Michele Bachmann: Palin version 2.0? When it comes to gay rights, yes.

Is it possible that Michele Bachmann's position on gay rights makes Sarah Palin look sensible?

Back in 2008, then vice-presidential hopeful Sarah Palin referred to homosexuality as a "choice". This was hardly surprising. Palin had already established herself as a Bible-bashing "traditionalist". So for her to spout such ignorance in relation to being gay was about as surprising as hearing Nick Griffin mention that he doesn't care much for Muslims.

 

As much as this talk of the unholy homosexual "lifestyle choice" was expected from Palin, it was still abhorrent. I wasn't aware that I'd "chosen" to be gay -- thank you, Mrs Palin, for letting me know. How much more openly homophobic could a mainstream political figure afford to be? Quite a lot, it turns out.

Enter now Congresswoman Bachmann.

In a recent interview with NBC, which quickly became a YouTube hit, Michele Bachmann was played some audio from a speech she made at a 2004 educational conference. According to the Bachmann of seven years ago, homosexuality is, wait for it... "A part of Satan".

 

Can't we go back to it just being a "choice"? I'm gay, but I'm at least a little bit more comfortable with being told that I chose to be, rather than the soul-torturing lord of the fiery realms of Perdition having forced me into my sexuality with the business end of his fork.

But anyway, what did the 2011, potential president, Bachmann have to say about her 2004 self's little slur? "I'm running for president of the United States, I'm not running to be anyone's judge". But Congresswoman, surely you've already made a judgement, and not a very nice one at that? The interviewer replied with something along those lines, only to be told again by the squirming Bachmann that she "isn't anyone's judge".

Sadly, the interviewer didn't do a Paxman and demand that the Congresswoman answer the question properly, until she was curled in a foetal position on the floor, weeping and praying for oblivion. She pretty much got away with her pathetically evasive answer.

But enough of Bachmann's rhetoric, let's look at the facts. The Congresswoman has made clear that, if she wins the presidency, she will do everything in her power to reinstate the controversial 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy for the US military, which has only just been abolished.

 

Palin, on the other hand, made the news earlier this year when she re-tweeted gay conservative Tammy Bruce calling DADT "hypocritical". OK, so the former Governor of Alaska may not exactly have draped herself in a rainbow flag and joined the nearest gay pride parade, but compared to Michele "gays are from hell" Bachmann, she's starting to look very much like the lesser of two evils.

What's more, Palin supported the inclusion of gay Republican group GoProud in this year's national Conservative Political Action Conference. As it turns out, the group was altogether banned from the conference - so all the more props to Palin for having, albeit unsuccessfully, stood up for them.
This, in light of the fact that Bachmann voted 'NO' on enforcing against anti-gay hate crimes, means that Palin is starting to look more and more, well, reasonable.

In the same interview where Plain referred to homosexuality as a "choice", Bachmann's fellow 2012 presidential hopeful, bless her heart, said that she has a close gay friend. As pitiful and "I'm-not-racist-I-have-a-black-friend"-like as this is, I very much doubt that Michele Bachmann has ever knowingly met a gay person, let alone acquired a GBF.

It's bizarre to think that, with President Palin, gay rights would be quite considerably less doomed than with President Bachmann. Both women are staunchly anti-gay marriage, yet Sarah Palin, right at the back of her mind (such as it is) seems to possess some vague notion that it's OK-(ish) to be gay. Bachmann, on the other hand, is to gay rights what an over-excited, muddy puppy is to a pile of freshly washed white bed sheets.
Although a Palin or Bachmann presidency may look too unlikely to worry about, it's still sad that, in mainstream US politics, minorities are so often forced to look for the lesser of evils.

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.

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Labour is launching a stealthy Scottish comeback - thanks to Jeremy Corbyn and the Daily Mail

The Scottish Labour strategy is paying off - and hard evidence that it works may be more plentiful come 8 June 2017

When I suggested to a senior Scottish Labour figure earlier this year that the party was a car crash, he rejected my assertion.

“We’re past that,” he said gloomily. “Now we’re the burnt-out wreck in a field that no-one even notices anymore.”

