Remember that time conservatives devoted approximately 92% of their free time to obsessing over the possibility—nay, certainty!—that one of the Teletubbies was a closeted gay man Pied Pipering Pixy Stix-besotted 2-year-olds into the Teletubbyland leather scene? Those were the days, huh? Sadly, today’s right-wing culture warriors make Jerry Falwell’s fire-and-brimstone scare-a-thons look like Sunday brunch at Liza Minnelli’s West Hollywood bungalow.
The new moral outrage du jour is the sudden emergence of drag performers, whom no one—particularly Kari Lake—knew existed until Republicans suddenly discovered them reading children’s books to children in
seedy underground Berlin sex clubs children’s sections of libraries. And since kids simply can’t process the sight of a man in a dress—unless it’s the pope, or Sean Connery, or Rudy Giuliani flirting with Donald Trump (who himself is about 60% hairspray and foundation makeup by weight)—we simply need to make a huge deal out of this quotidian phenomenon that’s existed for millennia.
So that’s what Republicans are doing, because inflation is waning, President Joe Biden is flexing his bona fides on the world stage, and Mr. Potato Head simply doesn’t drive suburban swing voters to the polls the way he used to.
RELATED STORY: Defense Department nixes drag shows on military bases in wake of manufactured moral panic
During a recent House subcommittee debate on defense funding, Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan, who is gay, called Republicans out for their performative outrage over military drag shows. It’s somewhat reminiscent of, well, pretty much everything they do, but especially of their War on Christmas-y rage over the phrase “happy holiday(s),” which renowned Satan worshipper Bing Crosby crooned all the way back in 1942.
And now modern-day Republicans are indirectly shitting on Ronald Reagan, of all people, because they want to make a very dull point about picayune budget appropriations that could provide aid and comfort to their dire enemy, the LGBTQ+ community. But at least some Democrats are calling bullshit, as Pocan did recently during a heated back-and-forth with Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.
Watch. It’s beautiful!
REP. MARK POCAN: “Can you tell me on the drag show that was funded in Ecuador, how much was that?”
REP. MARIO DIAZ-BALART: “I have it here. It’s actually even on the webpage. It wasn’t a lot of money, but it was a drag show. As a matter of fact, if you like, I’ll just give you this copy.”
POCAN: “I’m just asking you, and I don’t want to use all my time up so if you could just answer the question, I’d appreciate it.”
DIAZ-BALART: “All right, I believe that one in Ecuador, I believe, was $20,000.”
POCAN: “For one drag show.”
DIAZ-BALART: “I don’t know if it was one or multiple, but I have it here and I can share it with you.”
POCAN: “Because I think it was for 13 drag shows and it was for two workshops and it was for a two-minute video for $21,000. So probably under a grand for a drag show if it was funded that way. Correct?”
DIAZ-BALART: “Here it is.”
POCAN: “Yeah, does that sound reasonable, what I just said?”
DIAZ-BALART: “Again, I have it here. I haven’t looked at this document in detail in a little while, but it is all here. It’s also on the internet. Again, I’m not sure how funding drag shows abroad helps our national security interests, which is what we’re discussing. And remember, I brought that up. I heard that they would not be doing that, here it is.”
Yeah, $21,000 is about what the Pentagon spends on a hammer, which it probably uses to crack open walnuts during Joint Chiefs meetings. Meanwhile, it’s worth asking why anyone would wring their hands over a $21,000 line item in a roughly $850 billion budget.
POCAN: “Sure, I’m going to take back my time. And just one more question. Was that rescinded, by any chance? That grant?”
DIAZ-BALART: “This may have been pulled.”
POCAN: “Oh, wait, wait, wait. So we didn’t spend $21,000 on 13 drag shows, two workshops, and a two-minute video. So $1,000 on a drag show.”
DIAZ-BALART: “Well, that’s why you should not be upset that we’re not funding drag shows. If they’re not doing it, why is it a big deal not to fund it? And if they’re doing it, let’s not fund it.”
Wait, the grant they’re arguing over never went through? Then what the eff are they bringing it up for? Oh, I know. Because Fox News reported on it in 2022, and Fox News viewers never forget—unless, of course, their fellow travelers were caught smearing feces on the walls of the U.S. Capitol.
POCAN: “I’ll take back my time. So this is interesting. So you’re worried about a grant that never occurred, which you could have told us up front. No, it was rescinded. It was rescinded. So, anyway, the Pride flags that you’re so passionate about cost somewhere between, if you look online, $25 to $40. We are micromanaging, pedantically dealing with this budget at such a small level in order for you to make certain people in your base happy and in your caucus happy who have built a brand around hate. So in doing so, you’re doing the silliness of determining whether $25 flags can come out of the Appropriations budget. That is pedantic and crazy, quite honestly, that that’s what we’re debating.
“We have a drought, genocide, child labor, child marriage, disease, famine, malnutrition, droughts—all sorts of things that we could be dealing with, and what we are dealing with is talking about a $25 flag or a rescinded grant. Now, let’s just be honest among friends that this isn’t for appropriations purposes. We’re doing this because you’re desperate to get the votes together, and you’ve got some folks who need this sort of stuff, who are still not going to vote for it, by the way. I’m willing to bet any of you on whether or not we get the 12 bills done, by the way, through the floor completely. But let’s just admit what we’re doing. A rescinded grant. That would have been good information to share during your remarks, and a $25 flag is hardly the level that we should be debating here in the Appropriations Committee.”
The House narrowly passed the annual defense authorization bill on Friday after Republicans larded it with a suite of hateful culture war provisions.
And now, the coup de grace:
POCAN: “And just for the record, in World War II, there was a show called ‘This Is the Army.’ A hundred thirteen performances on Broadway raised $45,000 the first night for the Army Relief Fund, $10 million overall with, oh, guess what? Soldiers in drag. And then they did a movie on this called ‘This Is the Army’ and guess who starred in it? Wait for it. Your friend. Mine. Ronald Reagan! Ronald Reagan was in the movie ‘This Is the Army’ about the soldiers doing drag that raised $10 million for the Army Relief Fund. By the way [it was] the highest-grossing movie at the time, three times what ‘Wizard of Oz’ had gotten at that point. Now, so, for all the worries about, I think you said, the focus on foreign threats that we’re dealing with. A Pride flag is not a foreign threat. A drag show is not a foreign threat. Ronald Reagan is not a foreign threat. But having this kind of rhetoric on the floor so you can get people who want to pander and fundraise to certain aspects of your base is a threat to this democracy. So I just want to put it out there. I didn’t plan on debating, but every time you put this stupid crap up that has nothing to do with appropriations, I’m going to stand up and say something. I yield back.”
What?! Saint Ronny starred in a lavish Broadway-style musical about soldiers in drag? Will Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis now release a video showing how irredeemably woke Reagan was?
RELATED STORY: Florida sends undercover agents to drag show, finds nothing wrong, keeps trying to shutter venue
While it’s easy enough for anyone with eyes to see what Republicans are doing with these disingenuous stunts, it’s always nice to watch them get called out on it.
Keep it up, Rep. Pocan. We need more Democrats pushing back like this, if only so the public can really see how truly hateful and absurd the GOP has become.
RELATED STORY: Tactical extremism brought America Reagan, Gingrich, Trump—and a looming threat to democracy
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