If it’s hard for you to think of mild-mannered, former business executive Gov. Rick Snyder in the mold of erstwhile racist southern politician George Wallace, that might be an indication that you have a functioning brain.

On the other hand, if you’re thinking to yourself, “Yeah, I can see it,” then you might be just the type of easily-led individual that U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint, is hoping to influence by drawing that absurd comparison in the first place.

Here’s how it works: When the desegregation of Alabama schools was in the offing in the 1950s, under orders from the federal courts, Wallace, then the governor of Alabama, literally stood in the doorways and refused to let black students enter — until forced to stand down by federal troops.

So Wallace was a governor who stood in the way of needed civil rights progress. This much is not in dispute.

Kildee’s position? Snyder’s actions with respect to gay marriage are roughly equivalent. Kildee warns Snyder: History will not be kind to you.

Is Snyder pulling a George Wallace with respect to gay marriage?

Not at all.

What’s more, the gay marriage/desegregation comparison is every bit as illegitimate as the Snyder/Wallace comparison.

First of all, Snyder has certainly not been any sort of activist on this issue.

What he has done is enforce and defend Michigan law. This may come as a surprise to Obama-supporting Democrats, but the job of the chief executive is to enforce the law, not to maybe enforce it and maybe not depending on whether he agrees with it.

Michigan voters passed a referendum in 2004 banning gay marriage. When Snyder signs off on the money to take legal action in defense of that law, he is defending the choice of Michigan voters.

I have never heard Snyder express a personal opinion one way or the other on gay marriage.

He is certainly not the strident activist on the issue that Wallace was in opposing desegregation. He is merely defending the legality of state law. That’s his job.

What Kildee wants Snyder to do is completely ignore the will of the voters so as to be treated more kindly by “history,” which is to say, liberal politicians with large media megaphones.

That is not Snyder’s job.

Despite the desire of pro-gay marriage activists to convince you otherwise, it is a very legitimate question whether longstanding law defining marriage as between one man and one woman ought to be changed.

By contrast, it was never a legitimate question whether black people should have the same rights as white people.

Homosexuality is behavior. Race is skin pigmentation. The two are not the same, never have been and never will be.

The strategy of Dan Kildee and others is to intimidate those who might be inclined to defend traditional marriage, by threatening to hang the likes of George Wallace and the KKK around their necks. They’re not trying to win the gay marriage debate. They’re trying to terrify their opponents into forfeiting by letting it be known they will pay far too high a price for even saying what they think.

Or, in the case of Snyder, merely doing his job.

If gay marriage is really good policy, surely its advocates can win the debate without presuming to speak for “history,” and without engaging in absurdest hyperbole like that which tries to turn Rick Snyder into George Wallace.

Because that’s when you’re letting on that you’re really not that confident in your ability to convince people on the merits. Better to force your opponent’s hand socially.

Dan Calabrese writes for The Politics Blog. Read more of his work at

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