Hypocrisy or Bigotry — Which Is Worse? Huckabee and Guiliani on Gay Rights

Via the HRC:

“Unless Moses comes down with two stone tablets from Brokeback Mountain to tell us something different, we need to keep that understanding of marriage.”
Mike Huckabee

“It’s the acts, it’s the various acts that people perform that are sinful.”
Rudolph Giuliani on homosexuality

There are so many different ways I could go with this.

I could go with Huckabee’s snarky, smirky Brokeback Mountain reference. I could gas on about how “Brokeback Mountain” has become the new “Adam and Steve,” the default catch-phrase for when people want to make bigoted jokes about gays.

I could also point out how wildly inappropriate the Brokeback Mountain reference is. I mean, did he see the movie? Did he think it was a ringing endorsement for gay people denying their sexuality and getting into heterosexual marriages? The whole point of that damn movie was that gay people staying in the closet ruins lives — not just their own lives, but the lives of their wives and their families and everyone around them. To make a “Brokeback Mountain” joke in support of a “traditional marriage” position is clueless to the point of delusion.

And of course, I could go the “laughably hypocritical” route on Guiliani’s comment. The twice-divorced, thrice-married, adulterous Giuliani, lecturing gay people on their sinful sex lives? Please.

But that’s not where I want to go with this. Instead I want to pose a question that kept me and Ingrid entertained for hours:

Which do you think is worse — craven hypocrisy, or close-minded bigotry?

Here’s the thing. I don’t believe for a moment that Giuliani actually thinks homosexuality is a sin. He supported civil unions and domestic partnerships when was mayor of New York. Hell, when his second marriage was breaking up, he moved into the apartment of two gay friends. He did a Victor/Victoria drag show with Julie Andrews. He’s far from the most enlightened person on the planet when it comes to LGBT issues; but I doubt that he has anything against us personally.

I think his move to the right on LGBT issues is purely pragmatic. He wants to be President. He thinks he has to suck up to the far right to accomplish this goal. Gay-bashing is the quickest, easiest way to do that.

Huckabee, on the other hand:

I am quite sure that Huckabee means every word of it. His entire record speaks of passionate homophobic bigotry, fueled by a particularly virulent form of close-minded religious fundamentalism. When he said that “homosexuality is an aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle,” I have no doubt whatsoever that he meant every word.

So here’s my question:

Which is worse?

The close-minded, true-believing bigot — or the craven, self-serving hypocrite?

My thoughts:

From a purely ethical standpoint, I think the true believer has the stronger position. Their bigotry is evil, it’s harmful — but at least it’s sincere. It’s not held simply for selfish gain. It’s internally consistent.

But from a purely practical standpoint, I think I’d rather have the hypocrite in public office.

Because you can change a hypocrite’s mind.

If someone is taking a bigoted position purely to advance their self-interest, all you have to do to change their mind is shift the political scales. Mobilize your forces. Make alliances. Get better organized. Convince the hypocrite that their self-interest would be better served by sucking up to you instead of your opponents, and they’ll be your new best friend.

It’s much, much harder to change the mind of a true-believing bigot. If their bigotry is a consistent, integral, fundamental part of their view of the world and themselves, changing their mind about their bigotry requires them to rewrite their entire life story. Very few people are up to that.

And while internal consistency can be an admirable trait, it’s not so admirable when it comes at the cost of shutting out the world around you. Prioritizing your own belief system over human reality is really just another way of being self-serving.

Then again, as Ingrid points out:

If you do succeed in changing a true believer’s mind, chances are that you’ll have them for good. The ranks of LGBT supporters are filled with former bigots who changed their minds when their friends, their colleagues, their children or grandchildren, came out as gay. And their newfound tolerance is as strong — and as sincere — as their old bigotry.

Whereas the craven hypocrite who makes nice with you today will toss you like last week’s leftovers the minute you become inconvenient.

Just ask Giuliani. And the gay friends who took him in when he needed help. The friends who he’s now calling “sinful” — because he wants to be President.

