Kerry Lauerman has an excellent interview with Dan Savage, sex columnist and activist extraordinaire, at Salon. I adore Dan Savage and his husband Terry Miller for their activism generally, and the “It Gets Better” campaign in particular, but my absolute, all-time favorite Savagery is “Santorum.”
For the uninitiated: because ex-Senator Rick Santorum is such a colossal flaming @$$hole of ginormous proportions, in 2003 Savage enlisted readers of his sex advice column to create a definition for the word “santorum,” saying, “There’s no better way to memorialize the Santorum scandal than by attaching his name to a sex act that would make his big, white teeth fall out of his big, empty head.” His readers enthusiastically obliged, he held a vote, and the ultimate winner for the definition of santorum was “the frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex.” He created a website called “Spreading Santorum” to promote this definition, and it became (and still is) a prominent result on search engines when entering the ex-Senator’s name.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is a masterpiece of Mockery as High Art. And my loyal readers well know the Palace’s position on the subject of mockery.
Cue the whining about poor Rick Santorum’s children. No, not from the wingnuts with big, white teeth and big, empty heads, but from liberals:
When asked whether he was concerned about the effect on Santorum’s children, Savage responded that gays and lesbians have children too, yet their children are required to listen to gay relationships being compared to incest and bestiality [by Rick Santorum]. He said the people worried about Santorum’s children were “left-leaning trolls”: “The only people who come at me wringing their hands about Santorum’s children are idiot lefties who don’t get how serious the right is about destroying us.”
As I have argued many times in this space, liberals need to knock it off with the tone trolling, and lose the delusion that the Rick Santorums* of the world can be politely reasoned with. They cannot be reasoned with, politely or otherwise. It’s everyone else who needs to be reached. Whether you like it or not, if you’re a liberal, the far right has declared war against you personally, and is intent on the complete and utter destruction of everything that you stand for: Social Security. Single-payer healthcare. Reproductive rights. Secular government. And on and on. Like their jihadi counterparts, they are perfectly willing to destroy themselves, the country, and the planet in the name of their pet dogmas, “free markets” and “biblical worldview.” And in many key respects, they are winning that war in terms of conservative economic policy and Christianist social legislation. But while womens rights are continually eroded, and crazed Tea-Partiers bring us a hair’s breadth away from a catastrophic debt default, there is one battlefield where conservatives are not winning — gay rights — and it is well worth examining why this is the case. (More on that in a minute.)
Conservative policies have been horrendous failures by any reasonable metric (enriching the oligarchs and entrenching the kleptocracy are not reasonable metrics). Yet the country has for decades drifted ever rightward to the point where the once-great and thriving middle class is dangerously close to falling off a cliff. Why is that? Because the right’s tactics are effective. Limbaugh and Coulter and dozens of others have made full-time careers viciously mocking liberals and liberalism, polluting the radio waves and cable news all day, every day, with falsehoods and dog-whistles. The left has, what? Stewart and Colbert? Olbermann and Maddow? As profoundly grateful as I am for the existence of those platforms, it isn’t remotely enough to break through the wall of Faux Noise. Yet rather than deploy mockery and ridicule in defense of their ostensible values, many liberals would rather wring their hands about Rick Santorum’s poor children. Frankly, those kids are exactly the people who need to visit spreadingsantorum.com. The alternative is a brood of little Santorums who grow up to be as destructive as daddy to the next generation. As much as we might wish it were not so, just consider what happens in a war when one side refuses to fight back with effective weapons. Liberals must adopt the right’s tactics for one simple reason: they work.
As Savage points out in the Salon interview:
There’s a reason they used to lock up editorial cartoonists in the 19th century. Because someone who is powerful, or lusts for power, you can really harm him by making him ridiculous.
And while we’re on the subject of liberal hand-wringing, I’d like to point out that it is simply absurd to suggest an equivalency between what Savage does and the actions of those he attacks. He says:
There’s a difference between taking a piss out of a powerful politician and mocking him, and bullying a 14-year-old kid to death in a rural area. And, Rick Santorum, who wants to reinstate “don’t ask, don’t tell”; have a federal anti-gay marriage amendment; prevent me from going to my partner’s bedside in a medical emergency, which is what that boils down to, when you get down to actual marriage; impoverish my husband and child, should I die, because I’m the sole income in our family; destroy my family. He would prevent me from adopting, if he could, and take our kid out of our home, if he could. He would literally destroy my family. I made a dirty joke at his expense, and I’m the monster.
