...If You Ain't Got That Swing
Earlier this week I mentioned the political insulation that Democrats have with respect to certain interest groups.
Democrats are politically insulated from criticism about racism (and, to a lessor extent, sexism) by virtue of their hegemony with those voters.A problem with this feeling of political insulation is that a Party can begin to mistreat its own constituencies on the theory that “where are they going to go?” For years blacks have complained about the lack of advocacy for their issues within the Democratic Party. Yet they stick with the Democrats. An old song comes to mind,
“You ain’t got a thing if you ain’t got that swing.”If blacks aren’t willing to swing to the other Party, they won’t be fully valued by either Party.
A group that demonstrates “that swing,” Hispanics, witnessed the President and Senator Kerry both tripping over themselves last night to not to be offensive to Hispanics on the subject of Illegal Immigrants.
But gay voters were treated entirely differently. This was Kerry’s answer to the question, “Do you believe homosexuality is a choice?”
KERRY: We're all God's children, Bob. And I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was, she's being who she was born as.The mentioning of Cheney’s daughter was entirely unnecessary to answer the question. It was gay-baiting.
Kerry saw this as a one-way ratchet in his favor. By bringing up this particular lesbian he might peel some social conservatives off the President. He certainly didn’t expect that this would get conservatives to vote for him, but he hoped to keep a few homophobe conservatives home on election day.
On the other hand social conservatives in his own party - some union workers, some blacks - would get the message that the Bush/Cheney ticket is not really socially conservative. “If you were considering Bush, don’t. Cheney loves his lesbian daughter.”
Forgotten in all of this are gay voters. Kerry’s not worried. Where are they going? Like blacks, gays are sticking with him regardless how poorly he treats them.
What Kerry said is exactly equivalent to:
We’re all God’s children, Bob. So, you asked if I think interracial marriage is okay, I say certainly. And I think if you were to talk to Mr. Bush’s daughter, who is dating a black man, she would tell you that she’s being true to herself.Nobody likes to be tossed around as a slur, but that’s what Kerry did to gays in last night’s debate.
The question remains whether this tactic will be considered sleazy by the larger electorate. Edwards floated the trial balloon during the Vice-Presidential debate. Afterward the mainstream media said little. Kerry felt safe.
This may be another example of how a partisan media handicaps Kerry by giving him a false sense of security. One FoxNews talking head described a “chill” descending on the students in the hall when Kerry made this statement. Multiple groans were reported in the press room.
But only time will tell whether Kerry takes a significant hit from this. It would serve as a valuable character lesson to future candidates if he does.
UPDATE: "Reference to Mary Cheney Assailed"
PLAGIARISM ALERT: the "ain't got that swing" idea was applied to swing voters in a column I read a year or two back. I don't know who wrote it or when or where I read it. I have tried to find it. If you know who it was, please leave a comment.