More on Gay Purge in Republican Party

The LA Times has a story about some religious right leaders pushing for gays to be purged from the Republican Party. In the wake of the Foley scandal, there are increasing calls to get gay people out of the party entirely.

"The big-tent strategy could ultimately spell doom for the Republican Party," said Tom McClusky, chief lobbyist for the Family Research Council, a Christian advocacy group. "All a big-tent strategy seems to be doing is attracting a bunch of clowns."

Now the GOP is facing a hard choice -- risk losing the social conservatives who are legendary for turning out the vote, or risk alienating the moderate voters who are crucial to this election's outcome.

This has been a long-standing tension in the Republican Party, even among serious conservatives. Just look at Dick Cheney's situation, with a daughter who is a lesbian and in a long-term relationship with someone they consider a part of their family now. The cognitive dissonance must be overwhelming at times. Give Cheney at least a little credit here, at least he didn't do what so many other conservative leaders have done and thrown a gay child out of the family. By all accounts, he and Mary are close and he fully accepts her orientation and her relationship.

But for political purposes, Cheney had little choice but to go along with the administration in pushing, at least somewhat, the anti-gay marriage amendment. Bush has done so fairly half-heartedly, really. He's never put the full weight of the White House behind a push for that amendment, I suspect because he's really not a big supporter of it. But the various state amendments on the subject were a large part of Rove's national campaign strategy since 2003, so they've said all the right things to the religious right on this issue but never really pushed hard for it at the national level.

Rove himself also likely doesn't really believe in anti-gay policies; his father, with whom he was very close, was a gay man. But Rove is a political strategist, to whom principle means absolutely nothing. If he has to sell out his family to get some votes, that's not a problem at all. This is, after all, the man behind the vile push-polling during the 2000 election trying to stir up racist sentiment against John McCain for having an adopted Asian daughter. I doubt there is a level the man would not stoop to in order to win an election.

But as individuals, I don't think there's all that much anti-gay sentiment in this administration. I think Condoleeza Rice's statements to Mark Dybul last week, expressing appreciation for his partner and mother in law, are probably a genuine reflection of how she feels and how she views gay people. Heck, if all the longstanding rumors about the never-married Rice are true, she may well be gay herself. Nor do I think there's really all that much among Republicans in Congress, outside of the real loonies (Inhofe, Brownback, etc). Even Rick Santorum has a gay chief of staff and he has defended the man against attempts to use that against him.

So they're in a bind. The Family Research Council and their ilk really do think that people should be fired just for being gay, and their followers are the most important group of voters for the Republican party. If they don't show up at the polls, Republicans don't win, and the party leaders know that. And that's why we're seeing a rather schizophrenic response to this from Republicans.

The Washington Post, meanwhile, has an article about those gay staffers on Capitol Hill and it contains some interesting information. Like this:

In October 1993, after the ban on gays in the military was replaced with a "don't ask, don't tell" policy, three Oklahoma congressmen said they wouldn't hire an openly gay person onto their staffs. Then-Rep. Jim Inhofe (R) told the Tulsa World: "I would not appoint a gay person in that type of leadership position."

That declaration sent a ripple of fear across a certain set on Capitol Hill. A small, bipartisan group of staffers huddled and formed the Lesbian and Gay Congressional Staff Association, which now has a confidential e-mail list of more than 200. And a frustrated aide contacted the Tulsa World and gave an anonymous interview.

I'm gay, he told the newspaper, and I'm on Inhofe's staff.

The aide was Kirk Fordham, former chief of staff for disgraced former representative Mark Foley (R-Fla.) and a key player in the ongoing investigation of the page scandal, said Hill sources who requested anonymity because of the investigation.

Isn't that interesting? So is this:

"You have to separate the marketing from the reality. The reality is, these members are not homophobic. For the most part, they're using this marketing to play to our base and stay in power. They have to turn out the votes," said David Duncan, once a board member of the Lesbian and Gay Congressional Staff Association and a former top aide to Rep. Robert Ney (R-Ohio), who last week pleaded guilty to corruption charges linked to the Abramoff scandal.

Andrew Sullivan, the openly gay conservative columnist, calls the Republican leadership "closet-tolerant."

"They're tolerant of gay people but they have to keep quiet about it because their base would go crazy if they ever express it. That's the bottom line," Sullivan said. "They have this acute cognitive dissonance, which is a polite way of saying hypocrisy."

In their day-to-day dealings, even the most conservative Republicans can display an ease with normalizing relations with gay people. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) ranks No. 3 in Senate leadership and has likened homosexuality to bestiality. A rumor erupted in summer 2005 that his chief spokesman, Robert Traynham, was gay. When Traynham confirmed the rumor, Santorum promptly rushed to his defense, issuing a release calling his aide "a trusted friend . . . to me and my family."...

A Republican strategist who has served in several key positions during his 17-year career on the Hill said: "Most of these Congress members would be perfectly happy if they didn't have to vote on another gay issue. For some it is an issue. For some . But the truth is, a lot of members are more tolerant than their voting records would have you believe. Look at [Rep. Roy] Blunt [R-Mo.], [Rep. Eric] Cantor [R-Va.], [Rep. Adam] Putnam [R-Fla.]. They know gay people. They have gay friends. But they speak out against gay rights. They have to. That's where the votes are." All three voted to amend the Constitution to define marriage as being only between a man and a woman.

