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David Sirota
David Sirota
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Yes, We Can Walk and Chew Gum


One of the most overused metaphors in a writer's arsenal is the one about "walking and chewing gum at the same time." As a hiker and Big League Chew enthusiast, I particularly hate this cliché. Nonetheless, I feel it is fitting right now because it so perfectly summarizes the argument being made by Republicans. They now insist that America cannot simultaneously walk the walk on equal rights and also chew economic gum.

In the last week, Colorado was the testing ground for this talking point. At the presidential level, Republican nominee Mitt Romney criticized a Denver television reporter for daring to ask about his position on, among other issues, same-sex marriage. Before restating his opposition, he scoffed at the question, asking: "Aren't there issues of significance that you'd like to talk about (like) the economy? The growth of jobs? The need to put people back to work?"

At the same time, Colorado's Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty twice blocked a vote on a bill to legalize civil unions. His rationale? "We should not be spending time on divisive social issues when unemployment remains far too high and (when) far too many Coloradans remain out of work," he said. Echoing that sentiment, the shadowy Republican front group Compass Colorado financed an automated telephone call telling thousands of voters that the push for civil unions was unacceptable because it is "promoting (a) divisive social agenda over Colorado job creation."

Obviously, it's perplexing to see the Republican Party allege that social issues are insignificant and "divisive." This is, after all, the party whose most recent presidential nominating contest was dominated by attacks on contraception — the same GOP whose politicians have made an art out of riding a "guns, god and gays" focused agenda to electoral victory.

But while such naked hypocrisy is enraging, the substance of the Republican rhetoric about gay rights is downright offensive.

Essentially, conservatives are asserting that we cannot extend equal rights to all Americans and fix the economy. In the process, they are deliberately insinuating that the twin goals are somehow contradictory.

Well, you might ask, do they have a point? History says no. Our country's story is the story of multitasking — a tale of extending the franchise to women while passing progressive legislation to deal with crushing economic inequality, a tale of both passing civil rights legislation and creating Medicare.

In light of such achievements, would anyone retroactively argue that America should have opposed the campaign to let women vote because the economy was so bad in the early 20th century? Would anyone insist that lawmakers should have halted civil rights legislation in the 1960s because there was a simultaneous need for a War on Poverty? Probably not, because most of us recognize such arguments for what they are: diversionary non-sequiturs whose real goal is to preserve institutional bigotry and prejudice.

That's the same objective of today's GOP when it comes to rights for same sex couples. For proof, just consider the abruptness of the shift: the Republican Party that spent the last decade insisting that we should simultaneously cut taxes, prosecute foreign wars and fight to limit a woman's right to choose an abortion now suddenly says we can't even discuss equal rights because of a recession.

The language changed not because the new "can't walk and chew gum" mantra makes sense (seriously — would any sane person really claim that a bad economy justifies continued persecution of lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender people?). It changed because the cause of equal rights is involved. And, clearly, that cause is what today's Republicans are now most committed to stopping — no matter how much their flawed logic indicts their credibility.

David Sirota is a best-selling author of the new book "Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live In Now." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado. E-mail him at, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at



7 Comments | Post Comment
Sirota creates a straw man here, then turns him 180 degrees in the wrong direction.

Romney has learned from Santorum's mistakes and is wary of social-issue traps laid for him by the activist media who clearly favors Obama.
His best (perhaps only) trump card is the Economy, so it's no surprise he would rather redirect focus there whenever he can.
Evidently, other Repubs are following suit, but none of this is "naked hypocrisy," a polarizing phrase Sirota is fond of flinging about wildly.

Jobs and the Economy are rightfully the top issues for this year's elections.
Other issues are important, sure.
But it's social issues that are being used as a distraction from the Economy, not the other way around.
Sirota has cleverly spun the truth 180 degrees backwards.

