There’s a reason Woodbury Congressman Jason Lewis refuses to release the tapes from his days as a right-wing radio host. The work was ugly.
It meant creating a shared sense of superiority with an aging male audience of shut-ins, ne’er do wells, and the serially aggrieved. Lewis’ job was to shill the notion that, together, they were the lone keepers of nature’s unpretty truths, under siege by the agents of a changing world. If it wasn’t for immigrants, feminists, liberals, blacks, et al., they would take their rightful place as the great men they were destined to be.
This was his recipe for Victim Radio. Tune into the Jason Lewis Show, and you were treated to a daily list of the people to blame for your disappointments in life.
It was not something you want aired to a prime-time audience.
But over the past few weeks, Lewis’ tapes have begun to leak. If you’re unfamiliar with the talk genre, they reveal a host posing as an armchair philosopher, feeding semi-coherent warnings to his bedraggled tribe, his logic tethered by fibers only the true believers can see.
He laments no longer being able to call women sluts, as if men have lost a sacred right. He predicts impending race wars for Minneapolis, because in conservative ideation, that’s what black guys always do. They race war. And he fabricates tales of legislators lionizing welfare mooches, feeding his audience’s thirst for any sign that White Man’s Oppression is real.
Yet a tape leaked yesterday shows Lewis at his best: likening gay marriage to rape.
The episode comes from 2013, during the fight for marriage equality. At the time, prevailing conservative wisdom said that if you let gays marry, the collapse of straight matrimony was nigh. (They never actually explained how this would occur. Presumably bricklayers would abandon their wives en masse for the loving tonic of men named Lance, now that their secreted longings were government-approved.)
In Lewis’ eyes, gay coupling was nothing short of a crime. Allowing consenting adults to betroth "would undo the entire state criminal code because we’re all treated unequally. Speeders, when you’re flying down the highway ten miles an hour over the speed limit, next time a cop pulls you over, say 'I’m going to file a Supreme Court challenge to this ticket. I am being treated unequally.”
Okay, so it’s not the most cogent argument. But the rules of conservative talk forgive the unintelligible if one compensates with a greater dose of alarm, while raising the specter of unspeakable fallout. Lewis obliged.
He contended that if gayness and rape are both crimes, we couldn't legalize one without the other.
"When we pass a law against rape, you’re not treating a rapist equal. The law, the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, simply means this: that people who find themselves in similar circumstances must be treated in a similar way. … You must discriminate against all smokers, you must discriminate against all rapists."
He went on to imply that equality would lead to polygamy and a generation of damaged children. It was all part of a dark, seedy plot: “The gay rights lobby is playing underhanded to get their will and, in the process, they are shredding the Constitution of this country."
As the tapes have leaked, Lewis has scampered to alternating defenses. He’s claimed to have merely been an entertainer, a man for whom bombast was occupation. He’s blamed his enemies for raising these matters, as if it’s somehow improper to pose the natural question, “Hey, did you know your congressman might be an asshole?” He’s also claimed that his past has already been “litigated,” asserting there’s a statute of limitations on when voters might assess such assholerly.
Yet one thing remains constant: Lewis is still playing the professional victim, fighting the brave fight as the lone keeper of life’s hard truths. He's just now doing it in the halls of Congress, subsidized by your dime.