Can A Young Gay Conservative Save The GOP From Itself?

Up until the last election cycle, Josh Barro seemed like just another warrior in the GOP army. The son of a prominent conservative economist, he had fulsome praise for Paul Ryan’s budget plan. He worked at such conservative temples as the Tax Foundation and the Manhattan Institute, and wrote for a National Review blog. But at some point, Barro’s bullshit detector went into overdrive, and he has since emerged as one of the fiercest critics of the current Republican party.

Perhaps that’s not surprising for a 28-year-old openly gay Harvard alumnus. But the difference with Barro is that he remains committed to conservative principles. What he abhors is the GOP’s total lack of ideas. The result sounds like heresy to conservatives and reality to everyone else.

  • On health care: “Republicans don’t actually want expanded access to health care. They want to politically undermine Democrats, and they want to protect policies that divert health-care dollars to seniors and doctors — Republican constituencies — instead of the poor.”
  • On economic policy: “[E]very economic ill must be shoehorned into an argument for lower taxes and less government spending. If a proposed solution to an economic problem doesn’t involve taking benefits away from poor people, then it’s not a solution at all…”
  • On smaller government: “It’s obvious why professional conservatives resist grappling with the real reason their economic agenda does not sell, because it would lead them to the conclusion that the economic agenda must change toward accepting larger government. The world is changing in ways that make Republicans’ platform of smaller government and lower taxes less desirable and therefore less saleable.”

Not surprisingly, Barro really castigates the party on gay issues. He described the nomination of a homophobic minister as the GOP’s lieutenant governor candidate in Virginia as the inevitable result of empowering “the party’s mad, swivel-eyed loon” element that “wants candidates that pander to their bigotry.” If the Supreme Court strikes down state bans on marriage equality, Barro says it would be a “huge gift” to Republicans since “gay marriage opponents are going to lose the fight; the only question is whether they will lose it in a way that is quick and painless or long and ugly.”

Not surprisingly, Barro has gotten a lot of attention from mainstream political writers, most recently Jonathan Chait in a profile in The Atlantic. Interestingly, Chait doesn’t mention that Barro is gay, although he notes that Barro took him to task for being uncharitable to Sen. Rob Portman in a column. The likely offender, though not identified by Chait: this column about Portman’s decision to support marriage equality after his son came out.

Leading the GOP out of its fever swamps is a thankless task and one that earns you the enmity of the party faithful. But if Republicans are ever going to be a serious party again, at some point they have to start producing actual ideas that are relevant to most Americans.  Barro is challenging his party to become a party of new ideas. Whether or not you agree with them is what elections are about. But if the GOP ever does find its way back to reality, it may owe a big debt of thanks to a gay conservative for pointing the way.

Photo credit: Josh Barro/Twitter

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  • Cam

    If Barro supported Ryan’s budget then I have trouble believing he is genuine. The Ryan budget was supported by false numbers, and depended on future governments cutting to support the the findings etc…

    In other words, it was fake and was a HUGE attack on most U.S. citizens. If this guy supported it, then he either wasn’t paying attention or just does what he thinks will be most beneficial at the time.

    Apparently he has realized that the current GOP is going down and feels that the best option is to break from the heard at this point.

  • doug105

    I simplely don’t care the GOP as it is now has to die only then can it have a chance to rise from that ashes. At this point there is nothing that would get me to vote Republican.

  • Gigi Gee

    I’ve seen Barrow speak several times and he’s a very smart and thoughtful man. I still don’t understand how any self-respecting smart and thoughtful gay man could align himself with the Republican party but hey, who am I to judge?

  • Cam

    @Gigi Gee:

    I get it if they claim that they support what the party used to claim was it’s area. HOWEVER, the Ryan budget was so poorly constructed that even conservative economists laughed at it. For him to have supported it shows me he just goes wherever the wind blows, or he isn’t smart enough to actually read it before saying he supports it.

  • Polaro

    It is unclear to me if he supports all or some of the Ryan budget. There are some ideas in the Ryan budget that are fine. But, you all are, once again, picking at nits and ignoring the real story. Seriously, are you all this gloomy in real life? All in all, I have to suggest that having Josh Barro salvage the republican party from the loons is not a bad idea. Unlikely, but worthy of praise.

