In Thursday’s Washington Post, reporter Michael Shear compared the speaking styles of Lt. Governor Tim Kaine (D) and Attorney General Jerry Kilgore (R), the two men who will face off in the ’05 Virginia governor’s race. (Kilgore, Kaine Give Previews of Very Different Styles“) Shear looks at the speeches given by each of them to a group of executives in Richmond earlier this month, describing Kilgore’s “Southwest Virginia twang,” “steady, deliberate tone,” and occasional meanderings from his prepared remarks in his 23-minute talk. He looked at Kaine’s improvisational speaking style, too, but that’s not the portion of the piece that interests me. It’s not what Shear wrote about Kilgore that I find noteworthy, but what he didn’t write about that stands out.
Few who recall hearing Kilgore speak (and not many people in the state have) will forget the single most notable aspect of his speaking style. He sounds…well…gay. Perhaps a less controversial word to use would be “effeminate.” His speech pattern is stereotypically that of an effeminate gay man, and there’s really no getting around it.
The trouble, of course, is that this is a difficult topic to broach. In fact, there’d really be no reason to do so, except when, say, writing a 770 word article about Kilgore and Kaine’s speaking styles. I assume that Shear failed to acknowledge the elephant in this living room because it’s simply something that’s uncomfortable to write about. Such a manner of speaking may be regarded by some as an impediment, particularly given what a contrast that it draws to Kilgore’s strong anti-gay agenda (one not dissimilar to, for comparison’s sake, former Rep. Ed Schrock). Given the biases of many, perhaps this would be like writing about a large, hairy mole on the nose of a candidate, or a candidate’s habit of carving large hunks of wax out of his ears mid-speech. It’s just too uncomfortable to address. That, of course, is precisely why it should be addressed — because it’s so clear to everybody who witnesses it that it’s an important feature of the candidate.
Perhaps the good news for Kilgore is that he may get a few progressive votes. While being perceived as effeminate (and, by extension, being perceived as possibly gay) might be a drawback among radical Republicans, some of my fellow progressives just eat that stuff up.