Political baseball
Political baseball
Political baseball by Jennifer Vanasco - SGN Contributing Writer

A presidential candidate is not a baseball team.

That may seem obvious.

After all, no one clamors to get tickets to see a presidential candidate, or wears their logos on their clothes, or tries to get them to sign stuff, or calls out sports-like cheers as they enter an arena, or reports on play-by-plays as the season goes along - oh, wait.

All those things do happen.

And maybe that's the trouble. Because people have started to think about candidates as people you root for, instead of people you vote for.

Americans are treating political candidates like baseball teams because that is how the media treats presidential candidates - as some weird hybrid between celebrities and sports teams.

Many media outlets - and blogs, for that matter - do only the easy reporting. They look at a political campaign as a horse race or baseball game, and report only on who is a head on any given day, who's behind, what the strategy is to win.

That might be OK, except that the people have followed suit, and are candidate-loyal instead of issues-loyal.

What do I mean?

The other day, I was hanging out with a friend who is also a Hillary supporter. "I don't know," she said. "If Obama wins, I might need to vote for McCain."

And then, last week, on the Gay political blog I edit, a commenter echoed her comments. He supports Obama, and if Obama doesn't win, he now pledges to vote for McCain.

No, no, no.

This reminds me of people who are, say, rabid Yankees fans. Yankees fans not only root for the Yankees - they root for any team the Red Sox are playing, just so the Red Sox won't win.

Behavioral economist Dan Ariely, in a new book, talks about how people who invest in something - whether that's money in a new couch, or money, time, belief and a primary vote for a presidential candidate - tend to become more and more rigidly fixed on their choice.

"Ownership . . . can apply to points of view," he says. "Once we take ownership of an idea - whether it's about politics or sports - what do we do? We love it perhaps more than we should. We prize it more than it is worth.

"And frequently, we have trouble letting go of it because we can't stand the idea of its loss."

This is what's happening now. People have invested so much emotional energy and time in their Democratic candidate of choice that they can't imagine voting for his or her primary rival in November.

But a political candidate is not a baseball team. And for Gay people, John McCain isn't an easy substitute for either Democratic candidate. Most Gay people have a vague recollection that McCain voted against a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage, calling it "un-Republican."

That's true.

But McCain supported an Arizona amendment that also banned civil unions and domestic partnerships. He told an ABC reporter that he didn't support civil unions, though Gay people should be able to "enter into contracts." In fact, on his website, he includes as one of his issues "Protecting Marriage."

McCain supports Don't Ask, Don't Tell and thinks that Gay people should not be allowed to serve openly.

He doesn't believe that hate crimes legislation should be expanded to include sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender.

And Gay activists have accused McCain of "Gay baiting" during the primary, when a McCain robocall warned that Mitt Romney supported "special rights" for Gays.

As an added bonus, McCain said a couple weeks ago that he was "honored" to receive the endorsement of Rev. John Hagee - a man who said that Hurricaine Katrina was God's punishment on New Orleans for hosting a Gay pride parade.

In short, McCain is not a friend to the GLBT community.

He is not the equivalent of "any team but the Red Sox."

Because politicians are not a baseball team. One is not just as good as any other. The vote you cast in November has real repercussions for real people all over the country. The vote you cast will affect everything from the judges appointed to the Supreme Court, to the pressure on policies like Don't Ask, Don't Tell, to the general position of the White House (and therefore, Washington) on GLBT issues.

When it comes to Gay issues, the distinctions between Obama and Clinton are so fine as to be almost non-existent.

But McCain is playing ball on a whole different planet.

Jennifer Vanasco is an award-winning, syndicated columnist. She edits the Gay political blog VisibleVote08.com. E-mail her at jennifer.vanasco@gmail.com.