James Hormel has ceased to be a person and has now become a tool for ideologues. Once, he was a millionaire from San Francisco. A philanthropist, Hormel gave money for AIDS research, the United Negro College fund and the San Francisco Public Library, to name a few. He also spent time as a delegate to the United Nations and has considerable diplomatic experience. But that was James Hormel. Now it’s a different story.
Now, James Hormel is an idea batted back and forth between Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill. Recently, the White House nominated Hormel for the position as ambassador to Luxembourg. The position, not being the most diplomatically sensitive, doesn’t generally call for a major fight over confirmation. This time things are different though. James Hormel is gay.
It’s September of a midterm election year. Voter turnout is probably not going to be particularly high. So the two major parties need to do something for their core voters in order to give them a reason to go to the polls on November 3. The White House nominates a gay man to a diplomatic post, making most liberal voters pretty happy. In response, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott ties up his nomination, appeasing social conservatives.
It would be very easy just to blame the Republican Party and to call them intolerant bigots. It is true; they are being intolerant. The official Republican Party line is that they oppose Hormel because he is “extreme.”
They object to some books found in a library that he funded. Some other vague charges are made, but the bottom line is that since Hormel is gay, he’s not even going to get a vote. Everything else is an excuse for homophobia.
But wait, there’s more. The White House isn’t exactly going to the mat on this one. They’re not pushing hard for a vote. They don’t care. The fact is that the administration doesn’t want this to go away. With this issue, Democrats can embarrass Republicans, criticize them for their prejudice, and be justified. If Hormel is confirmed, then it’s over and the ammunition is gone. Hormel is much more valuable as a martyr.
Lost in this issue is James Hormel himself. Right now, he’s sitting at home waiting for the outcome that will never arrive. He watches as people inside the beltway throw his name back and forth. Many of the people making these arguments he has never met and they have no interest in meeting him. He’s worth more as an idea than as an ambassador, so he sits back and watches the issue of James Hormel fade back into obscurity, just as the man already has.