Mike Rogers has a list. If you're on it, and you're a politician, there are rough seas ahead. Rogers, contributor to the crusading Blogactive, claims he has a list of 33 Congress members who pursue anti-gay policies but are themselves homosexual. And if they don't mend their hypocritical ways, Rogers will 'out' them on his blog. Oh, and about 30 of the names are Republicans.
"I write about closeted people whose records are anti-gay. If you're a closeted Democrat or Republican and you don't bash gays or vote against gay rights to gain political points, I won't out you."
What to make of this threat? On the one hand, hypocrisy deserves to be exposed. It's a reprehensible human quality, the cause and perpetuator of a great deal of stupidity and suffering. Believe me, there's nothing I'd rather see than a bunch of Republicans getting their digital comeuppance.
Still, there's something a little distasteful about Rogers' crusade. Reduced to its essential components, his threat amounts to little more than political blackmail. Yes, LGBT equality is a vitally important political issue. But as the 'War on Terror' so ably demonstrates, individuals who pursue progressive political goals need to choose their methods carefully, lest they become the monsters they oppose.
A politician who votes for a anti-gay agenda is homophobic. Full stop. Their personal sexual orientation is immaterial. They should be challenged on the fact that their position is wrong and inconsistent with the values of a free society based on constitutionally entrenched civil rights. Not that they are hypocrites. The first argument has legal and moral weight; the second merely shows that they are bad people- and we more or less knew that anyway. Destroying the career of a closeted-gay-homophobic congressman is ultimately hurts only one person. It does nothing to challenge prevailing social attitudes or build legal protections. If anything, it makes the LGBT community look like a sinister mafia who launches personal attacks against anyone who disagrees with their position. These are the tactics of social conservatives. Is that a game that progressive individuals should be playing?
Rogers' crusade politicizes the personal lives of his targets. Isn't that what social conservatives have been doing to gay and lesbian individuals for centuries? My understanding is that the ultimate goal of the LGBT movement is to de-politicize sexual orientation, to create a society where everyone is accorded the same human and civil rights, regardless of their sexual preference. It seems to me that Rogers is perpetuating the hyper-politicization of homosexuality by making an individuals sexual orientation- not their voting record, policy choices or ideology- the central issue. A gay Repulican who votes against gay rights is a sad, sad individual. But do they deserve to be pilloried on the basis of their personal life? Again, this is a social conservative tactic. It's slimy, it's mean, and ultimately, I think it works against the interests of the LGBT community.
Although I am not gay, I believe that total equality for gay individuals is a fundamentally important part of a truly free and democratic society. But I also firmly believe that the ends never justify the means in public life. If progressive victories are achieved by appropriating the hateful tactics of social conservatives and cynical political careerists, then they are no victories at all. Ideals, ethics and morality have always been the strength of progressive movements. If these movements surrender their keystones for short term advantage, then they are doomed to fail.
UPDATE [06/09/07]: The Washington Post agrees.