For the record, I disagree with Romney on Civil Unions.
There is no good reason to deny same-sex couples this vehicle for equal rights.
But I agree that Marriage is defined as between ONE woman and ONE man.
(emphasis for Mormonic irony)
Comment: #1
Posted by: oddsox
Sat May 19, 2012 7:12 AM
So, oddsox, you would say that this country cannot work on both subjects at the same time? What a feeble and pathetic country is the USA of the conservative mind. It can only cut taxes and go to war, though not at the same time, of course. First we cut taxes for the job creators, then we we blow the shit out of the darkies. Right now we should be sitting around with our thumb up our asses waiting for an economic idea from any useless R's or blue dog's to spur the economy. Who wants to bet it might include tax cuts for the job creators and blowing the shit out of Iran? They may be homophobic, racist, misogynistic, fearful chickenhwaks but at least the conservothugs are not original.
Comment: #2
Posted by: trav
Sat May 19, 2012 1:54 PM
Re: trav
"homophobic, racist, misogynistic, fearful chickenhawks"
Say what ??
Into what dark rabbit hole are your imaginings pulling you?
I dare not follow....
Comment: #3
Posted by: oddsox
Sat May 19, 2012 9:40 PM
Trav said:

"...then we we blow the shit out of the darkies." "...then we we blow the shit out of the darkies." "...then we we blow the shit out of the darkies." "...then we we blow the shit out of the darkies."

Wow, that is really...rascist. And ugly. Mortifying. Are you capable of shame? Really soiled yourself with that one. Wanting to hurt others sooo badly you pull out words so ugly nobody on these pages has even thought of them for 40 years.

Except one person.



You revealed more about what is in your mind than what you suppose is in the hearts of others.

Anybody using words so wrong can not possibly hope to be right, or to persuade, or to shed new light on the topic.

Why did you come here?

You, who pride yourself on knowing the hearts and minds of others, can you guess my next question?

Comment: #4
Posted by: Tom
Mon May 21, 2012 9:28 AM
"...would any sane person really claim that a bad economy justifies continued persecution of lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender people?)."

Would any sane person call the current treatment of GLBT's in our country "persecution"? Gays are one of the wealthiest sub-sets in our community. I should be so "persecuted".

'And how can this be? The President is a dem, the senate is dem, they must be the ones letting GLBT's be persecuted.

Maybe Republicans don't want to play the "persecution" game on your terms. Read Trav and see how Sirota's brand of hellfire allows savages to come out from under the covers of self delusion and rage.

Sirota, you ought to shoot for a better choir director than Trav.

Persecution my foot.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Tom
Mon May 21, 2012 12:28 PM
Wow! My head is spinning after reading that ODDsox post! But I guess conservatives are used to all the spin since they get so much of it from Fox so-called "news" and the rest of the corporate media. Just ask yourself one simple question: If it was Obama that was asked about something he didn't want to talk about, say his position on legalizing pot, and he said "Aren't there issues of significance that you'd like to talk about?" do you seriously think the apologists and party ideologues like ODDsox would be defending him? Give me a break. They will go to any lengths to try to distract from the obvious Republican hypocrisy and to support their guy.

And to Tom's point, if you think being LGBT is such a picnic, then why don't you just come out? It's so easy for people who aren't in a persecuted class to claim that others in the class aren't being persecuted, but there's your Compassion-less Conservative for you who never takes a moment to imagine what someone else might be feeling and going through.

Oh, and Tom, are you being disingenuous or just not paying attention? Are you not aware that the Republicans control the House and have filibustered everything in the Senate (record number of filibusters EVER!) that the Dems try to do to help this country? Not to mention how stupid the premiss is to begin with. Like the Democratic Party can single-handedly stop persecutions everywhere. But thanks to the Dems we do now have stronger anti-bullying laws, the Obama Administration has stopped enforcing DOMA, and in a few states where Dems are in control we now have legal marriage/civil unions for gays. So what the *#@*&* are you talking about?!?!

That said, away from all the distractions and back to the real point of the article, the fact is that the basic premiss that the twin goals of extending equal rights to all Americans and fix the economy are somehow contradictory is exactly wrong. There have been studies that show that the economy improves in the states that have extended equal marriages rights to all. It seems that marriage is good for the economy no matter who it is that is getting married! Who would have thought?
Comment: #6
Posted by: A Smith
Wed May 23, 2012 10:03 AM
Gay marriage can be important. I for one would use it as a bargaining chip to get important things done like shrinking the size and power of the federal government.
Comment: #7
Posted by: SCOTT
Sun May 27, 2012 3:54 PM
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