Traverse City Record-Eagle


April 14, 2013

Jack Lessenberry: Cross-district busing woes

Years ago, the issue of cross-district school busing ruined the political chances of some Democrats.

“I was damned if I did and damned if I didn’t,” said former Michigan Attorney General Frank Kelley, who blames hysteria over the busing issue for his loss in a race for the U.S. Senate in 1972.

Democrats were torn between the fiercely pro-busing positions of their black supporters — and equally bitter opposition from working-class white voters, determined to vote against anyone who said they might bus their kids — even if forced to by the courts.

Cross-district busing was long ago abandoned as a remedy for school segregation. These days, however, Republicans have their own social issue which may divide them as deeply and threaten their ability to win elections just as strongly as busing once did Democrats.

That issue is equal rights for groups social conservatives and the religious right regard as anathema - primarily, lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgendered people, usually abbreviated as LGBT.

Polls show that young people and the well educated favor equal rights and same-sex marriage as strongly as older right-wing voters oppose them. And without strong support from both groups, Republicans have little chance of winning statewide or nationally.

That division became impossible to sweep under the rug last month, after Dave Agema, Michigan’s GOP National Committeeman, posted an inflammatory anti-gay article on his Facebook page.

As I mentioned in last week’s column, the article, purportedly written by a mysterious “Frank Joseph, MD,” claims gays are responsible for half the murders in big cities.

Additionally, it makes a number of other wild and crazily false claims, among which are the contentions that most gay men and lesbians die in their 40s because of their “filthy” lifestyle, and they are dedicated to recruiting children.

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