Last weekend, I went and flyered for a Get out the Vote in Swing States group with strong anti-Bush leanings in the amazing Millenium Park during it's opening weekend celebration. During that time, I learned how much I absolutely hate flyering. I suppose I deserve bad luck, as I always turn away from people who are passing out flyers. Even if someone was to come up to me with a flyer for the "Gin-drinking-Buffy-fan-comic-books-and-tacos-club" I'd still not make eye contact and speed up my walking. I learned I'm not alone in this speeding up process.
It got to the point where I was really thinking that this election is going to be old overweight white men with bad mustaches versus everyone else. One particularly large man in ill-fitted shorts was holding six hotdogs, and gave me this look when I asked him if he wanted to help beat Bush in November that said "I'm an overweight middle aged white-man who is about to sit down and eat six hot dogs – I'm clearly ok with the direction this country is taking."
Every person over the age of 22 was avoiding us except one group: gay people. We eventually stopped counting the number of times two men holding hands came up to us and gave us encouraging words and listened to what we had to say. For those visiting our page from across the universe, Chicago has a very active gay community on the North Side called Boystown – it is relatively close to the Park (it shares a train line anyway) and thus a lot of gay couples were out for the day. And they all hate Bush. All of them. A lot. And who can blame them?
When this whole gay marriage thing came up from the administration, I thought Bush is just circling his wagons and energizing his base. He's not going to be losing votes. And then I learned I was wrong. According to a Jan 2001 post-election analysis by the Log Cabin Republicans: "Bush captured 25% of the gay vote [1.1 million votes] nationwide, a record number for a GOP presidential candidate." Can you believe 1 million gay people voted for Bush?!?! Remember back in those days? Bush didn't say a word about marriage or gay people – he was a "compassionate conservative" chock full of inclusion and bringing people together; Dick Cheney even had a gay daughter who campaigned for him! How progressive!
Mary Cheney, the only gay supporter of George Bush in 2004.
And they only had to pay her $100,000 to do it.
I'm not going to even bother to describe how Bush ditched those million voters. I think what's worse for him is that by not just slighting them, but instead refering to their existence as undermining the entirety of Western Civilization (an insult you can't help but imagine you wouldn't forget), he's gotten them energized to support Kerry, a candidate that one needs to be blamed for the decline of Western Civilization in order to get excited about.
And what did Bush gain? Did he rally his own base? This is the big question, and I honestly don't think he is earning any votes. People who are so opposed to gay people that they blame them as disrupting all of life and want to pass an Constitutional Amendment with the speed and lack of debate as if it was a Highway Bill Amendment almost certainly were going to vote for Bush on election day anyway. I can't imagine someone who is so infuriated by gay people that they would let gay marriage decide their vote in an election in 2004 (with real problems like dirty bombs and occupations and half a trillion dollar deficits) not supporting Bush no matter what.
Kerry et. al get a lot of flak for not really standing strong on the gay marriage issue, but I think that it reflect a lot of popular thinking among adults – "I'm sorta ok with it – I'm not 'not ok' with it." I think a lot of people are generally uncomfortable with it, but don't want to immediately sic the federal government on any minority group. I don't pretend to know what the gay community was thinking about four more years of Bush pre-gay-marriage debate – I imagine they were split like the rest of the country. Well, we can almost be certain, with the notable exception of Mary Cheney in all her self-loathing 2004 campaigning glory, nobody there likes him now – and that's a million votes Bush had that he has now lost.
Perhaps Bush is acting on principle on this and not on electioneering: That's the thought that actually scares me more. But I just don't see it. If he was really serious about a defense of marriage he would be attacking the 50% of boomers who get divorces. As far as I know, there hasn't been a single word.