It can be trying (not to mention embarrassing) to live in Tennessee, when bigots periodically come out of the woodwork, using the Bible to prove that — take your pick — God wants white Christians to own slaves, or that it is the “Manifest Destiny” of white Christians to ethnically cleanse Native Americans, or that despite such insanity, Christianity is a “true religion” while Islam is either a “false religion” or “not really a religion.”
A good case in point is the recent “Chick-fil-A appreciation day,” which had Tennesseans standing in long lines to support homophobia. Elsewhere, right-wing twits like Michelle Bachmann were tweeting, urging their followers to support a company whose owners, the Cathys, publicly damn homosexuals while allegedly donating millions of dollars to groups that actively seek legislation against gay marriage.
Bachmann even released a video in which she smiles and waves a Chick-fil-A bag while crowing, “We are standing with the Cathys, who stand with the family.” However, the Cathys are not really “standing with the family” but demanding preference for purely heterosexual families, the way Bible believers of the past once demanded preference for purely white families.
It is no surprise that Sarah Palin quickly boarded the bigotry bandwagon, praising the Cathys while deriding President Obama for “flip flops” designed to “shore up” his “homosexual voter base.”
Such bastions of conservatism are completely tone deaf to equality and justice. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that they are no longer a few steps from the presidency. But what about the one conservative who still remains in serious contention for the White House?
Here’s what Mitt Romney once said while running for senate in gay-friendly Massachusetts: “... as we seek to establish full equality for America’s gay and lesbian citizens, I will provide more effective leadership than my opponent.” Romney wrote this in a 1994 letter to a gay Republican group, the Log Cabin Republicans. His opponent was Ted Kennedy, who of course staunchly supported fully equal rights for gays, including marriage.
But Romney has more flip-flops than Daytona Beach and recently chickened out on the Chick-fil-A versus gay marriage affair, so it’s hard to say what he really believes. He now favors a constitutional amendment forbidding gay marriage and says that he opposes even civil unions between gays. But when asked to comment on Chick-fil-A-gate, he declined. Is that leadership? Don’t Americans deserve to know what he would do as president? Why not take bold action now, rather than leaving millions of Americans up in the air, guessing?
Romney is no stranger to the chicken coop. In a commencement address to Liberty University, an evangelical Christian school, Romney praised Truett Cathy, whose stance against gay marriage is well known. So Romney has all the information he needs to speak, if he so chooses.
But Romney’s 1994 promise, his contradictory comments made before conservative audiences, and his failure to address the larger American public combine to suggest that Romney either lacks firm convictions or refuses to make them known if doing so may cost him votes. In either case, his flip-flopping on gay rights seems to confirm that Romney would turn the White House into the Waffle House.
When it comes to strong, honestly stated personal convictions, Romney is no Ronald Reagan, and he falls far short of George W. Bush, Rick Santorum, Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann, who will at least say what they really believe, however bigoted that makes them seem to people with more liberal views.
The more I learn about Mitt Romney, the more he seems to combine the dishonesty of a Richard Nixon with the lack of acumen of a George W. Bush. That’s obviously a very dangerous combination, especially in a president. Romney is wrong on virtually every plank of his platform, whether favoring the 1 percent over the 99 percent; preserving tax cuts for the super rich while the middle- and lower-income classes sink deeper in debt; advocating war with Iran, when attacking Iran would duplicate and compound the error of attacking Iraq; opposing fully equal rights for non-heterosexuals; returning women’s reproductive rights to the Dark Ages; etc.
How can we make progress in better directions if our president has the wrong goals? How can we trust his goals if we can’t possibly know them, because he constantly waffles and flip-flops in search of votes?
Will Tennesseans help Romney turn the White House into the Waffle House, by voting for a man who is either a bigot too cowardly to publicly confess his bigotry, or such a shyster that he pretends to be a bigot in order to amass votes when speaking to conservatives, then pretends to be more enlightened when speaking to liberals?
Michael R. Burch is a Nashville-based editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry and other “things literary” at www.thehypertexts.com.