The Essence of Elders
Letting Myself Off the Hook

GAY AND GRAY: Dick Gephardt's Second Career

JanAdams75x75Gay and Gray is a monthly column at Time Goes By written by Jan Adams (bio) in which she thinks out loud for us on issues of aging lesbians and gay men. Jan also writes on many topics at her own blog, Happening-Here, and you will find her past Gay and Gray columns here.]

Recently The Nation magazine published a long exposé of what former Democratic Congressional leader Dick Gephardt is doing in his second career. In a nutshell, he is making bundles of "money representing every anti-labor, anti-environmental, anti-universal healthcare client he can find..."

During his long career representing a Missouri district, he was best known as a pro-labor populist who worked to achieve health care reform. In 2003 during a short run for the Democratic nomination for president, he proclaimed:

"I'm running for president because I've had enough of the oil barons, the status-quo apologists, the special-interest lobbyists running amok.”

It is disconcerting to say the least that Gephardt now lobbies for drug companies and Goldman Sachs. For The Nation, the Gephardt saga is a cautionary tale of how Democrats who now control Washington are on their way are becoming as corrupt as the Republicans were when they were in charge.

For me, this Gephardt story sets off some cognitive dissonance. You see, for a job I had a couple of years ago, I toured the country showing a film, For the Bible Tells Me So that makes the case for the full humanity of LGBT people.

It's an excellent presentation aimed at mainstream religious people introducing them to nonthreatening, warm, attractive people who are gay or related to gay people.

My colleagues and I agreed that every time we saw it, we perceived new depths in it. Many times audiences cried. And Gephardt, a Roman Catholic who clearly loves his lesbian daughter, is one of the heroic figures in that film.

Being an advocate for gay rights frequently embroils one in contradictions. After all, Gephardt isn't alone as an unlikely advocate for my well being - Dick Cheney has a lesbian daughter who recently gave birth to his granddaughter and that seems to have touched even that flinty heart. Can it really be true that there is something about which I agree with Dick Cheney?

Unlike most issues in our society, gay acceptance can, sometimes, cut across left-right ideological boundaries. In general, Democrats are more friendly to us than Republicans - but even Republicans can have gay relatives and friends and learn from their own families about tolerance that can lead to inclusion. And some do. Apparently lobbyists who use their past reputations on behalf of sleazy causes can too.

As I get older, contradictions like this remind me that right and wrong are not simple categories for any of us to navigate. The ways we live our lives are inevitably complicated and compromised. I'm glad that working for gay rights reminds me of this.

And I'm also glad that I remain a fierce advocate, from the left side, for peace, economic and racial justice, and environmental sustainability. That's not going to change with age, but maybe I'll get wiser and kinder as I go along.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lois Cochran: How Big is Your World?


this is worth repeating, so I will (g)
"...right and wrong are not simple categories for any of us to navigate. The ways we live our lives are inevitably complicated and compromised."

Gephardt reminds me of Dick Armey's second career. It reminds me of the old joke that ends with the punchline-- we've already established you are a whore, now we are just negotiating your price. I think a lot of them do this while in office and most of them get into lobbying for big bucks when they leave. We have a very rotten system. To me if someone is dishonest, I don't care if they do a few good things, I still don't want them to be in office. The only way to get them out right now is vote out the whole pack and one state after another doesn't do that for their own hoped payoffs of pork.

On the issue of gay rights, I am straight and don't have anyone in my family who is gay (that has come out anyway) but it's a major political issue to me to see equal rights for all Americans not based on gender. It's when we all care about unfairness (wherever it is) that we have a chance of fixing it.

I seem to recall a phrase from the 60s that was tossed about frequently that seems to apply to Mr. Gephart: "so;d out to the Establishment."

That said, when I ran a national political campaign's local office in 1980, my volunteers decided that I should run for public office. I told them that I couldn't because the biggest thing I learned from that experience was how easy it is compromise oneself. It wasn't a big deal but it was a step on a road I didn't want to travel.

Gephardt obviously learned not to listen to Jiminy Cricket.

Norman Mailer appeared frequently on a RT discussion program called "Open End" which aired Sunday nights on NYC TV. Once when conversation among his fellow RT members like Truman Capote, Jimmy Breslin and others of their ilk stalled, he countered a question by the moderator about the visit of a Soviet minister by saying "Mikoyan's just another politician, politicians are all whores and were not going to sit around and talk about whores in front of our TV audience, are we?"

One of the things I wish the world would learn is to be tolerant of our differences. Another is to be fair, honest and to practice what we preach.

Gephardt's hypocrisy is symptomatic of the way Washington is run.

I agree with mary jamison--so well put. Can I quote you?

Olga -- go right ahead and quote anytime.

Seems to me the way things are going--if a young person hopes to be rich in this country in future (if they weren't lucky enough to be born rich as many are), the best track to take to wealth is a political career. Now ain't that just grand? Who did this? and how, if ever, can it be undone? When can decency and fairness be a legacy and not a weakness.

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