Great election night… unless you're a gay pothead
The problem with both issues is that we’re asking people to vote on morality. (Well, in a sense, every vote is a vote about morality on some level.) I don’t think, really, that when most people vote against gay marriage they’re consciously thinking, “Yeah, now the fags can’t visit their partners in the hospital or inherit their partner’s property.” What they’re voting against is the San Francisco Pride Parade in their hometown.
Similarly, when people vote against marijuana initiatives, they’re not thinking, “Hooray, now we’ll get those dangerous potheads off the streets.” They’re voting against dirty Patchouli-scented hippies and the Summer of Love in their hometown.
I used to think the key to turning both of these issues in progressives’ favor is to change the frame from “defending virtue” to “attacking fairness”. I used to think that would entail using “civil unions” to sneak equal rights under the moral radar. Before you flame me, I don’t like the separate-but-equal solution, either, but too many people equate marriage with good-ol-fashion Christian values and “gay marriage” is perceived as too much an oxymoron for the actual morons to handle. I figured that a rose by any other name… you know, let the fundies have the word “marriage”, just as long as they extend the same rights as marriage (for now). However, with Colorado’s DP failing at about the same rate Colorado’s Anti-Gay passed, I’m not so sure anymore.
And the fairness meme worked in Denver when they legalized pot by saying it’s safer than alcohol, so if alcohol’s legal, illegal pot is unfair. But statewide, it fails because your rural cowboy type just hates hippies. Hell, chances are that cowboy has smoked some reefer at least once in his life, but, see, that was just “youthful experimentation”, he wasn’t a damn hippie.
So my new tack is this: use the opponent’s hatred in our favor. In the pot arena, it would work like this: point out that marijuana is a billion-dollar industry that supports the livelihood of potheads and criminals — why are you letting those potheads get away with all that income, tax-free? And the potheads are seducing kids with pot since they don’t check ID! And the drug dealers are using pot to get kids hooked on harder drugs! So let’s tax the potheads and take their black-market business away from them!
See, this idea allows the red state rube to feel like he’s punishing a sinner — tax the bastards! — and saving the world at the same time. Of course, to tax something, it must be legal (thank you Dr. Leary!). I imagine a commercial with scenes from Seattle Hempfest or Oregon Country Fair, shots of topless painted-boob hairy-armpit hippie chicks and scraggly bearded Birkenstock-wearing dudes playing hackeysack, with that foreboding music and ominous voice intoning, “These people live a criminal lifestyle, never paying a cent in taxes, never contributing to our society, and seducing our children into a lifestyle of easy sex and dangerous drugs. How do they do it? Simple – we let them smoke marijuana and sell it tax-free.” Now, cut to a shot of a liquor store and a clerk refusing to sell to some minors. “Al Capone and the bootleggers once lived the same sort of lifestyle, funding it with the tax-free proceeds of illegal liquor. We got smart and took away their livelihood by tightly regulating and controlling the sales of liquor, and took away Capone’s freedom for tax evasion.” Focus now on shot of typical white bread family playing in a park. “Some people are always going to smoke pot and for seventy years we’ve spent billions futilely trying to stop them. So let’s stop spending billions and instead reap billions by taxing the potheads. We can protect our kids and eliminate crime at the same time. Vote YES on the Tax & Regulate Marijuana Initiative.” Force the opponents to oppose protecting kids, punishing dirty stinky hippies, and making some money off it.
Now, how would that idea play out for gay rights? How can we use some rhetorical judo to use the seemingly consistent hatred against gays in this nation in our favor? My first inclination in this matter is to attck it like we attacked marijuana legalization — by starting with medical marijuana. Maybe that means creating initiative after initiative to grant rights piecemeal until we’ve got de facto marriage.
For example, take the case of Laurel Hester. Those New Jersey freeholders wanted so badly to deny her the right to leave her pension to her partner, but when the story broke, public sentiment forced the freeholders to change positions. Why? Because nobody wanted to look like the Grinch who votes to punish a sick and dying person — just like nobody wants to deny pot to a wheelchair-bound cancer patient (except, I guess, 52% of South Dakotans).
So, perhaps an “Inhertitance Rights Initiative” to start with. Frame it like the righties frame “the death tax”, like this: “Politicians in Washington want to tell you what you can do with your money. After your death, they want to restrict your right to leave your estate to the person you choose. If you don’t want to leave it to your family, they won’t let you pick another person. Support the Inheritance Rights Initiative – it’s your money.” See, no mention of gay in there anywhere and we make the rubes feel like they’re being slighted.
Or, perhaps a “Personal Medical Decisions Act”. “Politicians in Washington are always quick to butt into our private affairs. In the Terri Schaivo case, they ignored the wishes of a family to play politics with a woman’s life. Shouldn’t your personal medical decisions be entirely up to you? Should Washington politics override your wishes about who can care for you in your final hours? Vote YES on the Personal Medical Decisions Act – Tell Washington to mind their own business.” Again, no mention of gay, and we frame it as if we’re protecting everyone’s rights and beating back the gub’mint.
Anyway, that’s my 1/5000th of a Benjamin. What do I know, anyway, I predicted Boise would pass the Ten Commandments initiative withg 70% of the vote, and it lost 47%/53%.