No, Mr. Savage. You are a fucking hero.
Now let’s take a look at the battlefield where conservative corpses lie: gay rights. The factors that led to meaningful victories at the federal level are many and complex, but it would be foolish in the extreme to ignore the tactics that ultimately proved successful in pressuring Democrats, including Obama, to deliver for that constituency. Here’s Savage:
Well, I think my feelings began to evolve after the midterms in 2010. I think the Democrats saw the writing on the wall, with the percentage of the gay vote going to Republicans [doubling] to 30 percent; donations from gays — gay groups, gay orgs, gay people — to Democrats plummeting; that they realized they could no longer just fob us off with speeches and the occasional appearance with the Human Rights Campaign — that they had to deliver. It wasn’t until after that, that we got “don’t ask, don’t tell” [effectively ended], that they stopped the DOMA appeal. Anyone that argues that this was the plan all along, to pass the DADT repeal at the 11th hour in a lame duck session, a hail-mary pass thrown by Joe fucking Lieberman, is an apologist and an idiot. But we got those things because we began to push back and play hardball.
Let us ponder this for a moment: in the 2010 midterms, the percentage of the gay vote going to Republicans doubled, to 30%, and donations to Democrats, who talked a good game but did not deliver, dried up. In case you have been in a coma for a few years, let me take this opportunity to remind you that the national Republican platform (pdf) is explicitly anti-gay marriage:
Because our childrenís future is best preserved within the traditional understanding of marriage, we call for a constitutional amendment that fully protects marriage as a union of a man and a woman, so that judges cannot make other arrangements equivalent to it. In the absence of a national amendment, we support the right of the people of the various states to affirm traditional marriage through state initiatives.
The national Republican platform (pdf) also states, flat-out, that gays and lesbians should not serve in the military:
To protect our servicemen and women and ensure that Americaís Armed Forces remain the best in the world, we affirm the timelessness of those values, the benefits of traditional military culture, and the incompatibility of homosexuality with military service.
And yet, after the Democrats lost the House in the 2010 midterms, DADT (“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which precludes gays and lesbians from serving openly in the U.S. military) was repealed, and the Obama administration stopped pressing the federal appeal in support of DOMA (“Defense Of Marriage Act,” which bars same-sex marriage recognition at the federal level). Let’s see: Democrats lose funding and elections, as a result of a backlash from their gay and lesbian constituents whose votes they have long taken for granted without representing their interests in any meaningful way. That gay and lesbian constituency voted for Republicans, who certainly would do nothing to advance their interests and would in fact work against them. The Democrats got the message loud and clear: represent our interests, or lose, motherfuckers.
Again, here’s Savage:
And the gay vote is bigger than the Jewish vote. It’s bigger than the Miami-Cuban vote. And Jews and Miami Cubans get everything they want. Tremendously powerful blocs. And it was after the November 2010 midterms that we suddenly, in the eyes of the Democrats, overnight morphed into Jewish Miami-Cuban cocksuckers who couldn’t be taken for granted anymore.
I don’t doubt we wouldn’t have seen these things, that these things would not have been delivered, if we didn’t make it clear there would be a price to pay if they weren’t.
Ladies and gentlemen, what we see perfectly illustrated here is the left adopting a successful conservative tactic: this is Tea Party 101. Remember that nutcase Christine O’Donnell? The one who makes Sarah Palin look like a genius by comparison? Conservatives in Delaware were willing to let Republicans lose a winnable Senate seat to Democrats, rather than support the Republicans party’s anointed assclown. And what happened? In response, the Republican party moved even further to the right, and actually took the fringe positions of the fucking Tea Party seriously.
But never mind all that. No matter how far rightward the Democratic Party lurches, year after year, liberals must support them anyway. Because “OMFG look how scary that Michele Bachmann is!” And don’t forget, if you abhor what Democrats are doing and don’t support them anyway, you are all “ungrateful,” “fucking retarded” “drug addicts” Our votes are taken for granted, because they can be: there is typically no price to pay for dismissing and ignoring and diminishing the left.
Until the American left grows a spine, takes off the kid gloves, and plays hardball, the conservatives in both parties will continue to push the country right — off a cliff. Dan Savage spelled out the battleplan.
*In June, Santorum actually said that the situation “comes with the territory.” Srsly? This d00d is as clueless as Bachmann. LMAO.