Hypocrisy or Bigotry — Which Is Worse? Huckabee and Guiliani on Gay Rights
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12 thoughts on “Hypocrisy or Bigotry — Which Is Worse? Huckabee and Guiliani on Gay Rights

  1. 1

    C.S. Lewis had an interesting perspective on this question. It seems even he, as a devout believer, preferred the hypocrite to the sincere bigot:
    “I am a democrat because I believe that no man or group of men is good enough to be trusted with uncontrolled power over others. And the higher the pretensions of such power, the more dangerous I think it both to rulers and to the subjects. Hence Theocracy is the worst of all governments. If we must have a tyrant a robber baron is far better than an inquisitor. The baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity at some point may be sated; and since he dimly knows he is doing wrong he may possibly repent. But the inquisitor who mistakes his own cruelty and lust of power and fear for the voice of Heaven will torment us infinitely more because he torments us with the approval of his own conscience and his better impulses appear to him as temptations.
    And since Theocracy is the worst, the nearer any government approaches to Theocracy the worse it will be. A metaphysic held by the rulers with the force of a religion, is a bad sign. It forbids them, like the inquisitor, to admit any grain of truth or good in their opponents, it abrogates the ordinary rules of morality, and it gives a seemingly high, super-personal sanction to all the very ordinary human passions by which, like other men, the rulers will frequently be actuated. In a word, it forbids wholesome doubt. A political programme can never in reality be more than probably right. We never know all the facts about the present and we can only guess the future. To attach to a party programme — whose highest claim is to reasonable prudence — the sort of assent which we should reserve for demonstrable theorems, is a kind of intoxication.”

  2. 2

    Good article, Greta–thought-provoking. I guess I’d have to go with the hypocrite too, in the political arena, since politics is a shifting geography: your friends today can be your opponents tomorrow, and vice versa, and that’s just par for the course. In government you always have to fight to keep your coalition together, if you’re in any meaningful kind of democracy.
    In personal life, though, that’s a little tougher. IF you have any reasonable chance of getting the bigot to change their mind, it’s probably worth taking them over the hypocrite, but otherwise…maybe you’re back to the hypocrite again. Damn the lesser of two evils!
    One small thing, though–that should be closed-minded (i.e., not open), rather than close-minded (i.e., not far).

  3. 3

    I cruise through your blog fairly regularly, and I always enjoy your thought process and your style. This post provoked me to say “thank you,” and keep up your great work.
    You may have steered me towards a solution to a conundrum that I have been wrestling with.

  4. 4

    Sometimes I am so embarrassed to be from Arkansas. Sadly, Huck is a typical Arkansan. Thankfully, I am not. I actually, met him at a republican rally in my hometown. I went for the free eats. I wanted to ask him if Arkansas will ever amend it’s constitution to allow atheists to legally hold public office and to testify in court. I didn’t get to ask it.

  5. 5

    Being an atheist living in Houston and having fundy relatives I just automatically thought of them as hypocrites. I see now that they are pure bigots, in the sense of Huckabee, and will never change their minds no matter where the evidence leads them.
    It’s sad that there is no hope for them.
    Great post, I love reading your blog.

  6. 6

    It always makes me LAUGH OUT LOUD when someone rants about a “biblical model” of marriage. Obviously these people haven’t read their own holy book. The biblical model of marriage is polygamy! Not only is it okay to have numerous wives — it’s admirable enough to warrant some bragging. Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines!
    Here’s a recap in the Skeptics Annotated Bible.
    So I guess Mitt Romney is right on this one !

  7. 7

    George Wallace renounced segregation in his later years, bringing many of his followers along with him. Lyndon Johnson used up so much political capital on the 1964 Civil Rights act that he couldn’t get us out of Vietnam. (a mixed result to say the least, which also resulted in handing the South to the Republicans for the next 50 years or more) But they are examples of true bigots who changed for the better.
    Of course it isn’t comforting that i had to think that far back for examples…

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