Republicans have set a trap for Democratic candidates in moderate and conservative districts across the country.
And in the Georgia 12th District, some Democrats appear ready to help Max Burns push John Barrow headlong into it.
The trap, of course, is gay marriage. What a dream issue for Republicans, who get to proudly ensure the ignorant hatemongers among their base that not only do they despise the notion of sanctioned unions between gays and lesbians, they are ready and willing to use the U.S. Constitution to smite the godless homos forever.
The GOP knows such viciousness doesnt play well everywhere, so its lead bigots were kept closeted during the national convention. More enlightened Republicans, meanwhile, are content to look the other way while their party otherwise declares open season on this beleaguered American minority.
The great thing about bigotry, from the Republican standpoint, is that it knows no political affiliation. Sad as it may be, only Democratic candidates from solid blue territory can safely declare their absolute opposition to such vile business.
Other Dems, from John Kerry on down, depend on votes from conservatives, moderates and liberals, and feel compelled - rightly or wrongly - to take a more nuanced approach in order to win.
The great thing about nuance, from the Republican standpoint, is that it can easily be perceived as flip-flopping. The Burns camp says Barrow now supports a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, whereas in the Democratic primary he opposed it.
But there are actually two amendments on the table, one in the House and one in the Senate. Both define marriage as between man and woman, and both are designed to keep the issue out of federal courts.
Barrow opposes the House version, which also outlaws civil unions nationwide, and says he supports the Senate amendment, which would allow states to decide on gay marriage and civil unions for themselves.
Some are hurt and angered that Barrow didnt make such a distinction during the primary. His campaign manager insists Johns position is consistent, and an attentive (some might say lawyerly) reading of his published comments from the primary to the present bears that out.
So technically, from what I can tell, there is no flip-flop. Still, its fair to assume that in some quarters John has
some explaining to do.
Personally, I think John is being pragmatic. Id like to say that if I were an advisor Id urge him to step off the gay marriage tightrope and trust his Democratic brothers and sisters to catch him on November 2.
But I dont know that I would. This is the district that elected Burns in the first place, after all, and even now Democrats who should be closing ranks are playing right into Burns hands.
Sorry Max, I wont be a party to it by going into detail.
I will say this, however, for what its worth from a heterosexually married male with openly gay friends and family, who drives a car adorned with a pride flag-friendly bumper sticker, and who won his only journalistic award for an essay on the political implications of the murder of Matthew Shepard:
The race between Max Burns and John Barrow is not about gay marriage.
A federal constitutional amendment has little to no chance of getting over, and the Republicans know it. They also know the only thing this issue is good for is firing up the far right while turning progressives against each other over what amounts to degrees of progressiveness.
Dems in the 12th District who would allow this to happen are not only foolish but hypocritical, as most of them no doubt plan to vote for Kerry, whose position on gay marriage is very similar to Barrows.
Just like the race for president, Barrow v. Burns is about what weve seen out of Washington since January 2001. Its about millions of lost jobs and millions in lost overtime pay. Its about industry lobbyists making federal policy.
Its about runaway pollution and Your Child Left Behind.
Its about 3000 murdered American civilians, 1000 dead American soldiers, and the exploitation of their deaths to push the agenda of a chickenhawk draft dodger appointed to the White House by activist judges.
Max Burns has eagerly gone along with all of the above, and then some. Hes a wily politician for making gay marriage an election issue. Dont reward him for it.
Brad Aaron is editor and publisher of Athens Weekly News, where this column first appeared.