When I read two years ago that outgoing Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum had compared homosexuality to bestiality, I knew that he would not win reelection. It’s not that I thought the people of Pennsylvania were particularly pro-gay, but figured than they, like most Americans, are anti-anti-gay.
Most Americans would rather that their politicians didn’t talk too much about gay issues, well, that it, outside certain urban areas where citizens want their elected officials to promote pro-gay policies and outside certain rural areas, where they want them to stand up against gays. But, by and large, I don’t think a politician’s stand on gay issues influenced many voters in the general election. To be sure, the pro-gay stands of some Republicans may have helped sway a few urban voters otherwise not inclined to vote for the GOP but, on the whole, people were concerned with other issues.
That said, when a politician makes statements as extreme as Santorum’s, people began to wonder about his quality of character, why he would so seek to demonize a large number of his fellow citizens.
Many on the left assume that when a politician supports defining marriage as it has long been defined, he is taking an anti-gay stand. To be sure, some who support such stands are anti-gay, but most, some of whom favor civil unions for same-sex couple, believe that marriage is an institution which brings together two individuals of different genders.
Outside the radical fringes of the gay movement, most Americans recognize that opposition to gay marriage does not necessarily mean animus against gays. But, statements like Santorum’s do rub them the wrong way.
The lesson for Republicans in Santorum’s defeat is that expression of anti-gay sentiments will not help advance a candidate’s cause. Most Americans, while opposing gay marriage, don’t harbor much, if any, animosity against gay people. But, on the whole, they do seem to seem to have an antipathy to politicians who readily express anti-gay bias.
No wonder Rick Santorum never polled higher than the low 40s. And secured a far smaller percentage of the vote last week than he had in his two previous statewide elections, elections held before he had compared homosexuality to bestiality.