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Grrrrrr, if you know what I mean

Gentle Readers everywhere have been wondering what’s getting on YHB’s nerves today? The answer: stories about Ken Mehlman that imply that he just somehow happened to be head of the RNC and campaign manager for Our Previous President, as if he were sitting quietly with a good book when a delegation of otter-ninjas broke in to his flat and presented him with a certificate of Party Leadership. As if Mr. Mehlman had no way of knowing the history of his Party, or their platform, or the people he was working with.

Gabriel Arana, over at TAPped, in an otherwise perfectly good post called You Don’t Have to be Gay to Do the Right Thing, says that Mr. Mehlman “stood by idly” whilst his Party did a bunch of bad stuff. No, I suspect he didn’t. I mean, I don’t know all that much about how Party Politics works on a day-to-day basis, but somehow I doubt that they put people in charge of the re-election campaign for idle bystanding.

Marc Ambinder, in the story that appears to have broken the news, says that Mr. Mehlman’s time in that inner circle coincided with some seriously anti-gay-rights political shenanigans. Yes, Mr. Ambinder is actually just saying that the two things happened at the same time, but the implication is that it was all just a coincidence, that there was no connection between them other than that. This is preposterous. Ken Mehlman worked very hard to get where he was; he implemented the anti-gay-rights strategy, formed Political Action Committees, raised money, arranged rallies, approved speaker lists, glad-handed, shmoozed and spun. Not coinciding with the Party’s choices but putting those choices into practice.

Mr. Mehlman was not just some guy. He was a Big Deal. There were ten or twenty people more important and influential in his party (two of them were the President and Vice-President of the United States, so there was that) but he had got into the Inner Ring, not by accident but by design, and any language that implies otherwise is misleading.

Now, it also seems to me that Mr. Mehlman has had a very real change of viewpoint since 2005. I could be wrong, but I infer from what I saw that (a) previous to 2010 or so, Mr. Mehlman did not identify himself to himself as a gay man, and (2) that was at least in part connected with his thinking, at the time, that it was a Bad Thing to be a gay man. It is not altogether unheard of for somebody, yes, even a grown-up, to experience same-sex attraction for years, and even to have same-sex sex or even to have a long-term same-sex romantic attachment, while believing those two things. Sometimes such a person will finally reach a conclusion that (a) he is a gay man, and (2) that’s OK. I think that’s what happened. I could be wrong, but I think that’s what happened.

If I’m right about that, much of the policy that he was pushing in those years lined up with his thinking on the topics. There was no great hypocrisy involved, no reason for him to resign in protest or stand up to his fellows on principle. He was just wrong. And actively wrong, pursuing that course with purpose and passion and all that proverbial, not standing by or coincident with it, but part of the group that was pursuing it with him.And if I’m wrong about it, and he was opposed to it as a policy for a variety of reasons, well, he was still pursuing that policy actively, not standing by or coincident with it.

None of that is meant to criticize Mr. Mehlman for coming out at this time, or to claim that it would have been easy for him to come out beforehand, or really even to criticize him for taking those years to identify himself to himself or to anyone else as a homosexual man. I have never lived in the closet myself (being straight has that effect, in the world we live in), and while it’s clear that the more people eschew the closet, the better it is for the world, that doesn’t require that everyone make the decision the same way. No, I’m just saying: during those years, he was not a bystander to events but an actor. Give him credit and blame for that. And if he now regrets those actions, give him credit or blame for that regret, and what he does with it.

There were plenty of innocent bystanders hurt by the Administration from 2001-2008, and by the legislation imposed in those years by the national movement that calls itself Conservative. Ken Mehlman was not one of those innocent bystanders. That’s just not what happened.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,
-Vardibidian.

Comments

To be perfectly fair, if you take a look at Michael Steele you can see how someone might indeed get to be the head of the RNC by standing-by and having nothing to do with Republican policies...


Well, and I have to call Michael Steele an exception,, what with one thing and another. And even then—he didn't get that job without putting in a lot of effort toward getting it, even if he doesn't seem to be interested in putting much work into keeping it.

Thanks,
-V.


I just want to say that your second sentence made me laugh and laugh.


Sure, you laugh now, but when the ninja-otters come and make you chair of the MLA, you'll be all like You can't do this! I'm a classicist!

Thanks,
-V.


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