Dean Interview on Civil Unions: Does This Issue Mean He's Unelectable?

Democratic Underground > Dean on Civil Unions : The OITM Interview

(The following is my reproduced post from DU. This article was posted there decrying Dean's political calculations during Vermont's passage of civil unions.)

Read the whole article, please.

It's an open and honest look into the political and ethical thinking of Howard Dean. And it's not as bad as those few passages indicate, although I appreciate ZW's points. And I'm speaking as a Clark/ABB supporter.

There are no pictures of Gov. Dean signing civil unions legislation to appear in Republican advertisements. The Repukes can of course grab any picture of a signing Dean to use in its stead. But the political calculation in this approach is obvious.

Likewise, the statement about the Tom Lawson soccer tournament. If it had been a Enron official wanting to open a captive insurance company in Vermont, a staffer would have been sent to the games with a camera.

But let's consider the entire paragraph of the "uncomfortable" remark:

The truth is that it is the politics that made me uncomfortable. (Personally) I’m sure that I have the same hang-ups that lots of people have on the issue. But it is a matter of equity. I remain convinced that of the 50 percent of people who are opposed to this, that half of those are fundamentally decent human beings and this is just a vast change for them that they’ve never considered before. I consider those people people who will ultimately accept the equality of gays and lesbians and stop marginalizing them. Those are the people that I have to speak to.
The Dean/civil unions issue is supposed to make Dean "unelectable" because Americans by and large are uncomfortable with gay marriage. But I think Dean is correct here - many have never considered such a vast change. They would do just as he says they would; they hold the potential to stop marginalizing gays and lesbians. The question is this: Can Dean articulate his position on civil unions to the "half" of the opposed 50% that will listen? Can he speak to them?
OITM: What role, if any, do you think homophobia played in the civil union debate?

Dean: I hesitate to use the word because many people confuse homophobia with bigotry. A bigot is someone who deliberately manifests mean-spirited unequal treatment of people because of who they are. It is very difficult to deal with bigotry except with the law. We live in a culture that is somewhat homophobic. Homosexuals become a lightning rod for all kinds of fears for things that have nothing to do with homosexuals. The reason for that is that, especially in men, sexuality is a terrible struggle. It takes some insight to understand that your own projections on a group of people have to do with your concerns about sexuality. Homophobia is widespread; bigotry is not. There are a lot of people who are homophobic but are not bigots. Those people can be brought into an understanding that everybody is a member of this community regardless of their sexual orientation.
This is the crux of his message to that segment of the opposition who will listen. You can be a homophobe (fear of homosexuals) without being a bigot (someone who deliberately manifests mean-spirited unequal treatment of people because of who they are). There are a few levels to homophobia - it's not a light switch. People who have a slight degree of homophobia can have their fears allayed by knowledge.

And most homophobes view themselves like this. They don't beat up gay people, they live and let live, as long as they're not living too close. Dean knows his audience and he can appeal to that part of their nature - live and let live. He made the journey this audience needs to make, and he can lead them on it.

This is important to realize: the Dean candidacy will be a referendum on the current state of gay rights in this country. Do we view Dean as unelectable because we fear what America will say to us on this issue? That's the fear we would be projecting onto Dean, wouldn't it?

This article actually makes me feel better about this issue for Dean. I think he can handle himself on it. May the best man win the nomination!

PS: Howard firmly places the onus of homophobia on the homophobe - it's projecting fears about your own sexuality onto a group of people. And he did sign the legislation, cameras or not.