Changing Tactics, Changing Times

August 7, 2008
AfterElton tapped pundits, journalists politicians, bloggers and GLAAD for our take on how gay issues may be used in the media during election 2008 and whether tactics from the past would resonate in the cultural climate of today. Canvassing the opinions of MSNBC commentators Keith Olberman and Joe Scarborough, Hardball Host Chris Matthews and CNN correspondents Suzanne Malveaux and John King, AfterEltoncontributing writer Christie Keith heard the overwhelming opinion that using gay issues as a wedge was a no go strategy in our modern and somewhat more enlightened era. CNN’s Malveaux said, “It's not just the times that have changed, but that people's concerns are different in 2008 than in previous years. The cultural issues that resonated in previous elections aren't necessarily being emphasized this time around. It's more pocketbook issues, it's more gas prices, it's more the homeowners' crisis, the mortgage crisis." AmericaBlog’s John Aravosis also weighed in. "Society has changed since 2000. We’ve gone from Will & Grace being historic to Will & Grace being reruns. I’m serious. This is eight years later. You can’t do the same anti-gay stuff you did eight years ago. You just can’t. So it's got to be a finer dance." Even Karl Rove, known as the architect of exploiting gay issues in the 2004 presidential re-election of George W. Bush, lent his voice to this story but would not acknowledge the role he played in that exploitation.
"I think it entered into force in the 2004 race simply because it was not introduced by the political actors themselves. Neither the Bush nor the Kerry campaigns brought the issue forward. It was brought forward by a Supreme Court decision in Massachusetts. It sort of exploded on the scene and got a life of its own."
Openly gay powerhouse politician, Massachusetts’s Congressman, Barney Frank (D-Mass) had an interesting take on what Rove left out of his remarks.
"I think what he’s telling you now reflects the fact that he and the President and their political people tried very hard to whip up anti-gay marriage sentiment in 2005 and 2006 by forcing several votes on the Constitutional amendment, and it blew up in their face. What Rove is telling you is probably true now, but he forgot to add that he’s very disappointed because he tried very hard to exploit it for the 2006 election and it had no impact…. We passed an anti-discrimination bill by a large majority. We passed the hate crimes bill…. I think the air is substantially out of this balloon."
I chimed in to explain that while we aren’t seeing an overwhelming amount of overt anti-gay overtones in the media discourse what we are seeing is an attempt to use coded language (like so-called “family values”) to target anti-gay voters – just as Senator McCain tried to do in an interview with George Stephanopoulos. Throughout this election season GLAAD will keep a close eye on these kinds of attempts and urge journalists to push past the rhetoric and buzz phrases to get at the heart of the matter and show Americans what’s really behind the words. Cindi Creager is Director of National News.