James Kirchick argues in the Washington Blade that the gay community's support for Hillary Clinton is damned pathetic "diva worship":
All kidding aside, I find my fellow gays' love for Hillary incredibly shallow. Identifying with her hopelessness has become a manifestation of self-pity.
The diva worship that she commands amongst legions of gay men confirms every negative stereotype about us: that we're petty, superficial and worshippers of femininity. Her status as a gay icon would trouble me less if she did anything to justify it, that is, if she actually went out of her way to stand up for gay causes (like Cyndi Lauper, who's actually deserving of the title).
Yes, like Cyndi Lauper. Or John McCain maybe?
But seriously, I'm one of those weird queers -- only 7%! -- who supported John Edwards, but I have only about a thousand queer friends who were enthusiastic supporters of Clinton. Most of them would roll their eyes at the suggestion that they were "petty, superficial and worshipers of femininity" because they supported Clinton. Kirchick is correct that Hillary Clinton's record on GLBT issues is thinner than one would expect given the enthusiasm of her queer supporters. That said, it seems besides the point on a number of different levels.
For starters, Hillary's support was so deep in the GLBT community not because she was a "victim," but because she successfully challenged preconceived notions of gender-appropriate behavior and was attacked for it. Say whatever else you want about her accomplishments, her means, and her motives, but Hillary Clinton is a strong, assertive woman. In some corners this has earned her a fairly amazing amount of vitriol and animosity. That's not a controversial or even really contestable notion. There are many people who hate Hillary Clinton irrespective of her politics because they believe she is a "bitch", "ball-buster" or "harpy." (I'm not arguing, by the way, that all criticisms of Hillary can characterized as such. But very obviously some of the attacks made against her were obviously misogynistic.)
It's not difficult to understand why many gay people -- and I would note her support was deep with lesbians as well as gay men -- consequently found her sympathetic. "Gay men, given their own personal struggles against prejudice, tend to sympathize with those on the down and out," writes Kirchick, but this hardly does justice to the point. Gay men and gay women, given the gender-subversive implications of the objects of their romantic affection, also tend to sympathize with people who are attacked because they don't conform to gender-typical expectations. We like strong women because they remind us that anyone -- man or woman, gay or straight -- can be strong -- that strength and confidence ought not be confused with straight-male puffery.
Should the fact that Clinton was the subject of misogynistic attacks alone mean that she should be president? I certainly don't and didn't think so and neither did most of queer supporters of Clinton I know. But it certainly means that I sympathize with her. And if I did believe that, on the merits, she would make the best president, that sympathy would certainly blossom into something deeper and more emotional.
That is, of course, the most baffling thing about Kirchick's article. If Kirchick were a Democratic primary voter in addition to being merely, say, a neo-conservative warmongering ideologue, I have a hard time believing he wouldn't have been swayed by Clinton's tough-talk on Iran and her remark that Obama was "irresponsible and frankly naive" for agreeing to sit down with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea. I mean, doesn't Kirchick's vision of foreign-policy actually conform more to Clinton's than to Obama's?
So there you have it. A man who didn't participate in the Democratic primary is telling people who did participate how they shouldn't have supported the candidate that, had the man actually been a participant in the Democratic primary, the man almost certainly would have supported. Confused?
In the meantime, it's worth remembering that Kirchick recently championed John McCain in the pages of the Advocate. Kirchick concluded that McCain's pathetic record in the Senate on GLBT issues belied his unwillingness to break bread with the religious right and his "courageous" opposition of the Federal DOMA. Indeed, Kirchick absurdly concluded, though McCain spoke at Liberty University in 2006, "he didn't pander" to the religious right -- a claim that evacuates the word "pander" of virtually all meaning.
Given John McCain's recent affection for John Hagee and the invalidation of thousands of legal same-sex marriages, one seriously doubts if Kirchick's support for John McCain has anything to do with his positions on GLBT rights. Quite the contrary, Kirchick's support for John McCain is probably mostly predicated on McCain's support for an open-ended (read: endless) occupation of Iraq and still more belligerent militarism. John "Bomb, bomb, bomb" McCain seamlessly extends the right's love affair with swaggering machismo as a solution to foreign policy woes -- one in which "steadfast will" and "moral strength" are the only relevant metrics when assessing a candidate's likelihood of being able to protect us from the terrorist threat. In such a world, leaders must be manly and steadfast. Matthew Yglesias calls this the "green lantern" theory of international relations, but, borrowing a page from Kirchick's own book, we might also call it Daddy worship, based on the foolish but all too common misconception that only a masculine father-figure, when obeyed, provides security and protection.
Personally, I'll take a bit of diva sympathizing over the right's daddy worship any day of the week. How 'bout you?
Crossposted at Tyrion's Point.