My mom called Wednesday night right after Sarah Palin wrapped up her speech, and we had a very interesting and heated discussion about why she and my father are voting Republican in November. Despite my persistent campaign to gently, kindly convert them to Obama-ism, I had a feeling my parents weren’t going to vote for Barack, and I’m 110% sure they never would have voted for Hillary.
My mom can’t really put her finger on why she hates Hillary. She assumes Hillary will raise taxes, but that’s more of a general beef she has with all Democrats. More than anything, my mom thinks of Hillary as a ruthless bitch, and not in that cool hockey mom way. (Oh, Chelsea! Why couldn’t you have been born an Alaskan boy who liked to stomp in the faces of your rivals with razor-sharp skate blades?) I think Palin’s bitchiness goes down easier because she’s the perfect blue-collar feminist—tough enough to field dress a moose and reapply a coat of Revlon’s Midnight Rose all at the same time; human enough to have a pregnant teenage daughter and pious enough to tell everyone that abortion is never the answer. Oh, and in case you haven’t heard, she also has a baby with special needs. She’ll even let you take a picture with it for a small donation. Just don’t dilly dally because she needs him back in time for an appearance on The View.
My mom loved Sarah’s speech and it’s easy for me to see why. It was brilliantly written and well-delivered, but most of all, it made her seem like the sassy neighbor who every mom in the subdivision can’t help but love. Sarah is selling millions of women on the idea that she’s fighting the good ol’ boys network and no one seems to notice that she’s a card-carrying member. It’s like heralding Aunt Jemima as a neo-feminist who fought the good ol’ boys at Quaker Oats because public opinion finally forced the company to let her take off that doo rag and start a part-time catering business. You go girl! (But don’t start wearing pantsuits just yet and make sure dinner’s still on the table when Uncle Jemima gets home.)
After talking to my mom about Sarah’s weaknesses, it became clear to me that no weapon formed against Palin shall prosper. Want to claim Sarah’s experience as mayor of Wasilla didn’t prepare her to be Vice President? Well I’m sorry that Wasilla isn’t “cosmopolitan” enough for you, city slicker. Want to question her on her own admission that she has no idea what the vice president does all day? Well, she doesn’t have to answer that because she’s not going to Washington to please you, Campbell Brown. She’s an outsider and proud of it, baby! She’ll live in a wigwam on the white house lawn and dry caribou jerky on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, just you wait and see.
So what’s a gay guy to do? My best friend advised that I should play the gay card. Remind my mother that Sarah Palin won’t support my right to get married or adopt kids, and that a vote for Palin is a vote against the basic human rights of her own flesh and blood. On the one hand, I don’t hesitate to point out that I can’t vote Republican because the Republicans are only hands off when it comes to helping the poor, but not when it comes to stem cells or marijuana or unwanted pregnancy or gay sex or any other moral regulation God needs help with.
On the other hand, I don’t think I can control who my parents vote for by threatening to never speak to them again and I don’t like to press my luck when it comes to their tolerance of my “lifestyle” and my “friend.” When I was 17 and my parents found out I was using their AOL account to meet guys online, I suddenly found myself on a plane to spend Christmas with my biological father in Iowa. It was the first time I ever had to spend the holidays away from home and at the time, I wondered if my relationship with my mother would ever recover. So, I’m pretty happy that they don’t spit on my boyfriend and that we’re both welcome at all major family functions these days.
In the end, I’m still not sure if my friend is right. Maybe I’m too complacent. Maybe he’s doing more for gay rights by demanding political solidarity from anyone who claims to love and care about him. It’s hard to know when you’ll catch more flies with honey. I like to think the best option lies somewhere in the middle—to speak softly and carry a lot of pamphlets. At the very least, we owe it to ourselves to be well informed and to know the views and plans of all the candidates inside and out. We may not be able to win over others with vinegar or honey, but we may be able to bring them a little closer to our side with patience and a lot of accurate information.