A new issue has been raised about Newark Mayor Cory Booker, the emerging Democratic Party star running to be senator of New Jersey: his sexuality. And who will benefit from the resulting reaction? Booker.
The catalyst was a profile in The Washington Post, in which it was noted how he keeps his life private. Booker made this statement:
Could it have been a clever trick to flesh out his opponent? Most likely not. But controversial businessman and former Bogata, N.J., Mayor Steve Lonegan's made himself the story when he appeared to declare that he, Lonegan, was the sole alpha male in the race. From an interview with Newsmax:
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Lonegan's comments immediately became national news, with TIME saying Lonegan had embraced "juvenile frat boy hazing."
The main result, however, was to give Booker a chance to characterize Lonegan's comments as showing "callous, bigoted disrespect to gays and lesbians" in an interview with HuffPost Live:
And on Thursday night, Booker helped keep the story alive by repeatedly deflecting questions on his sexuality from Chris Hayes, saying:
The whole back and forth provides a helpful lesson in 21st century politics.
Lonegan unwittingly defined himself as a stereotypical Tea Partier who stereotypes others. That sparked headlines, got attention from cable and radio talkers, allowed Booker to go on the offensive, and totally drowned out whatever message Lonegan would have wanted to propagate. Lonegan tried to change the subject with reporters in Paramus on Thursday: "I'm concerned about a potential war in Syria, not validating Cory Booker's lifestyle," he told them. "This election is not about whether or not Cory Booker is gay or straight."
Too late. Lonegan is the one who made Booker's lifestyle an issue. And by essentially telling reporters they shouldn't be asking the question, Lonegan all but ensured that he'll be asked it repeatedly.
Public attitudes toward gays have shifted profoundly in recent years. An ABC/Washington Post poll in March found that 58 percent of Americans believe gay marriage should be legal, while 36 percent oppose its legality. But more striking is the generational shift: Support for gay marriage among young adults 18 to 29 years old hit an all time high of 81 percent. Why would Lonegan make Booker's lifestyle an issue when it's an issue the Republican is on the wrong side of?
The Republican Party claims it knows that it needs to show a kinder face to win back young and minority voters. But a makeover just isn't possible when conservatives like Lonegan continue to betray the truth of their regressive attitudes.
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