Sympathy for Newt and Open Marriage
You know the narrative. Right-wing family-values Republican gets caught doing secular-liberal totally-not-family-values stuff, usually involving sex:
Cruising for manlove in an airport men's room.
Knocking up the maid.
Sending dirty emails to young male pages.
Hiring male hookers and smoking meth.
Asking wife #2 for an open marriage.
This kind of thing happens all the time. And it's always red meat for leftie media commentators.
Liberal pundits love to call fallen Republicans hypocrites. They point out that liberal politicians are often more heterosexual and monogamous than many so-called conservatives--and remain married to the same spouse for life.
Now it's Newt Gingrich's turn.
In her divorce filing Ms. Gingrich the Second claims that Mr. Gingrich asked her for an open marriage so he could stay with her while carrying on with Callista, who became Ms. Gingrich the Third after Ms. Gingrich the Second refused said request. (You may need to re-read the previous sentence.)
Cue the holier-than-thou liberals.
CNN reporter John King opened a presidential debate with an assault on Newt's alleged yearning for sexual freedom. A New York Times editorial called this "a perfectly reasonable question."
Across the vertical seam in the op-ed graveyard Gail Collins could barely contain herself. "Beyond the hypocrisy of this sort of behavior from a guy who wants to protect the sanctity of holy matrimony from gay couples, there also seems to be a streak of almost crazed self-absorption that runs through the Newt saga," Collins gloated. "Who would ditch a spouse of 18 years in a phone call? Shortly after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis? And, of course, he broke up with his first wife while she was battling cancer."
That Newt Gingrich is pompous, nasty and one of the most hideous members of that physically repugnant tribe known as politicians can be stipulated by all but those blinded by hatred of Mormons and Kenyan-born socialists. Still, I think we on the Left are missing an opportunity for a teachable moment.
Progressives are fighting for human emancipation. The right to engage in sex with any consensual adult in any form is integral to this struggle to liberate ourselves from patriarchy, sexism, racism, homophobia and capitalism. How, then, can we justify mocking anyone--even a hypocritical Christian conservative--for expressing their sexuality?
When Senator Larry Craig was arrested, essentially for the crime of being a closeted gay or bisexual male, in that Minneapolis-St. Paul airport restroom, he needed our support, not our ridicule.
Imagine if supporters of gay rights from across the spectrum had refused to get sucked into stupid D-vs-R theatrics. Remember, the cops weren't trying to catch a right-wing gay-bashing closeted senator. Craig was ensnared by one of countless sting operations conducted by police departments across the United States designed to harass all gays and lesbians. We should oppose such tactics forcefully and consistently. Defending Craig's right to hit on other guys would have served the cause better than scoring cheap partisan points.
As for Newt's alleged--divorce allegations ought to be swallowed with a massive dollop of sodium chloride--request for an open marriage, well, so what if he did?
When 40 to 50 percent of marriages end in divorce it's clear that state-enforced monogamy for life isn't working for everyone. Researchers estimate that up to six percent of American couples are in open marriages. And there's nothing wrong with that. It's their decision. It's their choice. Asked privately, most liberals would agree.
Millions of Americans prefer alternative arrangements for their sex lives--open marriages, swinging, etc. Yet they are forced to sneak around. They're not hiding from their lovers, but from their friends and neighbors and colleagues lest they be shamed and shunned. Unlike conventionally married couples (who cheat on one another in significant numbers), people in open relationships know exactly what their partners are up to.
Moreover, there are a lot of open relationships that no one thinks about. Does anyone doubt, for example, that the Clintons had a "don't ask don't tell" policy that essentially amounted to a license to cheat?
You shouldn't have to hide or lie when you're doing nothing wrong. Yet so-called "liberals" join their rightist counterparts in snickering about Craig's "wide stance" and Gingrich's request for an open marriage. The effect is to denigrate gays, lesbians and other sexually marginalized and oppressed people.
Nona Willis Aronowitz calls Gingrich "the poster child for the messy, miserable life people can have if they're stuffed into rules they weren't built to follow. He's the poster child for how our sexist and repressive culture can hurt relationships. Gingrich was raised in, and now advocates for, a world that sets up incredibly narrow parameters for sex and love, and shames people who don't adhere to those standards."
We should tell right-wingers like Newt Gingrich: you're one of us. You always were. The fact that you can't live by your own supposed rules proves it.
Quit living a lie, Newt. More importantly, quit asking everyone else to live the stupid lie that defines your stupid out-of-date politics.
Hey Republicans! Are you a maid-knocking-up, men's-room-trolling, sexting, bondage-loving, gay-bi-trans-whatever?
The Right's not that into you. Join us.
(Ted Rall is the author of "The Anti-American Manifesto." His website is tedrall.com.)