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I spent my Tuesday evening looking for bright spots.
Not bright spots like, ”Thank you, Lord, for not sending Christine O’Donnell to the Senate or Carl Paladino to the New York governor’s mansion,” though both of those were bright spots in their own wonderful, relief-inducing ways.
What I was watching for were bright spots of the positive kind — moments that showed us actively moving forward, rather that fighting off attacks attempting to hold us back.
It was not a particularly successful search.
The brightest spot for me came from my home state of Kentucky. No, not the election of Rand Paul to the Senate — and, as an aside, what little I heard about that race while visiting home a couple weeks ago leads me to agree that the infamous ”Aqua Buddha” attack ad definitely backfired. The bright spot was a small one, near the center of the state, in Lexington.
Lexington is the place to see the most iconic images of Kentucky — white wooden fences surrounding thousands of acres of horse farms, the horses themselves traipsing across the bluegrass fields, the University of Kentucky basketball team playing in Rupp Arena. Right there, in the middle of a state that has gone deeply, unshakeable red, a city elected its first openly gay mayor, Jim Gray.
As Craig Cammack of Lexington Fairness told Metro Weekly on Tuesday night, ”Jim Gray’s victory is more of a visualization. There is fairness in Kentucky — and in the Midwest.”
I know that in the face of the loss of the House and imminent installation of Speaker John Boehner, looking to the mayorship of a medium-sized Southern city — Kentucky is a border state, but it is far more Southern to me than it is Midwestern — for hope and inspiration seems a cold comfort.
Perhaps. But it’s still a comfort, for me, given that I still love my home state, in that same way you love a slightly crazy aunt who’s wonderful to visit a few times a year but would likely drive you insane if you had to live with her. It’s a familial love, but a difficult love.
But the fact that it’s difficult is what makes Gray’s win a comfort. This will be talked about throughout the state; not always in the most positive of terms, but not always in the worst, either. I can only imagine it will be a growth and learning experience for many — for those who voted for Gray, I hope it is simply an experience of knowing they elected the best candidate to the job.
That counts for a lot as well.
Adding another out gay congressman to the Hill — Rhode Island’s David Cicciline (D) — was a also a welcome respite on an otherwise dispiriting evening, as was seeing Barney Frank re-elected with a healthy majority, despite the well-publicized attack ads from GOProud.
Maggie Gallagher and the National Organization for Marriage succeeded in removing three Iowa Supreme Court justices who ruled for marriage equality, but otherwise seemed limited to claiming credit for the victory of others while whistling past the graveyard of their favorite campaigns (see, again, Delaware and New York).
The fact is, while this election has likely done much to harm us — the idea of a successful LGBT legislative agenda is even more fantastical today than six months ago — this election wasn’t really about us. Unsurprisingly, poll after poll showed people were voting the economy, not equality.
Again, cold comfort as we move into another period where a Republican dominated Congress will loudly oppose any efforts on our behalf. Bright spots or no, it’s going to be a long two years.