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July 17, 2013 3:44 PM Cooch Tries to Make the Best of a Bad Issue

By Ed Kilgore

One of the issues that makes it easy for Virginia Democrats to depict GOP gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli look like an out-of-touch culture warrior is his relentless battle as Attorney General to defend the state’s sodomy law (technically a “crimes against nature” law), an ancient instrument for prosecution or intimidation of LGBT folk, but also one that is generally offense to a lot of straight people who violate the law regularly. Indeed, last month Cooch filed a petition for a U.S. Supreme Court review of a federal Court of Appeals ruling striking down the law.

Up until now Cooch has mostly taken the standard-brand GOP line of sticking to his social conservative guns while complaining that what he’s really interested in is ushering in a new era of economic growth by killing regulations and depressing wages and creating a job-creators paradise. But according to a report from WaPo’s Ben Pershing, the Cuccinelli campaign is now trying to “turn the tables” by recasting support for the sodomy law as designed to deter and prosecute sexual predators, against the opposition of godless liberals like Terry McAuliffe.

Cuccinelli’s campaign is launching a Web site Wednesday that shows 90 Virginia sex offenders who have been prosecuted under the state’s anti-sodomy law since 2003, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that sodomy statutes criminalizing sexual activity between consenting adults were unconstitutional. Visitors can enter their Zip code and see “offenders who live or work near you, who may be removed from the Sex Offender Registry if Ken doesn’t win this appeal.”

Opponents of the sodomy law have been quick to make the obvious point that it’s not that hard to craft and enforce anti-predators laws that don’t criminalize behavior between consenting adults. So I don’t know what Cooch’s strategy is here, unless it’s to start shouting about sexual predators every time the subject comes up and then pivot to his plans to make Virginia a job-creators paradise.

Perhaps the idea is to sow enough confusion and cross-talking about social issues that swing voters stick with their party preferences and allow Cooch’s Christian Right base—the people who really do want to smite sodomites of all ages and sexual orientations, and who have reason to believe Cooch is with them—to march to the polls in a righteous frenzy and pull out a narrow victory.

We’ll see if this counter-intuitive offensive continues, but if, God forbid, I were advising Ken Cuccinelli, I’d tell him to avoid any discussion of sex like sin itself.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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