Will We Ever Have a Gay President?
And I know what some of you are thinking? We had James Buchanan. The guy just before Lincoln who kind of tapped out of the whole thing right before the Civil War, the one who Andrew Jackson referred to him and the man he lived with as “Miss Nancy and Aunt Fancy”. He’s generally regarded as our worst president, Buchanan that is. So, let’s not rush to name any LGBT centers after him.
Fast forward to last month, when 37-year old, and sadly taken, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg threw his hat into the ring of Democratic contenders to take on Trump. On paper Buttigieg has it all — a degree from Harvard, he’s a Rhodes Scholar, a veteran, a last name school children will ruthlessly mock for a generation. But will it ultimately be Buttigieg? Probably not. It’s a crowded field. And his last name is just. . .not what we need right now. But it’s interesting to me that his candidacy isn’t bigger news. Maybe the whole ‘the first openly gay person to. . .’ just isn’t that big of a deal anymore?
And while I think most of us agree that it won’t be Buttigieg, it seems generally agreed that one day we will have a gay president. An informal poll on my facebook page saw that a majority of folks out there, almost four out of five, believe that one day we will have one of ours sitting in the Oval Office.
Two things sort of point to this inevitability. First, let’s look to Colorado. That state, one I would consider by no means reliably blue in its political make-up, elected their first openly gay governor, Jared Polis. I’m guessing if you asked Coloradans just ten years ago if that were possible in their state, the majority would have said no. Asked then if they would like Polis to be governor, I’m sure the majority would have asked if there was anyone else available. But besides Polis, there’s Oregon’s Kate Brown and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, both winning state-state-wide elections recently. I mean, it will take a while for say, Mississippi, to elect a LGBT politician, but when have we ever held our breath for states like that to do the right thing anyway?
Beyond what Colorado has shown us, it seems that liberal ideas over time just ultimately win out. And it’s not just that they win, people come around on them, from seemingly very little support to outright majorities in the span of a generation. Two of these — marijuana, and gay marriage — seem to be the best examples here. Then you have non-political, just general queer visibility in America; queer entertainment like Drag Race is now practically mainstream. Buttigieg himself remarked on this trend. Telling reporters at one of his Washington events that “when I came out, Mike Pence was the governor of Indiana, when I joined the military, ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was the law of the land, and when it first crossed my mind that I might run for office someday, I believed that coming out would be a career death sentence.” Coming out certainly hasn’t been a death sentence for him. But, it some ways, it wasn’t the headline grabber it once was either.
Americans can move surprisingly fast on social issues, especially it seems on LGBT issues. And if we carry on at this rate, a gay man in the White House is not just a question to kick around on social media, but an inevitability for sure.