Saturday, March 16, 2013

GOP: Gay Old Party?

Yesterday, Ohio Senator Rob Portman surprised almost  everybody, but especially conservative Republicans, by announcing his support of same-sex marriage. He changed his mind after his twenty-year-old son  told him a few years back that he was gay. Some Ohio Republicans were a little uneasy about Portman’s sexuality when he was mentioned as a possible vice president candidate, which of course was before he announced his support of same sex unions. Portman was perceived to be too low-key and  deferential, and he was an Ivy League graduate (Dartmouth). Among his incriminating activities? He likes to go hiking and he kept a kayak in his office in Washington.  His gay son is an undergraduate at YaleNot your NASCAR type. More your Log Cabin Republican type. But who can be sure there arent gays at the Indianapolis 500, and that there wont be a Nellies for NASCAR someday.
 There are deep divisions within the Republican Party, divisions that are growing wider each news cycle. Since he has already caved on Obamacare, who knows what liberal new  proposal Ohio’s Republican governor John Kasich is going to come up with in an attempt to prove he’s not a  Stone Age Republican. There is now a segment of the GOP that is getting so liberal that some liberal Democrats worry they are being outflanked on the left. It would be even less surprising  than Portmans switch if  Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, hoping to get back his Senate seat, drops his tough guy Jimmy Cagney impersonation (yes, that’s what that is), announces he is gay,  and  supports same sex marriage. 

Bi-political Homosexual

The Portsmouth politician that may benefit most from the growing acceptance of gays is  city council member Kevin W. Johnson, whose Democratic affiliation presents little problem since he is bi-political, just the kind of bipartisanship that can help reduce  the paralyzing polarity of American politics. He has the strong backing of not only Democratic but also some Republican power brokers in Portsmouth. When a putatively pro-Johnson flyer was widely distributed during the last race for the First Ward seat on the city council, I assumed it was the work of the drug-dealing pimp who was the First Ward incumbent on the city council, or some of his supporters. I  assumed it was a homophobic hoax perpetrated by the pimp, who was as notoriously heterosexual as Johnson was openly homosexual. But because public opinion has shifted so much it  is possible, though still very unlikely, that the flyer was genuine. But in the seismic political and sexual shifts that are taking place, you cant be sure about anything.

Not long after taking his seat on the city council, Johnson strengthened his political position in Portsmouth by pushing a  primary ballot proposal to change the city charter from the mayoral to the city manager form of government. The proposal passed, but I think it would have failed in a general election because Portsmouth had already tried the city manager form of government and concluded it was even worse than the mayoral form, which it voted to return to. Why did Johnson want to get rid of the mayoral form of government? In part possibly because he wanted to get rid of the African-American mayor, David Malone, who is a hypocritical philandering evangelical preacher who denounced Johnson’s effort to get the city council to pass a resolution endorsing same sex unions. Malone believes homosexuality is the abomination that the Bible insists it is. Malone was appointed mayor when the first female mayor, Jane Murray, who challenged the monkey-business-as-usual tradition in Portsmouth, was recalled in a campaign that was led by the former Portsmouth police chief, the heavy-drinking Tom Bihl,  who had been convicted of  misusing public money.  Bihl hasn’t announced what his position on same sex marriage is,  but I would guess he’s “agin’ it.”
 Johnson may have a bright political future, not only  because he is gay,  but because he is bi-political, working both sides of the street, as he is on the Third Street controversy, and it doesn’t hurt that he is strongly in favor of gambling, which many locals believe will be the salvation of the city. 
       And what about “Governor” Johnson? Does that sound impossible? Well, so did “Governor” Strickland sound impossible twenty years ago, when he was teaching part-time evenings at Shawnee State University, and when a Republican member of the Cornerstone Church accused him of being sexually  involved with teen-age boys, without a shred of evidence, as I recall. I've heard Johnson was in Washington for Obama’s inauguration. He might even end up being the Republican candidate for governor. That day may arrive sooner than anyone can imagine. As Rob Portman’s conversion suggests, in spite of the  Tea Party, GOP could come to  stand not for the Grand Old Party but the Gay Old Party, which might be a big improvement.

From Kevin Johnsons Facebook pages

For  past posts related to the above post, click here   for “From Moses to David Malone,” and here for “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”