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New York Times Fascinated That Republicans Don’t Care That Ken Mehlman Is Gay

The paper of record seems quite intrigued by the fact that the reaction among Republicans to Ken Mehlman announcing his homosexuality has been so muted:

Had a former chairman of the Republican National Committee announced in 2004 that he was gay, it would have been a bombshell. In that hard-fought election year, Republicans and Democrats were rushing to condemn a court for establishing the right to same-sex marriage in Massachusetts.

Six years later, in a midterm election cycle that is otherwise fierce, campaigns are largely silent on the issue of same-sex marriage — even as two federal courts have issued similar decisions in recent months upholding the rights of gay people to wed. And when Ken Mehlman, who ran President George W. Bush’s re-election campaign in 2004 and then became the party’s chairman, said in an interview in The Atlantic this week that he is gay and is working to support a campaign for same-sex marriage, it was met with little controversy.

Even the commentary accusing him of hypocrisy seemed outweighed by people who wished him well, or merely shrugged.

The muted reaction reflects not only changing values in the country generally, but also, more notably, among many Republicans and conservatives.

(…)

Polls show acceptance of gays growing among Americans, on a variety of measures. In a Gallup poll in May, 52 percent of Americans said that gay and lesbian relations were “morally acceptable” — the first time that support had crossed what the polling group called the “symbolic threshold” of 50 percent.

Among conservatives, 33 percent agreed, up five percentage points since May 2006. Another Gallup poll in May found that 70 percent of Americans — and 53 percent of conservatives — favored allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.

The shift is being driven largely by demographics, as a younger generation grows up with more discussion and acceptance of gay rights.

In a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted in March 2004, a plurality of Americans under 45 — 35 percent — said there should be no legal recognition of gay and lesbian relationships. Forty-five percent of Americans 45 and older said the same. By April 2010, just 24 percent of Americans ages 18 to 44 surveyed said that there should be no legal recognition, and 35 percent of Americans 45 and older said the same.

Like James, my reaction to the whole “Ken Mehlman is gay” revelation yesterday was basically….. meh. I’m long past the point in my life where I care whether someone is attracted to men, women, or both, and I suspect that the polls cited above are evidence of the fact that this is pretty much the attitude that has begun to take hold among the American public. I don’t necessarily agree with those who argue that the story itself wasn’t newsworthy at all, mostly because Mehlman was a relatively high-level Republican leader during an era when the GOP was taking a very anti-gay stance on public policy issues. At the same time, though, I welcome the day when not only someone being gay isn’t news, but when they won’t feel compelled to hide that fact from others because of fear of professional retribution or being socially ostracized.

Yes, there were always be a segment of the population that believes homosexuality is immoral and sinful, but even among that group the “live and let live” philosophy seems to be resonating on some level. Besides, as I’ve said about other issues in the past, the fact that you disapprove of the life that someone lives doesn’t make them wrong for living that life. It’s called freedom, and it includes not caring what people do behind closed doors.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Brummagem Joe says:

    Doug, the story isn’t that Mehlman is gay, as you say who cares, and it was fairly obvious anyway. The story is that he’s a total hypocrite, but then so were many other members of the Bush administration so he’s not exactly short of company.

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  2. john personna says:

    What is this meme, really?
     
    Is it that gay is OK (which would be fine), or is it that hypocrisy is fine (which would not)?

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  3. john personna says:

    BTW Joe, I wouldn’t localize the hypocrisy with Mehlman.

    It is also with every Republican who has backed gay marriage bans, etc., and who claims now to be “bored” by the Mehlman news.
     
     
     

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  4. Herb says:

    Who needs to slag on the gays when you have Muslims and illegal immigrants?

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  5. wr says:

    I guess the Times didn’t get the memo that when the Republican party claims that an issue fundamentally threatens the nation, they only mean it for as long as they see political gain in the claim. It would be nice if they’d extrapolate and realize that the Republicans also don’t care about the deficit, the “ground zero mosque” or anything else they’re screaming about. But I’m sure they’ll figure it out in a year or two…

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  6. G.A.Phillips says:

    ***It is also with every Republican who has backed gay marriage bans, etc., and who claims now to be “bored” by the Mehlman news.***

    What does not caring who likes gay sex have to do with the complete idiocy of people who like gay sex getting Married?

