Joshua Green at the Boston Globe argues that he did, with his silly Brokeback Mountain jacket-wearing “I am victim, hear me roar!” ad, which garnered hundreds of thousands of dislikes on YouTube:
[The ad] put him back in the headlines, but not in the way he intended. The response was swift and dramatic. On YouTube, where political ads are judged and debated, sentiment was startlingly negative: People hated the ad, and in record numbers. In just a few days, “Strong’’ registered 6 million views and more than 650,000 “dislikes’’ – four times the number prompted by the latest Justin Bieber video. A YouTube spokesman told the website Talking Points Memo that the ad was the “most viewed video in America.’’
Obviously, this is bad news for Perry. But it could be a blessing in disguise for the legions outraged by his remarks. In the process of killing off his own campaign, Perry may have brought an end to the use of explicitly anti-gay rhetoric as a political tactic, at least for any candidate with national ambitions.
Perry’s mistake was twofold. First, public opinion has been moving rapidly toward greater acceptance of gays and lesbians. In September, the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell’’ policy was lifted with bipartisan support. A CBS News poll the next month showed that only 15 percent of Americans “strongly oppose’’ allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly. National polls also now routinely show majority support for same-sex marriage. Furthermore, it is legal in the key early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire, and efforts to overturn it have failed. Perry may motivate some voters, but their number is shrinking fast.
I think Green is partially right. The response to Perry’s ad was pretty much across-the-board ridicule and condemnation. That being said, it’s useful to remember that GOP primary voters and their candidates don’t live in the normal world with the rest of us. Religious Right leaders are still clinging to outdated poll numbers from not so long ago, when a majority of Americans opposed marriage equality. There is a general feeling among these sorts of people that if the polls don’t say what they want them to say, that they must be wrong or biased. Even when every single mainstream poll is now showing majority support for marriage equality, they will continue to believe otherwise, and they’ll moreover use that to shore up their continued victim status. Everybody is out to get them, everybody is against Real Americans, etc.
So I doubt that this is the end of the overt gay-baiting in the GOP primaries. Now, when the general election comes? That’s where you might see a shift in tone, and that, as Green says, would be good news indeed.