Former Arkansas governor may be affable and engaging on the outside, but underneath the smile lurks real danger to LGBT rights
Mike Huckabee is scary.
I mean George W. Bush scary in fact, that is how many of his supporters think of him: as a “better” George W.
As a George W. who will actually make “compassionate conservatism” a reality.
Of course, I have no idea what compassionate conservatism is.
It certainly isn’t a brand of conservatism that is compassionate toward gays and lesbians, since everyone who practices it is against us marrying, holding positions in churches, serving in the military, working without fear of being fired or walking down the street without worrying that someone is going to call us a queer and hit us over the head with a baseball bat.
But Mike Huckabee, in the space of a week, has become the great white hope of evangelical Christians. He went from being a bit of a sideshow to showing real viability as a candidate in the Iowa caucus (I’m writing this before the New Hampshire primary, but my bet is that McCain will win. If Huckabee wins, he gets even scarier.)
Huckabee is warm and charming. He plays bass guitar, a talent he showed off by crossing a picket line in order to appear on Jay Leno.
He is what everyone expected Fred Thompson to be genuinely funny, radiant on camera, a presence, a good ol’ boy. He is, as supporters say and as supporters said about George W. a guy you might like to have a beer with. Of course, no one who is gay would feel safe having a beer with a guy like that a guy like that might shake your hand warmly and then call his friends out to the parking lot to beat up the queer.
Mike Huckabee is the candidate of the edge of the right wing. He is a NASCAR candidate, a tent revival candidate, a candidate who would likely be as at home selling some sweet but deadly syrup at a medicine show. He is the poster boy for the die-hard Red Staters.
Now that he is viable, the big wallets of the evangelical movement are going to open up and support him. That’s one danger.
But the other danger is that independents are swayed by him, too. They are swayed by his warmth and his seeming reasonableness.
Take my mom, for instance. When I was home for the holidays, my mom said, “I like Obama. But I like Huckabee, too.”
“Huckabee?” I almost choked on my wine.
“Sure,” she said. “He’s like Obama. He wants everyone to get along.”
“He’s nothing like Obama!” I said.
I explained that Huckabee was a Baptist preacher who once agreed that women should be subservient to men. My mom was unmoved.
I said that he was a creationist, that he wanted to abolish the IRS and instead fund the government through threateningly high sales taxes, that he supported displaying the Ten Commandments in the public schools.
I was turning purple, practically spinning in circles. How could my mom a reasonable woman consider supporting Huckabee, an incredibly unreasonable man?
Finally, in despair, I said, “Mom. You can’t vote for him. You just can’t. He doesn’t think my people should be able to get married. He doesn’t think gay bashing should be a hate crime. He once said that people with AIDS should be quarantined. He will set back gay and lesbian civil rights.”
“Oh,” my mom said. “OK. That’s all you had to say, sweetheart.”
That’s all I had to say. And now I’m going to keep saying it.
I’m going to say it to all the independents and Republicans I know, to my family and friends around the country, to people I meet on the subway.
I’m going to tell them that if they have a gay man or lesbian in their lives that they love, that they cannot vote for Mike Huckabee, because he scares us.
And he scares us because he doesn’t believe that we have the same value as straight Americans. He doesn’t believe we should be able to adopt children. He doesn’t think there should be any additional AIDS funding.
Mike Huckabee has said, “Until recently, who would have dared to suggest that the practice should be accepted on equal footing with heterosexuality, to be thought of as a personal decision and nothing more?”
As important as it is to fight for our candidate of choice, we must also actively fight against Mike Huckabee as the Republican candidate for president.
He will drag our civil rights fight backwards.
Huckabee scares us. And he should.
Jennifer Vanasco is a syndicated columnistwho blogs daily on the gay political site VisibleVote08.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 11, 2008