Know what the definitive proof that gay politico outer Mike Rogers has come a long way? We’re no longer arguing about why we should expose gay officials who vote anti-gay, but why we shouldn’t — because doing so is becoming accepted wisdom. Among progressives, of course.
With last night’s HBO premiere of Kirby Dick’s Outrage as the newspeg, Newsweek‘s Joshua Alston delivers “The Case Against Outing Gay Politicians.” He argues “Outrage is plagued with problems.” And while the film is not perfect, it’s actually Alston’s own argument about why Outrage is mal that is plagued with problems. (Still following?)
We’ll spare you some of Alston’s nitpicking —
Outrage is plagued with problems, starting with title cards that describe a “brilliantly orchestrated conspiracy” to keep gay politicians in the closet. It’s a sexy idea that unfortunately is incompatible with how people actually behave. Then there’s the aforementioned anecdotal evidence, which, naturally, is as good as evidence is going to get in situations such as these. But that limits the film to convincing only those who don’t need convincing, those already inclined to believe that the most virulent homophobes might have secrets of their own. That isn’t to say the witnesses in the film are lying, merely that they aren’t going to sway anyone.
— and jump right to this:
But even if not for these missteps, the film’s core argument—that closeted gay politicians should be outed—is still at issue. The job of a public official, after all, is to represent his constituency, not to vote in the way that would most benefit him. We live in a democracy, and everyone gets a vote, including bigots and homophobes, and they get to be represented as well. Now, it’s fair to suggest that the voting public has the right to know everything about their elected officials, including their personal lives. But if we knew the details of what everyone was doing and voted accordingly, who would we have to vote for? Political scandals over the years, ones that have nothing to do with homosexuality, have proven that most politicians have skeletons they keep. If a gay man wants to run for governor of a socially conservative state, because he has terrific ideas on how to reduce crime, balance the budget, or bring new jobs to his state, should he put his sexuality front and center and risk going down to defeat? There’s a valid argument for both sides of that question, but Outrage pretends there isn’t. If you’re gay, the film suggests, then fighting for gay rights must always be job one, and anything less is an unforgivable betrayal.
And there’s where he’s wrong. We don’t demand to know everything about a politician’s personal life. In fact, we’re more than happy with elected officials keeping private matters, well, private. Does Barney Frank like SeanCody.com? Great, but we don’t need that information. Does Obama smoke two cigarettes a day, or a whole pack? Irrelevant to us! (Well, until Obama starts pushing tobacco legislation.)
It’s just when a politician’s personal life conflicts so greatly with his public platform that we endorse outing him (or her!) as a hypocrite.
Alston asks rhetorically: “If a gay man wants to run for governor of a socially conservative state, because he has terrific ideas on how to reduce crime, balance the budget, or bring new jobs to his state, should he put his sexuality front and center and risk going down to defeat?” Whether being openly gay is political suicide is another matter, but the answer to this question is No, he doesn’t have to put his sexuality front and center. Only when he begins endorsing anti-gay measures, like banning same-sex marriage or gay adoption or voting against anti-discrimination protections, will he fall into “deserving to be outed” territory.
When politicians advocate against healthcare reform, we demand to know exactly what type of healthcare coverage they receive — because we want to know if they’re hypocrites.
The bedroom may be a more private place, but when politicos insert themselves in ours, we’re going to be damn sure to set up a camera in theirs.