When I was in 7th grade in the public school I attended in the South, I was targeted for bullying – and worse – for being gay.
Thing is, I wasn’t gay. Not then. Not now.
But I was somehow “different”, mostly because I was an unathletic bookworm. (The best picture of the “reasoning” involved can be seen in the courtroom scene in the movie Idiocracy, a movie I cannot recommend highly enough.)
Did that make me sympathetic to non-heteros? Sadly, no, at least at first. In fact, it reinforced in me the latent homophobia imprinted in my psyche by the prevailing culture. In a story, sadly, all too common among gay people themselves, I was determined to show to others, and myself, that I “belonged”, that I wasn’t one of “them”.
What brought me out of that dark place was nothing special. It’s called growing up, and lived experience, and education. Looking back, the best way I can describe it is a certain enlargement of the heart, like what happened to the Grinch in the end.
That personal history informs my feelings about the race for Minnesota Attorney General. I really wish it didn’t. For one thing, that race has compelled me to read up on the history of a certain Doug Wardlow. That’s something I rarely do, since I usually try to steer clear of reading about Republicans, given that doing so nowadays tends to make me nauseous.
And it turns out it’s a good thing I hadn’t had to until now. Because when I did, because of my personal history I got a taste of what a lot of women felt listening to Brett Kavanaugh.
Now a lot of you know that some have tried to turn Wardlow’s DFL opponent Keith Ellison into some Democratic version of Kavanaugh. What I found in my research is that Wardlow fits that bill far better. In fact, not only are the allegations against Ellison pretty thin, the allegations against Wardlow are actually better attested than those against Kavanaugh (not that I don’t credit the latter).
Last Saturday the Pioneer Press reported that interviews with Wardlow’s classmates when he attended Eagan High School in the 1990s reveal him to have been a homophobic bully. He especially targeted his classmate Ryan Durant, who at one point attempted suicide (Durant himself doesn’t blame Wardlow for that, although he does call him the “worst” bully of the group that targeted him for his orientation).
According to the newspaper, Durant’s “account is corroborated by several other students.” They include a female friend of Durant, whom Wardlow attacked with lesbian slurs, “even though she was not gay.” Among Durant’s tormentors was a then friend of Wardlow … who it later turns out IS gay, and who has corroborated Durant’s account in every particular.
I think now you can see how this really, really resonates with me personally.
Durant admits that people can change after high school. Yeah, also sounds familiar. But Durant goes on to say that Wardlow’s public positions on gay rights show that his views have NOT changed.
Item: While clerking at the Minnesota Supreme Court, Wardlow authored a conservative blog which asserted that “marriage should be reserved for the union of one man and one woman.”
Item: Wardlow was elected to the Minnesota House in 2010, and there supported a Republican-led effort to amend the state constitution via referendum to define marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman. That referendum lost in 2012, and Wardlow lost his seat.
Item: And as if all that weren’t enough, Wardlow was recorded earlier this year as promising to fire every Democratic attorney in the AG office as his first official act if elected.
Naturally, Wardlow has denied everything except the last. He’s also tried to downplay – or refused to discuss – his earlier public record on LGBTQ issues.
In other words, Wardlow is just one more lying, hypocritical Republican.
Maybe I’m showing my partisan bias here, but in comparing Wardlow and Ellison, I have no problem identifying where the preponderance of damning evidence lies. And it infuriates me when I hear that some Democrats are considering not voting in the AG race.
Really? Is your memory so short that you don’t remember where the purity police got us in November 2016?
All you readers of this post, I’d like you to ask yourself, and anyone you know on Facebook or in person who is OK with such foolishness, the following question:
If, due to your “principled” refusal to choose in the Minnesota AG race, you help to elect him to the AG office, thereby turning that office into a bastion of hard-right Republicanism …
If you contribute by your action or inaction to that result, tell me, was your “purity” worth the price?
Democrats value diversity. Republicans want us all to be the same, a nightmarish version of themselves.
That’s why I say vote next Tuesday, not just to make a difference, but to KEEP a difference.