Will There Be a Gay President or an Italian-American President First?

There’s no right answer

L: Win McNamee/Getty Images, R: Tom Williams/Getty Images
Debate Club

There are some questions that are perfectly suited to be discussed at the bar after you’ve had a few beers with your pals and everyone has finished complaining about work and gossiping about acquaintances. These questions go one step beyond “Which five albums would you bring to a deserted island,” and are intended to spark passionate but low-stakes conversation that is inclusive of a variety of personalities and intelligence levels.

Some examples of these questions are: Do you think Kurt Cobain would have sold out by now if he were still alive? Who is the oldest famous person you would have sex with? Is there a war that you think you could have survived had you fought in it? Does the Queen know who Mario is? (My answers are: no, Dick Van Dyke, Revolutionary, and yes.) These questions are, most importantly, stupid. They have no bearing on our present reality and are just a good way to get a conversation going.

But one stands above the rest. It is my favorite question to ask when everyone is a little tipsy, because no one has ever considered it and yet everyone has an answer they are willing to defend almost immediately. Here it is: Do you think America will have an Italian-American president or a gay president first?

Think about it for a second. There are good arguments for either side. There aren’t a lot of Italian-Americans holding high-level positions in government right now, and now that former Governor Andrew Cuomo has been ousted from polite society, this country’s most powerful Italian-American politician is the widely reviled Sen. Joe Manchin (whose last name is derived from “Mancini”). That being said, the country is still homophobic, and for a gay presidential candidate to be taken seriously they have to also be a veteran who reads James Joyce and is boring. Much to consider.

In 1986, the New York Times ran an Op-Ed declaring that of course an Italian-American could be president. They were contesting Mario Cuomo’s derision towards “political analysts for ethnic bigotry and for implying that an Italian-American Roman Catholic candidate from the Northeast can't be elected President.” The editorial begins as follows:

Any self-respecting yuppie can readily tell you the differences between tortellini, fettucine, fusili and penne, and the number of people who swoon with pleasure over sun-dried tomatoes seems to grow daily. Lee Iacocca's book has been on the best-seller list for 64 weeks, and other Italian names appear high on the letterheads of the largest corporations and bluest-chip law firms. Italian-Americans rank among leading movie makers, editors and merchandisers, and 34 of them hold seats in Congress. Ours might, indeed, be called the Italian era in America.

If the late '80s were the Italian era in America, perhaps our current moment is the gay era. Moms across the country, regardless of political affiliation, are sobbing at episodes of Queer Eye and straight people are doing poppers. Who’s to say that we can’t see a gay person beat a paisan to the Oval Office?

I wanted to see what some smart people had to say about this, so I surveyed the sharpest minds I could corral (the staff of Gawker) to see how they would answer.

Kelly Conaboy, Senior Staff Writer

I keep going back and forth, but ultimately I think we'll have a gay president first. Probably a Republican gay man. Maybe he'll have an Italian VP.

Brandy Jensen, Features Editor

Italian-American (she will also be a woman and a Republican).

Claire Carusillo, Contributing Writer

My mom always claims that when she met my dad, a first-ish gen Italian-American, in college, her grandmother always referred to him that "Eyetralian boy." This, somehow, has been used as evidence of prejudice against Italian-Americans in my family. I guess I'm not really understanding the slur here, and I'm saying this as a half-Eyetralian (internalized Ferrantephobia????). Anyway, this is all to say that I think that American prejudice towards Italians has been fairly mild, even in the 1890s or whenever my parents went to college. Our country still hates gay people. The Italian lifestyle is less alternative, and it is for that reason that I'm endorsing Joe Manchin for president on behalf of Bustle Digital Group.

Leah Finnegan, Editor-in-Chief


Jenny Zhang, Staff Writer


Olivia Craighead, Staff Writer

I know this is my own question, but I still find it almost impossible to answer. At the end of the day I guess I think it will be a gay person, but they will be a real drag. I think they’ll be a Democrat, but I will not vote for them in the primary because they think the idea of taxing wealthy people is “just not possible” or something like that.

George Civeris, Senior Editor

I'm going to say gay. If you're gay, you can just act straight. It's impossible to act straight if you're Italian.

Jocelyn Silver, Managing Editor

I believe we will have a gay president first. I don't know why. Perhaps all of that talk of Italian-American persecution on the Sopranos got to me. I don't have high high hopes for this future gay leader, but maybe they will surprise (bitch, you haven't seen the last of me) me.

Tarpley Hitt, Staff Writer

Italian. Chris Pratt as Mario could win that's why they're rehabbing his catch phrase.

Nicole Dalessandro, Director of Content Operations

For my great grandparents Romilda and Emilio I'm rooting for an Italianx president. When that day comes I'll add the apostrophe back to D'Alessandro.

Darcie Wilder, Senior Social Media Editor

This is so hard, especially because I'm still on my first cup of java, which I need to have. It's also extremely disappointing to realize Joe Manchin and I have some sort of similar ancestral heritage? It's always weird to see an Italian whose name does not end in a vowel. Cuomo got pretty close, and he sucks, much like all presidents and politicians. I could see him as president. But maybe the crux of the issue is we've only had like two Catholic presidents, so that rules out a lot of Italians. Pope John Paul was the first non-Italian pope since the 1500s, so maybe there's some sort of balance of the universe. I understand that I am only answering half of the question, but I was going to analyze one half and then move onto the other, but now I am out of time. Regardless, both a gay president and an Italian president would have to be horrifically conservative to get elected and so it's like wow what's the point even…

Sarah Hagi, Contributing Writer

I think America will get an Italian president first because Joe Biden is Catholic. Canada has a prime minister named Justin so really anything is possible.