STEVEN JONAS, MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Remember when the name “Chick-fil-A” was all the rage in national politics? Why it was only about a month ago, not that you would know it now, with the national party conventions underway and all. But given what has come out of the Republican National Convention, both in its platform and certain choice words that emanated from one speaker after another, the Chick-fil-A thing is worth a re-visit. For it truly symbolizes what GOP politics has become.
Chick-fil-A fast-food restaurants specialize, it would appear, in providing high-calorie food featuring fried chicken. They are found only in certain parts of the country; those parts generally presenting with, it would seem, higher than even the normal US obesity rates. Just to remind you of what the fuss was all about, the CEO of Chick-fil-A, one Dan Cathy, has been active for some years in several of the leading national homophobic organizations. These are ones that are especially interested in preventing the attainment of 14th Amendment rights (equal protection under the law) for gay and lesbian couples who wish to marry, and in promoting the homophobes’ myth that homosexuality is not only a “disease” but is “curable.” Chick-fil-A and Cathy, again just to remind you, became national political news when several national gay rights organizations decided to try to organize a consumer boycott of the chain.
It did not take the Republican Religious Right (which term now covers the bulk of the GOP and their elected representatives) long to counter-organize a national “Support Chick-fil-A” day. The movement was prominently led by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, a formerly fat man, who at one time had become rather trim (and even wrote a book about weight loss), but now seems to be bent upon catching up with the present Governor of New Jersey in weight (although he would seem to have a long ways to go in that regard). As is well known, Huckabee (according to sources a closet Dominionist) is no political lightweight either. He was given a prime-time speaking slot at the RNC, where he not only represented active homophobia, but also came off his recent defense of Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, the “legitimate rape” guy. But why not? Akin’s “no abortions under any conditions” demand is part of the GOP national platform plank that calls for a Constitutional amendment to criminalize any personal/religious belief that holds that life begins at any time other than conception. And by the way, this platform plank is nothing new for the GOP. A ban-abortion-under-any-circumstances Constitutional amendment has been there at least as far back as 1992.
At the same time, the 2012 GOP platform calls for a Constitutional amendment that would repeal the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment for same-sex couples. Imagine that! Here is one of the two national political parties, in a so-called “advanced” capitalist country, organizing nationally around homophobia and religious authoritarianism in the matter of abortion rights. When Chick-fil-A and Cathy were all the rage (a good word for it, don’t you think?), the GOP, well-practiced in diverting attention from the real issues and practicing the central Lee Atwater political dictum, “always attack; never defend,” attempted to make the struggle one over Cathy’s “free speech.” Of course, that’s not it. First of all, there is no Constitutional right to “free speech.” The First Amendment, with which in practice few GOP thought-and-speech suppressors are familiar, actually applies only to the Congress, to wit: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech.” Second, be that as it may, if Cathy has the right to fund organized homophobia and talk about, the LGBT rights organizations have the right to organize an anti-Chick-fil-A boycott.
But beyond all of this, what is (and it is “is,” even if it no longer on the front pages) the Chick-fil-A controversy really all about? Because Mike Huckabee was only the most prominent GOP leader to be out in front on it and no leader, including Romney (who tried his damnedest to avoid it), dared condemn the Chick-fil-A supporters, it is really about the GOP and their use of organized hate for political purposes. “Hate,” you say? Isn’t it just about gay marriage and “curing homosexuality?” Well no, it isn’t. As one person lining up on “Support Chick-fil-A Day” put it “”I’m so glad you don’t support the queers; I can eat in peace.” (1) And another said: “I support your company, because your company hates the gays.” And here is the GOP, riding that wave right into the election, for which at various time it joins homophobia with the above-mentioned religious authoritarianism, as well as misogyny, Islamophobia, and racism. Other than sloganeering on “small government” and “cut your taxes” without providing a scintilla of detail on exactly how they would do that and what government services would go under their plans, they’ve got nothing else.
And so, on full display were all of the potential candidates for the 2016 GOP nomination, should Romney, with all the money and all the voter suppression and all the cheating on vote-counting which will surely take place in any GOP-controlled “swing state,” somehow manage to lose. Indeed, they were all trying to out-do each other, either publicly like Huckabee and Santorum or with code-words, like Ryan and Christie, lining up to board the Hate Train. For that’s all the GOP really has, these days. Too bad the Democratic Party either can’t or doesn’t want to recognize that reality, in full throat (except when they are trying to raise money). But that’s for another time.
1. Shapiro, L., “Chick-a-Fil Anti-Gay Controversy: Gay Employees Speak Out,” Huff Post Gay Voices, August 2, 2012.
Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30 books. In addition to being a columnist for BuzzFlash/Truthout (http://www.buzzflash.com, http://www.truth-out.org/), he is the Managing Editor of and a Contributing Author to TPJmagazine.net.