Generally speaking, I was a pretty well behaved child. The one thing that I really had to work out was my “tone.” Tone of voice, that is. If I pushed anything too hard, Daddy would give me that over-the-glasses look and say, “You need to watch that tone, son.” End of discussion.
Later, there were those times when a gaggle of gay boys would go out to a movie or a restaurant, and someone would admonish us to “butch it up.” As if that had ever been an option.
And then there were those in the gay community (back before the L, B, T, and Q were added) who failed to support Bill Nelson’s ground breaking runs for the Dallas City Council in 1985 and 1987, fearful of the backlash that the candidacy of an openly gay man would cause at the time of the escalating AIDS epidemic. On the national stage, groups like ACT UP and Queer Nation (whose very name was shocking to many) pushed an aggressive, even militant, form of activism, much to the consternation and disapprobation of many in the community.
Well, I haven’t had to watch my tone since Daddy died, and I never tried to butch it up after discovering eye shadow. Beyond that, I have learned that getting important issues into the public sphere is not always a pretty process.
So, this week, when Maxine Waters encouraged pushing back on members of the Trump administration in the public space—at restaurants, gas stations, department stores, and the like—I wasn’t surprised to find that the tactics she endorsed were not universally embraced by other Democrats. From Corey Booker to David Axelrod to Chuck Schumer to Nancy Pelosi, a chorus arose to say that the Congresswoman had crossed the line. The message was clear. Maxine, don’t ACT UP.
The subtext was equally clear—it’s not good politics. You’re revving up the Republican base, Maxine, and we need to stay on message. (Although what that message might be is anybody’s guess.)
So by the time Karl and I boarded our plane Wednesday to come back to Texas after a week with his family in California (that’s why you didn’t hear from me last week), I thought this tempest in a Red Hen would have completely died down. But then, while thinking through how to make a column out of the irony of flying home with active military personnel named Ricardo, Martinez, and Hernandez, the news came out that Justice Kennedy is retiring.
Replacing a Supreme Court justice is a big deal. And virtually anyone that Trump nominates and who gets confirmed by the Senate will swing the court further to the right. This is the exact moment some of my more candid Republican friends have told me they have been waiting for—the reason they overlooked everything they disdain about Donald Trump.
So what now, Senator Schumer? You’ve already said that calling for the harassment of one’s political opponents is—what was it?—not right and not American. Well, Chuck, you’re going to need to do more than that to your political opponents if you’re going to have even a shot at preventing a Trump appointment to the Supreme Court before the mid-term election. So what you got? Can you hold all 49 of your caucus together? Can you wage political war? And if you can, how civil is it going to be? After all, you’re going to need to do more than talk about the “McConnell Rule of 2016” to stop that wily old turtle. (Sorry, I just couldn’t resist that.)
You’ve had two years since the death of Antonin Scalia, Chuck, and while that may not be enough time to grow everything that you need, it’s certainly enough time to grow claws. And since you probably don’t have the nail polish, just ask Maxine. I’m sure she has a bottle of Jungle Red with your name on it.
And you are going to need it.