Like most gay Republican staffers interviewed for this article, the veteran strategist requested anonymity so he could speak freely about gays working within the GOP. Several Republican lawmakers declined to be interviewed about the subject, as did Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman.

"You can't be a Republican and say that you're for gay rights on the Hill," the veteran strategist said. "You can say it behind closed doors. But you can't say it in public." That principle may explain why no fellow Republicans have publicly argued with Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), a vocal opponent of gay marriage who is blocking President Bush's nomination of Judge Janet Neff to the federal bench because Neff once attended a commitment ceremony for a lesbian couple.

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Honestly, I don't know which is worse: an honest bigot, or a "closet-tolerant" legislator of the sort described here. The former is hateful, but the latter is just pathetic.

By MJ Memphis (not verified) on 24 Oct 2006 #permalink

MJ - The "closet-tolerant" legislator is not "just" pathetic, but ultimately more dangerous than the honest bigot. Hateful people might at least have integrity. That's a virtue on which one can build. Hypocrites lack even that.

By bob koepp (not verified) on 24 Oct 2006 #permalink

I'm with you bob. I'll take the honest bigot any day. At least their hateful rhetoric is "intellectually honest" and internally consistent.

It's great fun to watch. Gay Republicans deserve whatever they get - by now, it's not possible to honestly believe that the GOP is a 'big tent', or 'libertarian', or has any other belief towards gays other than persecution. If the religious wrong loses secular power due to screwing over gays, then that's both good and long overdue.

How sad that all these people in leadership positions don't even attempt to lead their voters toward greater tolerance.

That's exactly right Barry. The GOP has completely lost any claim to being libertarian. I highly recommend listening to Andrew Sullivan (conservative blogger and pundit) on the Bob Edwards show from yesterday, or looking at his book or blog. He really fleshes out the problem for his party, and is by far the most sane voice I've heard from that side. Well, he's also gay.

Oops. The Bob Edward's interview with Sullivan was today -- yesterday's interview was by Tom Ashbrook. (I'm a public radio junky.)

Which is more dangerous, the "closet-tolerant" legislator or the "honest bigot?" That depends on how much power the "honest bigot" has.
We tend to assume the former because we assume the true bigots will be kept away from power in America -- and rightly so. But even then, the 'honest bigot' doesn't always, in this area, oppose gay marriage, or want to lessen partner benefits. Sometimes they have slightly more serious ways of expressing their bigotry.

Case in point:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/po/20061023/co_po/killinggaymenisoksaysbritishi…

"The leading imam in Manchester, England, confirms that he thinks the execution of sexually active gay men is justified, the rights group Outrage reported.
---
"I asked him what would be the British Muslim view? He repeated that in an Islamic state these punishments were justified. They might result in the deaths of thousands but if this deterred millions from having sex, and spreading disease, then it was worthwhile to protect the wider community."

Ok, so we already suspected it: the Republicans are just power-sluts.

The "closet-tolerant" Republicans are morally no diffferent than the Germans who deplored the Nazis but failed to speak out. The are enablers and, like Bob Koepp said, "..more dangerous than the honest bigot." For me their behavior falls under Burke's caution "All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing." And the Republicans are doing their darndest to do nothing, all in the hopes or retaining power.

Keanus,

Well, I agree with your analogy; it's the same sort of cowardice and hypocrisy, though I think claiming that the two are no morally different is hyperbole. Sure, they're similar, but the Republicans haven't turned a blind eye to...violence against gays...

Uh, never mind. Just changed my mind mid-sentence. Hey, at least we're not interned in the camps. I'd like to think they'd stand up against that.

Man, I just wanted to get through one day without an eerily convincing comparison of Republicans to Nazis, or fascism in general.

Hey, at least we're not interned in the camps. I'd like to think they'd stand up against that.

Well, no. That's reserved for Arabs and Muslims.

Honestly, I don't know which is worse: an honest bigot, or a "closet-tolerant" legislator of the sort described here. The former is hateful, but the latter is just pathetic.

On the other hand, the bigot who honestly believes in what he's doing probably cannot be persuaded out of his vote; but the "closet-tolerant" could vote for gay issues if convinced it's in their interests.

After reading those two articles and this post, it almost does sound like gay people run Washington. What's the ratio vs. normal society?

By the way, all these congressmen who have gay staff members... what do they say to them after they've given a speech about how gay people molest children and so forth? "Got to get elected"?

The headline from The Onion's World War II section of "Our Dumb Century" springs to mind: "Japan Forms Alliance With White Supremacists in Well-Thought-Out Scheme."

Following the announcement, Japanese General and military leader Hideki Tojo told reporters, "We are pleased to enter into an alliance with the paranoid, xenophobic government of Nazi Germany. We anticipate a deeply enriching exchange of our military aid with their deep-seated hated of our non-white heritage.

By Troublesome Frog (not verified) on 24 Oct 2006 #permalink