Gay-Baiting ’08

The day after the 2004 presidential election, Stephen
Colbert appeared on The Daily Show to give his analysis of just
how George W. Bush defeated John Kerry. "Eleven states approved anti-gay
marriage ballot initiatives yesterday," he said earnestly. "Clearly,
our deep national fear of hot man-on-man monogamy drove turnout among the
nation’s so-called value voters."

Starting in 2000, reaching a peak in 2004, and in 2006
prompting Jon Stewart to comment, "It’s as though marriage in our country
is only threatened during even-numbered years," the invocation of gay
rights issues – serving in the military, protection from employment
discrimination, and the biggest threat of all, marriage equality – has been the
stuff not just of political humor but of political advertising and cable news
punditry as well.

Since it’s one of those even-numbered years again, queer
viewers might wonder just what’s in store for us when we turn on our
televisions between now and November. Are we going be treated to an endless
array of anti-gay ads and political sound bites saturating every 24-hour TV
news cycle until the election? And if we are, will it work this year as it has
in years past? Or has the right wing anti-gay attack machine lost its mojo? asked exactly that of a who’s who of cable
news analysts including MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, Joe Scarborough, and Chris
Matthews and CNN’s John King and Suzanne Malveaux. We also asked political
insiders and pundits from all over the political spectrum, from Congressman
Barney Frank (D-Mass) to out gay political analyst John Aravosis to Republican
strategist Karl Rove.

Keith Olbermann is one of the strongest progressive voices
in the traditional media, and reliably friendly to GLBT civil rights issues.
His Countdown
is MSNBC’s highest rated show, and his designated stand-in during his nights
off is out lesbian political news analyst Rachel Maddow. In an exclusive interview with, Olbermann told us that he doesn’t know whether or not the
Republicans will try using gay issues as a wedge this year, but he’s pretty
sure it won’t work if they do.

"The sense I’m getting from a lot of quarters among the
Republicans is well, we can do all this stuff now and we’ll just make people’s
opinion of us worse," he said. "This isn’t going to happen for us
this time. We have spent all of the capital that the party has. We’ve damaged
the brand. Let’s not go nuclear on this because we will just provide material
to reelect a Democratic president, Senate and House in 2012. And if they’re
thinking in those terms, there is at least the possibility – maybe a third,
maybe a quarter – that these sort of kitchen sink strategies on these issues
will not happen, because it will only come back to hurt them in severe

Keith Olbermann (left) & Rachel Maddow

Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough may share networks with
Olbermann, but that’s about all they share. Coming from the center-right, he
once left the set after being bested by Maddow in an on-air political disagreement.
But while he speculates that the right may
try to use gay issues as a wedge, like Olbermann, he doesn’t think it will get
them anywhere.

Joe Scarborough

"I think the world has changed an awful lot in the past
four years," he told "I’m not saying that the type of
initiatives that have passed in Missouri wouldn’t work in 2008, wouldn’t pass
in 2008, but I just don’t think it’s going to drive people to the polls." He added, "I just don’t
think there is the fear that there was in 2000 and 2004 that gay couples would
somehow subvert America and the American family. It is a different time."


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