Why "God, Guns, and Gays" Is Still Working

If the goal is to get the votes and political grassroots activism of the far right-wing, the Fundamentalists, and assorted fear-based people who turn out to vote Republican even against their financial interests, it’s still effective to look as anti-LGBT as possible.
    We might argue that it’s against the arc of history, that most in younger generations don’t care, or that a Supreme Court decision has settled things, but we’re probably not the people being targeted by the not-yet-worn-out “God, guns, and gays” politics. Politicians who rely on this are speaking to those faithful, consistent voters who are guaranteed to turn out still today to keep right-wingers in office so they can solidify their agenda in place now - making hay while the sun shines.
    They’re looking to the voters who’ll turn out in droves for the Republican primaries. They’re the voters who’ll vote in off-year elections while so many centrist and liberal voters stay home thinking elections aren’t important or the candidates are all the same.
    Tell that to the Koch brothers and other corporatists who spend millions to influence every election. We know that the goal of their negative political advertising isn’t to change minds but to discourage actual voting by convincing people to stay home believing “they’re all corrupt.”
    That thinking has proven successful in turning state legislatures red, packing statehouses with Republicans so that they’ve been able to gerrymander districts to their long-term benefit, and passing laws and amendments that it will take a long time and a lot of political will to undo.
    While others wait for demographics to change, this proven strategy has set the tone for American politics at all levels. We even see it in the fact that liberals are still responding to the right-wing when it trots out “God, guns, and gays.”
    The strategy is so entrenched that even Democrats who, I’d hope, might believe otherwise, worry excessively about how to appeal to those who vote these interests more than worrying about energizing their own base. It’s so central to politics that Democratic candidates often play Republican-lite.
    They usually, then, lose. And if they do win, they still act Republican-lite to get re-elected.
    In a state like Kansas, for example, where many complain about what their Opus Dei governor, Sam Brownback, and his Republican tea party legislature have done to ruin the state’s financial structure, if Brownback could run for a third term, this old strategy would be a winning one for him. And Brownback knows it, even if many of the more liberal Kansas optimists think he’d lose.
    You can just hear people who face economic suffering blame it all on President Obama, “liberals,” or the “liberal media” while they cast their votes for a right-wing governor. And they’ll be saying: “But he’s a good Christian man, wants to protect marriage, is against abortions, and won’t let the feds take our guns.”
    The corporatist Republican leaders have learned how to use these masses with this message. Most corporatists could care less about “God, guns, and gays” or even women’s reproductive rights except for how their internal corporate stance on these issues attracts customers and gets we’re-good-to-the-gays ratings.
    The big boys in their Party who distract the gullible masses with these issues would actually be willing to give up these causes as long as they can maintain control over the economic structures of the country. As long as they can buy legislators, Congress, the courts and the presidency, the progress we do or don’t make in the fight over these social issues can be a good distraction from the power corporatists wield, income inequality, and their abilities to amass vast fortunes of sizes unheard of in all of human history.
    They play both sides of this fence, courting the LGBT community as long as it doesn’t question their control of the economy. They’ll even be “good citizens” according to the measures of supporting protections and marriage for LGBT people while they destroy the American working class, the environment, and the public educational system.
    In fact, they’ll advertise in LGBT magazines and the newsletters of LGBT organizations. The largest ad-buys have often been for money-making pharmaceuticals of companies that turn around and promote the anti-gay candidates, but today you can also find the biggest polluters, tax-dodgers, and bail-out-receivers buying full page ads.
    The response of national outrage that included corporate objectors such as Eli Lilly and Angie’s List to Indiana’s anti-LGBT Religious Freedom Restoration Act last year hasn’t prevented the return of a new, even worse set of bills this year, including one called a “Super-RFRA” by one Indiana activist. And that’s because the radical right-wing candidates who are anti-LGBT remain in place thanks to the corporate support.
    Target Corporation in Minnesota was caught back in 2010 supporting anti-LGBT candidates while getting good ratings for corporate nondiscrimination policies and even producing a line of t-shirts to benefit an LGBT group.
    The key is that corporatists will support LGBT organizations as long as they are one-issue organizations. If those organizations become known for realizing the intersection of all oppressions like the National LGBT Task Force, they’re less likely to receive such large donations.
    Hence, even these big boys support the “God, guns, and gays” meme indirectly. They’ll support candidates who are actually anti-LGBT and who use this strategy because those candidates will guarantee the hegemony of corporate leaders. At the same time they’ll have pro-LGBT corporate statements and be considered good corporations by one-issue LGBT groups.
    Some day “God, guns, and gays” will be ineffective. But for now, conservatives at all levels still find it useful.
    Just as they haven’t given up maneuvering since Roe v. Wade gave women the right to choose in 1973, they’re not ready to give up their anti-LGBT politics. They know that it will continue to work as long as there are people gullible enough to be used by the leaders of one party, and there are pro-LGBT citizens who think that participating in electoral processes at all levels is unimportant. l


Robert N. Minor, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas, is author of When Religion Is an Addiction; Scared Straight; and Gay & Healthy in a Sick Society. Contact him at www.FairnessProject.org.

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