Alex Blaze

Would 65% of Americans vote for a gay president? I'm not so sure

Filed By Alex Blaze | August 25, 2008 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, The Movement
Tags: lesbian, LGBT, polling, president

Several organizations are shining over the recent Zogby finding that 65% of Americans would vote for an openly gay president:

65% of likely voters nationwide would support an openly gay person to serve as President of the United States if they believed he or she was the most qualified for the job, and they agreed with his or her positions on the issues that matter to them most.

While it's great that people are saying, two to one, that they'd vote for a gay politician in the abstract for president, we're still a long way from that day.

Just because 65% of Americans say they'd vote for a gay president doesn't mean that we're near having a gay president. A good deal of that 65% wouldn't vote for him or her because they just don't agree with his or her politics.

But beyond that, debating it in the hypothetical proves little as well. Lots of people, when actually presented with a gay individual and either that person's lack of family or that person's same-sex partner, would change their minds.

Consider the hoops we set up for the candidates that don't relate to sexual orientation on paper that this hypothetical person would have to jump through:

  • Proving their faith in Christ
  • Talking up their families to moderates and low-interest voters
  • Demonstrating that they're not elitists to millionaire celebrities in the media who think they know what Real Americans are like (remember, they think every American wants a Real Man for president)
  • Never talking about sexual orientation so as not to be seen as "pulling the gay card" even when confronted with direct homophobia
  • Having the conservative slime machine turned against them and responding effectively to chain emailed rumors about who knows what (She castrated a man when she was in college! He has bukkake orgies in his apartment!)
  • Not appearing too femme, if this person is a man, when masculinity is seen by the media as the only prerequisite to working in politics
  • Not appearing too butch, if this person is a woman, on top of current burden women in politics face when it comes to walking the line between "pushover" and "bitch"
  • Proving that America's "ready" for a gay president
  • Showing that other countries would respect a gay president, no matter how homophobic they are
  • Showing that their partner (up until now, their wife) is an appropriate First Lady

After all that, would 65% of Americans still think this person is viable, even if she or he is more qualified than his or her heterosexual (probably white and male) competitor?

Pam sums it up:

I think the reality, when you take the whole ball of political wax in consideration, makes these numbers worthy of positive spin, but it's clear that an openly gay pol (as well as women who run), still has a much narrower band of public presentation in which to run and expect to win.

I'd like to think that we could roll out a gay candidate in four years and at least have a chance if his or her politics are good and he or she is able to run a good campaign. But I just doubt it. Our political system is too filled with fluff right now and, no matter how on-face homophobic or not people are, that fluff works against queer people.

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Some years ago a couple was sharing a Woodhull event about their son. When quite young he became a fan of JFK and wanted nothing more than to emulate him and someday become President of the United States.

When the young man came out to his parents about being gay, his mother asked him what he thought this would do to his chances of being President. He responded that he thought it unlikely he'd ever be elected President. His mother pointed out that it would be 15 years before he could even run and a lot could happen in that time.

The young man responded in the affirmative and then said "I think that the country might be able to vote for a gay male for President, but I think they'd have a whole lot of trouble with a gay first person."

I think he's as correct today as he was when he made the comment. And it's not about politics. It IS possible that we could elect a gay male - if he could be painted as asexual. But as soon as this person has a partner and it becomes inescapable that he *GASP* is sexual with a same sex partner, I think it'll be all over but the shouting.

Well said. It's the same old story: It's o.k. to be gay, just don't do anything gay. Too many people don't want to see it.
And as for surveys about who would elect what in an election -- It's one thing to answer politically correct on paper or over the phone to some anonymous poll taker, it's another thing altogether to count on people to maintain such high minded ideals with a voting stylus in their hand. To place polls and surveys in perspective you have to stop and think about how many people you know in life who say one thing and do another.