Overreaction – Western PA Dems and Jim Roddey

Allegheny County GOP Chair and former County Chief Executive Jim Roddey made a horrible decision earlier in the week. He told a joke that mocked people with developmental and intellectual disabilities as part of taking a swipe at Obama supporters. It was offensive, mean-spirited and just plain ugly. It was also out of character for Jim Roddey.

People called him out on it, rightfully so. And he apologized. But his apology was not quite what I hoped for from a man of his credibility b/c he did actually plan the joke – it wasn’t a slip of the tongue. And it was mean. You won’t get any argument from me on that issue.

But within hours of the story breaking, people were up in arms calling for his resignation. They even launched a petition on Change.Org.

What? Talk about an overreaction and talk about being opportunistic. The Dems leading this charge obviously learned nothing from last week’s debacle with Chick-fil-A and the “mayors” calling for illegally banning them from doing business (including Pittsburgh’s own Mayor.)

First, this is not characteristic of Jim Roddey. It does not reflect his true colors or his opinion about people with disabilities. It was a mistake – a hurtful mistake – but Jim Roddey is not a mean spirited nasty Republican who throws ugly soundbytes out to garner headlines. So let’s be a little fair here people and give him a chance to apologize.

Second, Jim Roddey resigning is a TERRIBLE idea for Democrats. He’s not an extremist wingnut and is probably one of the moderating influences on the party that we need. If we are going to unelected Rep Babette Josephs to elect a gay white man, we are not in a position to do anything to remove those who temper State Rep Daryl Metcalfe and his ilk of teapartiers. We NEED moderate or at least not-extremist Republicans in position of authority to ensure some level of bipartisan functionality. Do you really think if he stepped down that the party wouldn’t shift to the right?

Third, Dems keep apologizing for Mark Critz who has openly VOTED against equal rights issues and VOTED for terrible budget measures. So, pot say hello to kettle? Just today Democrat Bill Deweese tried to stay on the ballot. From prison.

Finally, I’m just incredibly annoyed that people missed a huge lesson from Chick-fil-A’s spin on their hate. Instead of a thoughtful response, several elected leaders jumped on the “drive ’em out of town” bandwagon which put the final stake in the actual message – it became all about supposed free speech violations with no further mention of discrimination.  Our reactivity blew a great opportunity to get an important – critical – message out.

In this situation, we missed a chance to ask Jim Roddey to be the leader we have grown to expect and to take responsibility for hurtful comments that targeted vulnerable people. If we are going to start change.org petitions every time a Republican makes a mistake, we’ll be afloat in tea for decades.

And sadly the people actually hurt by these comments really have had no opportunity to voice their response. They aren’t at the table. Funding for many programs they use has been slashed by Republicans – I wonder if we sat down and had a discussion about which is worse — something making hateful comments or someone cutting funding for your housing — what sort of perspective might we gain?

I’m not giving Jim Roddey a pass on this. His apology was not adequate. But when you set the bar at “resign” less than 12 hours after the offensive behavior, its pretty clear no apology would be adequate.

And here’s my concern – several folks have commented on how “offensive” these comments are to Obama supporters. That sounds a bit too much like people who are offended when someone says they are gay. I’m not offended or outraged that Jim Roddey called me “retarded” at least not on my own behalf. I’m not insulted on my own behalf.

But I’m also not convinced that people are soooo touchy about their support for Obama that being “insulted” by a slur is perceived as a hate attack. There’s no sense of proportionality.

And on behalf of this lesbian, if you are going to rationalize working to elect Mark Critz – a man who has voted against my basic rights and for a terrible devastating budget – you are in no position to call out Jim Roddey on one comment. Again, perspective.

 

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