Friday, August 25, 2000

A Leatherman Looks at the Presidential Race

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #137, August 25, 2000)

Recently I wrote a column comparing the way we select the President of the United States with the way we select International Mr. Leather. On further observation I’m beginning to think this year’s presidential election has more in common with a local leather contest—one of those contests where the promoters have been able to come up with only two contestants, and as you watch them onstage you wonder if either of them will be able to serve the title properly. Forgive me for delving into political waters again, but it is, after all, an election year. This is what one leatherman thinks about the presidential race so far.

First of all, neither of the major candidates has said anything about being kink-friendly. In this post-Monica age (have you forgotten about Monica? The folks in Washington, D.C. haven’t), where Altoids and cigars are considered kinky and where the pendulum continues to swing further toward “traditional family values,” I think it will be quite awhile before a presidential candidate courts the kink vote. So we shall have to judge them on other criteria.

By almost any criteria (on second thought, delete that “almost”), I don’t like Bush and don’t want to see him in the White House. It’s appropriate that I live in Minnesota; according to Newsweek, Minnesota is the only state that’s more or less a sure thing for Al Gore.

So I guess that means I cast a vote for Gore as my “George W. Bush over my dead body” vote. But I’m not all that excited about Gore, either, because he hasn’t given me much to get excited about. Aside from the legendarily wooden way he presents himself (which I guarantee you would not score big points in a leather contest), he hasn’t really said much of anything about anything. So far, he’s a blank. His wife, Tipper, seems to have taken firmer stands on more issues than he has. I sincerely hope he is able to better define himself before the election in November.

The news media are constantly pointing out that this is the first presidential race where both candidates are of the boomer generation. Is this really the best my generation can do? Are we boomers really that lightweight? Eight years ago I thought Clinton, also a boomer, was lightweight—now, compared to Gore and Bush, he seems like a brilliant statesman.

If this was a leather contest, and I was judging, I would watch the proceedings and I would mark my score sheet. And I would do so secure in the knowledge that most leather contests are set up so that if none of the contestants receives a certain minimum number of points (usually 70% of the maximum number of points possible), the title will not be awarded. This is another instance where the leather/BDSM community has come up with a way of doing things that society in general might do well to follow.

Contrast this with the way a presidential election works: no matter how turned-off the electorate becomes, no matter how many voters stay home, each state’s electoral votes will go to one candidate or the other (barring a third-party-candidate upset). Theoretically a president could be picked by only 10% of the country’s eligible voters, even if the other 90% were so disgusted with both the candidates that they decided to stay home on election day.

In this country there’s no such thing as a presidential no-confidence vote. You can vote for a third-party candidate as a way of saying you don’t like either of the two major-party candidates, but that’s usually called “throwing away your vote.” I say “usually” because Jesse Ventura proved that if enough people feel enough disenchantment with the two major parties, a third-party candidate can win. Will Nader or (perish the thought) Buchanan pull off a Ventura-style upset nationally? Wait and see.

I suppose we can take some comfort from history. Just as the leather nation has survived the occasional lackluster titleholder, the United States has survived the occasional lackluster president. Even so, whether we’re talking about a Hobson’s choice between leather title contestants or one between presidential candidates, the lesser of two evils is a better choice than the greater of two evils.

One final thought: Al Gore made history by selecting as his running mate Joseph Lieberman, the first-ever Jewish candidate on a presidential ticket. That started me thinking about other Presidential barriers that have been broken, such as presidential candidate John F. Kennedy in 1960 being the first-ever Roman Catholic on a presidential ticket (he won), and vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 being the first-ever woman on a presidential ticket (she and Walter Mondale lost).

How long will it be before we have a self-proclaimed member of the GLBT community as a presidential or vice-presidential candidate on a major-party ticket? Or the first openly-kinky candidate? Or maybe even both at once? It could happen one day, and that day might be sooner than you or I expect. But it won’t happen through apathy and hiding. It will happen through involvement and pride. Be proud enough this year to get involved in the political process—even if that involvement is “only” paying attention and voting intelligently, and encouraging others to do the same. I said it before and I’ll say it again: This election is too important to tune out.

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Duluth/Superior: Kick-Off Cocktails for Pride in Boots & Leather (in conjunction with Twin Ports Pride Festival)
Friday, Sept. 1, 4-7 PM, The Main Club, 1217 Tower Avenue, Superior, WI
This is the kick-off; other Pride in Boots & Leather events are planned as well throughout the weekend, so it will be worth the trip north. For full details contact Bob Jansen, owner of the Main Club, or send an e-mail to For information about Twin Ports GLBT Pride Festival events visit Bonus: In addition to the above events the Great Northern Classic Rodeo will be held at the Superior Fairgrounds (4700 Tower Ave., Superior) at 7 PM on both Friday, Sept. 1 and Saturday, Sept. 2 and at 2 PM on Sunday, Sept. 3.

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