And yet, just as the election campaign has seen Jeremy Corbyn transformed from an outdated jalopy into Chitty Chitty Bang Bang magically soaring in the polls, Scottish Labour is beginning to look roadworthy again.

And it’s all down to two apparently contradictory forces – Corbyn and The Daily Mail.

Kezia Dugdale’s decision to hire Alan Roden, then the Scottish Daily Mail’s political editor, as her spin doctor in chief last summer was said to have lost her some party members. It may win her some new members of parliament just nine months later.

Roden’s undoubted nose for a story and nous in driving the news agenda, learned in his years at the Mail, has seen Nicola Sturgeon repeatedly forced to defend her government record on health and education in recent weeks, even though her Holyrood administration is not up for election next month.

On ITV’s leaders debate she confessed that, despite 10 years in power, the Scottish education system is in need of some attention. And a few days later she was taken to task during a BBC debate involving the Scottish leaders by a nurse who told her she had to visit a food bank to get by. The subsequent SNP attempt to smear that nurse was a pathetic mis-step by the party that suggested their media operation had gone awry.

It’s not the Tories putting Sturgeon on the defence. They, like the SNP, are happy to contend the general election on constitutional issues in the hope of corralling the unionist vote or even just the votes of those that don’t yet want a second independence referendum. It is Labour who are spotting the opportunities and maximising them.

However, that would not be enough alone. For although folk like Dugdale as a person – as evidenced in Lord Ashcroft’s latest polling - she lacks the policy chops to build on that. Witness her dopey proposal ahead of the last Holyrood election to raise income tax.

Dugdale may be a self-confessed Blairite but what’s powering Scottish Labour just now is Jeremy Corbyn’s more left-wing policy platform.

For as Brexit has dropped down the agenda at this election, and bread and butter stuff like health and education has moved centre stage, Scots are seeing that for all the SNP’s left wing rhetoric, after 10 years in power in Holyrood, there’s not a lot of progressive policy to show for it.

Corbyn’s manifesto, even though huge chunks of it won’t apply in Scotland, is progressive. The evidence is anecdotal at the moment, but it seems some Scots voters find it more attractive than the timid managerialism of the SNP. This is particularly the case with another independence referendum looking very unlikely before the 2020s, on either the nationalists' or the Conservatives' timetable.

Evidence that the Scottish Labour strategy has worked may be more plentiful come 8 June 2017. The polls, albeit with small sample sizes so best approached with caution, have Ian Murray streets ahead in the battle to defend Edinburgh South. There’s a lot of optimism in East Lothian where Labour won the council earlier in May and MSP Iain Gray increased his majority at the Scottish election last year. Labour have chosen their local candidate well in local teacher Martin Whitfield, and if the unionist vote swings behind him he could overhaul sitting MP George Kerevan’s 7,000 majority. (As we learned in 2015, apparently safe majorities mean nothing in the face of larger electoral forces). In East Renfrewshire, Labour's Blair McDougall, the man who led Better Together in 2014, can out-unionist the Tory candidate.

But, while in April, it was suggested that these three seats would be the sole focus of the Scottish Labour campaign, that attitude has changed after the local elections. Labour lost Glasgow but did not implode. In chunks of their former west of Scotland heartlands there was signs of life.

Mhairi Black’s a media darling, but her reputation as a local MP rather than a local celebrity is not great. Labour would love to unseat her, in what would be a huge upset, or perhaps more realistically go after Gavin Newlands in the neighbouring Paisley seat.

They are also sniffing Glasgow East. With Natalie McGarry’s stint as MP ending in tears – a police investigation, voting in her wedding dress and fainting in the chamber sums up her two years in Westminster – Labour ought to be in with a chance in the deprived neighbourhoods of Glasgow’s east end.

Labour in Scotland doesn’t feel like such a wreck anymore. Alan Roden’s Daily Mail-honed media nous has grabbed attention. Corbyn’s progressive policies have put fuel in the tank.

After polling day, the party will be able to fit all its Scottish MPs comfortably in a small hatchback, compared to the double decker bus necessary just a few years back.

But this general election could give the party the necessary shove to get on to the long road back.

James Millar is a political journalist and founder of the Political Yeti's Politics Podcast. He is co-author of The Gender Agenda, which will be published July 21 by Jessica Kingsley Publishing.

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