Clinton courts the gay vote

A report in the New York Times notes how Hillary Clinton is trying to attract the gay vote, “In honour of Gay Pride Month in June, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign held a “Broadway Brunches” fund-raiser in Manhattan, featuring a performance from the stars of the drag queen musical “Kinky Boots.” The campaign also opened a “Pride” section on its website, with rainbow-print merchandise including a “Loud and Proud” shirt with a young Hillary with a bob haircut silk-screened, Andy Warhol-style, against a yellow background. Later in the month, Mrs. Clinton posed with Lady Gaga at a fund-raiser, and her campaign promoted a kitschy pro-Clinton video made by the gay quartet Well-Strung”.

The report adds that “Mrs. Clinton does not have the most cutting-edge record when it comes to gay rights. She did not speak out on behalf of same-sex marriage until 2013. But what she lacks on the policy front, she is trying to make up for partly with a tongue-in-cheek recognition that in her decades in the public eye she has developed a certain pop culture status, particularly among some gay men who identify with her triumphs over adversity, her redemption, and her evolving personal style. The difference between her current campaign and her 2008 effort is that Mrs. Clinton, 67, seems to be playing up this cultural connection, whether it is making jokes about being a “hair icon” or sending around the Well-Strung tribute video on social media”.

The article goes on to make he point that”Clinton will attend a fund-raiser in Provincetown, Mass., hosted by Alix Ritchie, a prominent gay rights activist, and Bryan Rafanelli, an event planner who oversaw Chelsea Clinton’s wedding. The seaside enclave, often called “P-town” — in the state that was the first to legalize same-sex marriage — has long been a Shangri-La for gays, and the event will highlight Mrs. Clinton’s ties to the powerful gay Democratic donors who vacation there. The 2012 census reported that Provincetown had 163.1 same-sex couples per 1,000 people, the most of any city or town nationwide”.

Pointedly the report adds that “As some Republican presidential candidates issued measured responses to the Supreme Court’s decision on Friday to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide and others attacked the ruling in the name of religious freedom, Mrs. Clinton was effusive in her praise. She called the ruling a “historic victory” and celebrated “the courage and determination of L.G.B.T. Americans who made it possible.” Her campaign gave out free bumper stickers with the “H” logo in rainbow colors spelling out the word “History” and had a huge presence at pride parades across the country, including four such events in Iowa. Chelsea Clinton and much of the Brooklyn-based campaign staff attended the New York City parade. Of course, gay life is incredibly diverse, and the cliché of the strong woman with diva appeal does not speak to everyone, or cancel out more substantive concerns about Mrs. Clinton’s policy positions”.

Obviously the report makes the valid point that “Some people criticized Mrs. Clinton’s response to the court’s same-sex marriage ruling as politically opportunistic and overkill, given her relatively late arrival to the cause. “Shout out to Hillary Clinton who opposed gay marriage until 2013. Truly a visionary,” Hamilton Nolan, a writer at Gawker, posted on Twitter. Others pointed to President Bill Clinton’s signing of the Defense of Marriage Act and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, two of the most significant setbacks in the modern gay rights movement”.

Interestingly it goes on to note, “It is hard to measure gay support for candidates; until recently, most pollsters did not collect that data. But in the 2008 Democratic primaries, voters who identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual favored Mrs. Clinton over Senator Barack Obama by 23 percentage points in New York and by 34 points in California, the only states that asked voters about their sexual orientation in exit polls. In the four years she served as secretary of state, Mrs. Clinton prioritized gay rights, including in a 2011 speech in Geneva in which she urged nations to accept gays and lesbians. She has now made the issue central to her 2016 campaign”.

The piece adds that “Several of Mrs. Clinton’s gay supporters cautioned against generalizations. But at the same time, they suggested that there was something visceral about Mrs. Clinton’s appeal to some of her most ardent gay supporters. The campaign’s positioning of Mrs. Clinton as a “fighter” plays into this idea. “She has had to overcome a whole lot of setbacks and personal attacks, literally, since she came into public life,” said Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign and a former Clinton aide. “If you look at the L.G.B.T. experience, there are a lot of parallels.” George Chauncey Jr., a professor of history and American studies at Yale and author of “Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture and the Making of the Gay Male World,” said that while he had not noticed his students to be particularly enthusiastic about Mrs. Clinton, that resonance of the long-suffering woman with older gay men, in particular, cannot be underestimated”.

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