By Todd A. Heywood
(Issue 1624 - Between The Lines News)
Joe Sylvester, 23, is deeply involved in the conservative political scene in Michigan. He has worked on several campaigns, and serves on several Republican district committees for his home of Bay City. He is what he calls a "true conservative, or a paleoconservative." He counts among his friends Kyle Bristow, the former leader of Young Americans for Freedom at Michigan State University, and Dennis Lennox, the head of the newly-formed Campus Conservatives' group at Central Michigan University.
In Sylvester's blog, he rails against Michigan Federation of College Republicans state chair Justin Zatkoff as "immoral" for having pictures of himself shirtless in a hotel room with various fully clothed women. He writes about ending abortion, and rails against liberals. He is completely against John McCain and Barack Obama, and is supporting Bob Barr in his long-shot bid for the presidency. His blog is one blog that most conservatives in Michigan turn to when they want to know what the paleoconservatives in the state are thinking. He even played a role in the outing of conservative activist and then Web site manager for the Tom Tancredo for President campaign, Tyler Whitney.
But, until now, Sylvester has played his personal life close to his vest. His friends and his family know he is gay, but in an exclusive interview with Between The Lines, Sylvester for the first time confirms that he is gay and talks about his political views, his sexuality and his deeply held Catholic faith. The interview was a combination between written answers as well as a phone interview.
"I believe that everybody knows," said Sylvester talking about his sexuality and the political allies he has. "I have not directly talked with everybody about it, but I believe everybody knows."
Sylvester said he made the move to grant the interview because blogger Mike Rogers had contacted him. Rogers, from D.C., runs the BlogActive Web site. The site has garnered much attention over the years as Rogers, himself gay, for outing politicians who are actively pursuing an anti-gay agenda, but are secretly gay.
"Mike Rogers is looking at doing a piece to trash me, so I think it is better to get out on better terms," Sylvester said.
But Sylvester said his sexuality really has less to do with his politics than one might imagine.
"The whole debate â€“ gay this and gay that, it's so skewed and often illogical," he said. "If more people read what John Corvino (a professor at Wayne State University who has been touring his lecture series 'What is Morally Wrong with Homosexuality?' and is a contributing columnist for Between The Lines) writes, we would all be better off."
Instead, Sylvester said he supports candidates and issues for the greater good of the country.
"'How can one be gay and Republican?' It's a fairly easy one to answer," Sylvester said. "I vote what is best for the nation. If people in politics don't want to recognize me â€“ fine, I can do without recognition from a large, bloated bureaucracy which is generally corrupt and dysfunctional. It's not about me, it's about the common good. If there is a candidate that is opposed to killing babies in the womb, restricting gun rights and raising taxes and opposed to gay marriage, I will support that candidate because it is what's best for everyone."
Sylvester is a strong Catholic and that, he said, plays into his political perspective.
"I vote according to the dictates of my conscience and that is certainly factored in," he said. "If someone has a religious objection and espouse it in a loving way per Christian teaching I have no problem with it, although I may disagree with them. If they aren't coming from that angle, then I do not respect them and will not vote for them. There is no virtue in being vulgar and ill informed."
And Sylvester has no issue with the church denying Holy Communion to politicians who support abortion, or, if it were to happen, to him for being gay. He said the church is there to make moral decisions. But the issue would trouble him personally if gays were denied communion. He also said early on in the process of coming out, he struggled with his sexuality and church teachings.
"Sure, when I was first coming out when the issue was if I was gay or not. It was a struggle then," he said. "The biggest thing was whether you believe people are born that way or if it is a perversion. I don't believe it is a perversion, I believe it to be perfectly natural. Everybody knows themselves. You have feelings that way and you are the only person who can decipher it."
As for the presidential race, Sylvester was clear on his support for Barr and lambasted McCain and Obama. "I could have swallowed the jagged little pill known as John McCain but he is too arrogant to even pay lip service to those in his party that want the third world hemorrhaging across the southern border to stop," he said. "As far as Barack Obama goes...the guy is a joke. He is the most unqualified candidate to ever get a major partyâ€™s nomination."
Asked if the Barr candidacy might splinter the Republican vote, and result in Obama claiming the presidency, Sylvester said, "Ultimately its going to be a mute point. I think ultimately conservatives are going to stay home. They don't have anybody to vote for this time."
Sylvester was also clear that part of the issue was that the American democracy was stuck in a two party system and Bob Barr, not being in either of the two mainstream party camps, was unlikely to get the money to get his message out. Asked if the media should cover Barr like all the other candidates, Sylvester laughed.
"I think it would probably be best that you didn't because you already dislike John McCain's thinking," he said referring to the alternative media like Michigan Messenger and Between The Lines. "I can imagine how the coverage would be on someone right of McCain like Barr. If you wanted to tear apart the conservative movement, yes (you should cover it). Objectively, you should cover all the people running."
As for his connections with well known anti-gay leaders in the state like Rep. Jack Hoogendyke from Kalamazoo and Gary Glenn of the American Family Association of Michigan, Sylvester said he supported them.
"I've met Mr. Glenn working on the failed "Stop Overspending Initiative." He seems to be genuine. Maybe I'll be in his cross hairs, who knows? I don't question his motives, only some of his logic," Sylvester said. "Jack Hoogendyk is a good man. I support him 100 percent because I believe it for the greater good that Carl Levin be forced into retirement and Jack take his spot."