From various sources, I have learned that the reaction on most gay left blogs to the revelation of Ken Mehlman’s coming out has been as vitriolic as we could have anticipated. I really have no interest in addressing their comments directly because it’s not worth my time to engage those who, to paraphrase Albert Camus, cannot be persuaded.
They simply believe that when working for W and helming the RNC, Mehlman was not just closeted, but also fully aware of the meaning of his feelings for men. It’s easier for them and fits their narrative, that gay conservatives are all self-loathing. They would rather attack the demon of their imagination than understand the individual who stands before them.
They fail to appreciate that gay conservatives are just like many of them — and often have had to struggle to come to terms with their emotional and sexual attraction to individuals of their own sex. For some of us, it takes longer than others. For Ken Mehlman, it apparently took 43 years.
Mehlman says he wasn’t aware of (perhaps, it might be more accurate to say, hadn’t fully dealt with) his sexuality when he worked for the 2004 Bush campaign and chaired the RNC:
Mehlman acknowledges that if he had publicly declared his sexuality sooner, he might have played a role in keeping the party from pushing an anti-gay agenda.
“It’s a legitimate question and one I understand,” Mehlman said. “I can’t change the fact that I wasn’t in this place personally when I was in politics, and I genuinely regret that. It was very hard, personally.” He asks of those who doubt his sincerity: “If they can’t offer support, at least offer understanding.”
I believe him. I remember what it’s like “not to be in that place personally.” Don’t they? Why do they refuse to take him at his word? It must be that (R) after his name. Or his association with the nefarious Bush regime and its chief henchman, Boba Rove.
I highly doubt Mehlman said the party was pushing an “anti-gay agenda” in 2004. Because it wasn’t. To be sure, the then-president came out in support of the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) which was indeed wrong-headed, but hardly anti-gay. Perhaps, Mehlman had meant that had he been where he is now, he could have lobbied the Administration not to make a federal case out of gay marriage (as it should not have done).
Mehlman should have realized that he would have been better served by conducting his coming-out interview not with a left-of-center blogger, but instead with a conservative or libertarian one.
That said, for all the bile he’s getting now from the left, I would bet good money that many of his former White House and GOP colleagues have been contacting him privately to offer their support. They will let him know that this revelation will not affect their relationship. Few, if any, will cut him off.
Telling that in reporting on Mehlman’s coming out for the New York Times, Michael Luo points out that when “Mr. Mehlman revealed his sexual orientation” to “Ed Gillespie, another former Republican chairman”, this did not change the latter’s “personal opposition to same-sex marriage”, but doesn’t mention that it probably also didn’t change his friendship with Mehlman either. Had he done so, he might present Times‘ readers with a more accurate picture of conservative attitudes toward gay people.
As I’ve learned on numerous occasions, people can both like an individual gay person and oppose gay marriage.
It is the most politicized gay activists — and their allies in the gay community and on the left — with whom he’s going to have the most trouble. And that will be the subject of my next post.