  • viveutvivas

    Why is he in the GOP if he is diametrically opposed to their basic philosophy of government, judging by the quotes?

  • Badger88

    @viveutvivas: That’s exactly what I was thinking. At a bare minimum, a conservative must support smaller government, lower taxes, and less government spending. I don’t agree with those positions myself, but that’s why I would never call myself a conservative.
    Unless he no longer wants the GOP to be a conservative party, these reforms make little sense. He’d be much better off joining the Democrats and just working for fiscal responsibility there.

  • Homophile


    Conservatives only pay lip service to the idea of small government. Both Bushes and Reagan grew the government more than Clinton and Obama.

  • viveutvivas

    In my opinion these so-called gay conservatives are just attention whores.

  • Chris Vogel

    Obviously not.

  • AxelDC

    Gay conservatives have as much sway over the GOP as gay Mormons have over the LDS Church. Republicans hate gays, they want gays imprisoned, they don’t want gay voters in their camp. The last time a gay man spoke at the GOP convention, delegates turned their backs on him and booed him.

    Ken Cucinelli, the GOP nominee for Governor of Virginia, is the most prominent GOP candidate in 2013. He told VA universities that is against the law to protect gay students. He sued the Federal government trying to get Lawrence v Texas overturned. His running mate is an antigay minister.

    Obama won Virginia in 2008 and 2012. Virginia has 2 Democratic Senators. Republicans think that the best candidate in this decidedly Purple State is a man who wants gay men and women tossed out of public colleges and thrown in prison with reinstated sodomy laws. This is the state of gay rights within the GOP, no matter what Barro and Log Cabin says otherwise.

  • AxelDC

    @Badger88: Republican and fiscal responsibility go together like Michelle Bachmann and sanity.

    The vast majority of US debt was incurred during two Presidencies, and one of them wasn’t Obama. Whenever Republicans cry “fiscal responsibility”, just remind them that Reagan and W spent us blind, while the deficits fell dramatically over Clinton and Obama’s terms.

  • Niall

    Maybe if someone like this was head of GOProud, they’d be taken more seriously(though I doubt it), I’m still skeptical about him though, it’s okay to be conservative, but I’m cynical about anyone who aligns themselves with the Republican Party as a whole.

  • Avenger

    Sorry Barro, but I’m not interested in your “ideas.” Go be a Democrat, you phony conservative. I hope the GOP sees right through your transparency.

  • mpwaite

    The Titantic is sinking girl… quit rearranging chairs and JUMP!!

  • tjr101

    GOProud will never have someone with even a smidgen of ideas like this guy as leader. They and Log Cabin are a charade that will tow the GOP line while being stumped on.

  • ponchito1933

    Barro is so damned cute, I can’t think straight.

  • the other Greg

    Wow, if “Avenger” hates him, Barro must be onto something!

    He’s like a parody of the Williams Carlos Williams poem, The Red Wheelbarrow:

    so much depends upon … a red state Barro…

  • brent

    @viveutvivas: Attention whores..ever meet Barney Frank

  • queerty1958

    Can A Young Gay Conservative Save The GOP From Itself? No.

    Gay and conservative is kind of an oxymoron. Usually gay is on one side and conservative on the other.

  • zrocqs

    @brent: The only way to pull Barney Frank out of your ass in regards to this article is if Barney Frank was there to begin with….(brent’s been dreamin’…)

  • Dakotahgeo

    @Cam: “herd,” thank you… good comment! :-) Dak!

  • Jim Hlavac

    I got to laugh, less than 10 years ago both parties were equally anti-gay — and anyone on the Democrat side has had to push and pull that Sodomy law keeping party (2003, recall) out of their own mire. Meanwhile, Democrats didn’t get rid of DADT — Log Cabin Republicans got the courts to void it. Meanwhile, Democrat NY State Senator is all for having rallies in the Democratic Bronx where “death to gays” is uttered with glee. The idea that one party was for us and one against us is so moronic I can’t imagine where people get it from. Maybe you had to be around oh, 10 years or more ago. Yeesh. So, the two political parties and 100% of all heterosexuals have had to change their attitudes — some went faster — some aren’t done. Oh well — back to the real world.

  • balehead

    He’s obviously there for the money and nothing else…..

  • hornets28

    Fuc* that douchbag.

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