Do we take it for granted that we’re able to see through President Bush’s anti-gay marriage agenda as a means to motivate his conservative voting block? Perhaps. But what’s not so errily clear, at least until you look into the matter, is that the White House’s efforts to boost sagging approval ratings – especially religious conservatives, where approval of the president “has plunged twenty-two percent among white evangelicals” – and gear up for mid-term elections is an old political trick, circa the Civil Rights Movement.
When it comes to the politics of distraction, Bush’s decision to stoke fears among religious conservatives about gay sex is part of a historical pattern among Republicans. In fact, the last time the party fought a battle over ”traditional” marriage — attempting to uphold state bans on interracial marriage during the 1960s — the political landscape was eerily similar. Sixteen states had laws on the books outlawing marriage between whites and blacks, and seventy percent of Americans opposed interracial marriage. Those are almost precisely the numbers that Bush marshaled to justify his call to ban gay marriage. ”Nineteen states have held referendums to amend their state constitutions to protect the traditional definition of marriage,” the president observed. ”In every case, the amendments were approved by decisive majorities, with an average of seventy-one percent.” The president also flashed the same kind of scorn that was heaped on the Supreme Court when it struck down bans on interracial marriage in 1967: ”Unfortunately, this consensus is being undermined by activist judges and local officials who have made an aggressive attempt to redefine marriage.”
As San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom so eloquently puts it: “Nothing has changed. It is the same playbook, and it is as shameful today as it was then.”
The Politics of Fear [Rolling Stone]