote against the Defense Of Marriage Act, and the only one of the 14 up for re-election that same year. In 1985—1985!—Sen. Kerry introduced the Civil Rights Protection Act that would have prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. A veteran of combat duty, he is one of only five Senators to testify against 'don't ask, don't tell.'
We gain nothing with Dean, a candidate of zero conviction who compromised the sanctity of our intimate relationships, whose support has been lukewarm and politically expedient. We gain even less with a candidate who has a Nader-like chance of winning the general election, a man completely devoid of even the national reputation and mandate that carried McGovern to the nomination.
Supreme Court Justices Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas, all Republican appointees, impact our lives with decisions that cannot be amended or reviewed by another Court. But with cold and narrow ideology, and with new Bush appointees, these distant judicial monoliths stand prepared to add stones to the already-full backpacks of pregnant women and of our GLBT community, increasing our daily burden with conservative mandates that will lawfully subordinate 'choice,' 'immorality,' 'lifestyle' and 'agenda.'
Whatever else we do, we will fight, but we have already paid a steep price for George W. Bush. We cannot now afford another George McGovern, or worse.
The writer is a community activist and attorney in Chicago.
Windy City Times welcomes letters and guest columns of 700 words or less on political views, but they must be less than 700 words and will be run on a space available basis. Send to email@example.com .