It’s a sad state of Republican affairs when the bloggy daughter of a failed presidential candidate is the voice of reason in the party. Meghan McCain, who used a public fight with Laura Ingraham to boost her visibility and score a six-figure book deal, is not someone we’d first pick to rally behind. She’s not as well informed as her supporters give her credit (though every twentysomething has, by definition, some level of naivete). She’s not as nuanced in the slick game of politics as she needs (despite her insistence that she won’t play those games). And she’s not as skilled in persuasion as she believes (preaching only alienates people). But she’s been given room on websites like The Daily Beast to make her case, and it’s a reasonable, albeit whiny and sometimes alienating one.
Most interesting for any conservative Republican — and those descriptors are not mutually exclusive these days — is McCain’s dedication to gay rights. It’s not a sign of her abandoning party ideals; it’s a sign of her youth, and not in the pejorative sense.
McCain grew up among openly gay people, and understands their plight for equal rights not as a political mind but as a literal friend to our own kind. She just has a louder soapbox than most.
This week she’ll address the Log Cabin Republicans, the suffering gay Republican organization that’s played host to a brewing civil war that just last week ended with the formation of splinter group GOProud. It’s clear gay Republicans do not fit one mold; some are more socially conservative, while others are simply fiscally conservative, which is arguably the true defining trait of a Republican.
When it comes to McCain, she’s explaining how Republicans can still be Republicans — supporting small government and fiscal responsibility — while still being decent human beings, and supporting gay rights.
“At the most basic level, sexual orientation should not be a factor in how you are treated,” she writes. “If the Republican Party has any hope of gaining substantial support from a wider, younger base, we need to get past our anti-gay rhetoric. … I am determined to build a more-inclusive GOP not by making us “sound” more inclusive, but by doing it.”
Credit must go to McCain for speaking so bluntly, and charging her own party with anti-gay rhetoric. Being homophobic is not a campaign platform that should be rewarded. Motivating the base by rallying behind discriminatory causes and legislation is despicable.
But for all McCain’s good intentions, the GOP will not change because she asks it to. Michael Steele will not issue a memo or talking points that suddenly encourage tolerance or inclusiveness. Rush Limbaugh’s bread and butter of hateful vitriol will not disappear. And Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas will not hold a press conference to admit he was wrong on gay marriage.
But McCain doesn’t need to reach the party’s elders. She needs to reach people in her own generation, particularly of her own sexual orientation. Straight men and women who leave middle- and upper-class homes to attend university and then enter the professional world. Folks who will have gay friends in college, but might be tempted to turn their backs on them in the voting booth. It’s these folks who will be most influenced by the outreach of McCain, and the peers who mimic her.
Until, however, those generations come into their own, and begin ruling the Republican party, the GOP should not have our support. At its core, the party is an entity that thrives on and cheerleads classifying gay people as second-class citizens, undeserving of equal rights and protections. Donating money to the GOP, giving Republicans our votes, and lobbying on their behalf is — in THE NOW — tantamount to steering those dollars, votes, and breath against our own rights. No pretty blonde white girl, with her five-dollar words, famous sirname, and giant soapbox, is going to change that. Not yet.