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An Election Campaign in Need of Exorcism | Pierre Tristam

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An Election Campaign in Need of Exorcism | Pierre Tristam

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An Election Campaign in Need of Exorcism
Monday, July 30, 2012 — Pierre Tristam

I’m now convinced The Exorcist wasn’t a horror movie. It was an allegory about election season, and Linda Blair’s character was actually a politician running for office. Of course she was possessed. It seems to happen to them all once they hit campaign mode. Otherwise perfectly reasonable, intelligent people suddenly become unrecognizable creatures with permanent foam at the mouth. It starts at the top.

Mitt Romney emerged from the Republican presidential primary season as the last demon standing, and he was just warming up. We now have two Harvard-educated men running for president and debating who is the more authentic American. Barack Obama is mining every possible way of making Romney look like a sinful money-grubber from the gilded age, while Romney is making Obama seem foreign, strange and dark, using words and imagery to that effect in his campaign commercials.

What starts at the top trickles down. Local Florida races have been a bleak series of lies and slanders spat out by one candidate or another, with the sole purpose of making an opponent look like a character the devil wouldn’t friend on Facebook.

Last week’s title-holder for whisper-campaign slanders was Ken Ali, who’s running for Volusia County Council. He was speaking at a forum when he described himself as a resident of Volusia for 18 years, married, three children, and … a heterosexual.

Where did that come from? Roughly the same camp used to imply that John McCain had fathered a black child, as happened in South Carolina in 2000, when George W. Bush’s supporters pulled out an old standard for defeating opponents in the south: bigotry.

Ali’s opponent, Josh Wagner, is rumored to be bi-sexual, which is no more relevant than if he were rumored to be Presbyterian, or to love fettuccine Alfredo or prefer imported beer.

But in the hands of a bigoted candidate, a few seemingly innocent words well-timed to trigger people’s prejudices are dropped with make-believe innocence, and the point is made.

Days earlier in an interview with a newspaper, Ali cited a so-called “reliable source” to support his claim that Wagner was bi-sexual, though he hadn’t been asked a question about the candidate’s sexuality. To prove his point, Ali mentioned Volusia County’s recently enacted domestic-partnership registry, which gives same-sex couples the same benefits given heterosexual or unmarried couples. Josh Wagner supported the measure. Ali does not. 

When I called Ali to discuss his comments, which have been causing a justifiable stir, he said he wasn’t discussing them anymore. It’s the convenience of hit-and-run slanders. Score slurs on your opponent, then claim all has been said on the matter.

Ali describes himself as an “evangelical,” so you might say he’s merely promoting his creed. But too many Evangelicals, taking their cues from the likes of Mike Huckabee and other Christian mullahs, consider non-heterosexuals fair game for the discrimination once lavished on Jews, blacks and, of course, immigrants.

Ironically, Ali is himself an immigrant. He should know better than to sharpen his American citizenship on the whetstone of prejudice. But his role models cluck flamboyantly.

The same week that Ali was wrapping his sexuality in the flag, Dan Cathy, Chick-fil-A’s president, was boasting of his and his company’s militant opposition to gay marriage—and therefore its outright discrimination against gays. (Let’s not pretend there can be a distinction anymore, just because the bigots try to hide behind the Bible.)

Cathy’s “guilty as charge” support of “the biblical definition of the family unit” is part a lame attempt to raise the issue in the national campaign, much like Ali is attempting to raise it at the county level.

There’s rarely been a better time for an exorcism.

Pierre Tristam is editor and publisher of FlaglerLive.com, a non-profit news service based in Palm Coast, Fl.

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