Kevin McCarthy reinforces a right-wing frame

The passage of the Civil Rights bill by the Iowa legislature is undoubtedly a victory for progressives.

I was very disappointed, though, when I opened up the Des Moines Register today and read the article on page 1 of the Metro section. Here’s the third paragraph:

“It is a historic vote,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Des Moines Democrat. “I also think it was a mainstream vote. This was not some sort of liberal social agenda. This is just saying that under housing and employment, people should not be discriminated based upon their real or perceived sexual orientation.”

What have Des Moines Register readers just learned?

1. the “liberal social agenda” is outside the mainstream

2. mainstream = good, “liberal social agenda” = not so good

3. even that Democratic guy is kind of embarrassed about the liberal social agenda

I understand what McCarthy was trying to say: this is not gay marriage, this is not even civil unions, this is no-brainer anti-discrimination protection. This should not be controversial.

But when Democratic Party leaders reinforce the idea that things supported by liberals are outside the mainstream, they are continuing the work of those like Newt Gingrich who have tried for decades to demonize liberals.

Imagine Chris Rants bragging about the passage of a bill by saying, “This was a mainstream vote. This was not some sort of conservative social agenda.”

That would never happen, because Republican leaders know better than to frame their party’s base as on the fringe of public opinion.

McCarthy could have said something along the lines of, “This was a mainstream vote. This reflects the growing consensus in the United States that it’s not ok to discriminate against someone because of their real or perceived sexual orientation.”

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