    How can so many have such great tunnel vision when there is no light at the end of it?!?!?!

    ***Who needs to slag on the gays when you have Muslims and illegal immigrants?***

    Or when you have liberal thinkers sharing their thoughts………

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  7. Brummagem Joe says:

    “It is also with every Republican who has backed gay marriage bans, etc., and who claims now to be “bored” by the Mehlman news.”

    I understand the spin. America is fairly hypocritical country to begin with by any standards but we can rely on today’s Republican party to expand the frontiers. GOD, GAYS AND GUNS were strictly issues for the manipulation of the bozo element in the population. The fact that some of manipulators were gay themselves tell us all we need to know about the moral compass of these folks.   

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  8. Steve Plunk says:

    Republicans don’t really get excited about who’s gay and who’s not.  The issue is the attempts to make gay marriage the law over the objections of the majority of Americans.  The traditions and norms might change over time but forcing the change through the courts only provokes reactions like we have seen.
     
    BTW, It’s funny to see liberals think for conservatives.  They don’t anything about the conservative mind or motivations.

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  9. john personna says:

    Steve, do you really think there are enough people who weren’t alive or conscious in the US in last ten years to buy that?
     
    Do you know how many hits “god, gays, and guns” gets on google?
     

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  10. anjin-san says:

    It’s not that they are “bored”, it’s just that there is no political hay to be made off of this.

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  11. floyd says:

    The New York Times editors would be fascinated by a paperclip.

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  12. just me says:

    Personally I don’t think it would have been the bombshell the Times thinks it would have been four years ago among the GOP.  The liberal left would have reveled in it, but I am not so sure the GOP would have cared.
     
    The rumors about him being gay were already going around in 2004 and to be honest I always thought they were probably true.  He was just very good I guess at being discreet since the left would have loved to have outed him during that period.

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  13. tom p says:

    Yes, there were always be a segment of the population that believes homosexuality is immoral and sinful, but even among that group the “live and let live” philosophy seems to be resonating on some level.

    As I have said before, I have a very dear “Aunt” living in Dallas whom I have known was gay since 1965 Truth: I did not know she was “gay” because we did not talk about it in 1965, but I did know there was something different about BJ and M… and nobody cared, we all loved her (and M too). 

    My grandparents who were very conservative Southern Baptists didn’t care, they just loved her…. but didn’t talk about it.

    My Mother who was also very conservative loved her (and probably loved her most of all)…. but never talked about it.

    It is easy to accuse Mehlman of hypocricy if one is not gay and never had to face those prejudices on a daily basis. But the real world is not so easy.

    I think this is an issue that has run its course, but the GOP doesn’t know it yet.

     

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  14. Brummagem Joe says:

    just me says:

    Saturday, August 28, 2010 at 07:42

    ” He was just very good I guess at being discreet since the left would have loved to have outed him during that period.”

    Discreet? He denied it. That’s what my ma would have called lying. What would your ma have called it? 

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  15. just me says:

    You misunderstand what I mean by discreet.  Generally most people who are in the closet and get outed don’t get outed because they came forward, but because somebody they had sex with was willing to come forward and talk about it.  This is generally also true of political figures having affairs (anyone think Clinton would have admitted to Gennifer Flowers had she not come forward with details or Monica Lewinski hadn’t saved that dress?).
     
    When people are looking for the dirt, they can often find somebody willing to provide it in these cases, but it appears that Mehlman chose his partners wisely or maybe chose to be celibate, but either way in spite of the rumors nobody was able to come forward with anything substantial in order to out him at the time.  Even now it doesn’t look like anyone was on the verge of outing him, he opted to do so himself.
     
    Lying/truth telling when asked this kind of question isn’t the same thing as and being discreet.

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  16. Grewgills says:

    The issue is the attempts to make gay marriage the law over the objections of the majority of Americans.  The traditions and norms might change over time but forcing the change through the courts only provokes reactions like we have seen.

    Does this mean you disagree with Loving v Virginia and think we should have waited for states to end anti-miscegenation laws on their own time tables?

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