Can It?

Will Homosexuality Destroy the Republican Party?

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If you’re a Republican, you care about issues: Abortion, stem-cell research (or at least you used to), The Patriot Act, gun control, capital gains tax (maybe not this year), the privatization of social security (though you don’t hear that one brought up so often, anymore).

The GOP cycles through issues like hairstyles or the latest fashions; righteous anger for something new every season.

For 40 years, this strategy served the party well, drawing in a wide swath of business and religious groups, families, social conservatives and hawks. Underneath it all, however, the party was rotting from within. Like the titans of industry they protected, the Republican Party mortgaged its future for temporary gains. By treating the democratic process as an a la carte buffet, Republicans found the perfect stance on any issue — but they built a party based on populism at the expense of a coherent political philosophy. This shell game has finally caught up with the party, which is no longer “conservative” in any meaningful way. Pro-lifers support the death penalty. Fiscal conservatives hand over no-bid contracts. Gun-toting libertarians want mandatory school prayer. In short, it’s a mess.

Desperate for a wedge issues, social conservative Republicans looked at the deep-blue post-election landscape, saw one glimmer of old-time social divisiveness and breathed a sigh of relief. The country may have gone commie, but at least they still hated fags. Here was an issue that could be used again and again to draw a contest between the “real Americans” and the ‘Democrat’ party. Imagine their surprise then when the the head of the GOP started saying nice things about gay rights.

But, instead of dividing Democrats from Republicans, increasingly, the issue of gay rights is dividing Republicans from themselves

Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele told GQ last week:

“I’m not gonna jump up and down and beat people upside the head about it and tell gays that they’re wrong for wanting to aspire to that, and all of that craziness… [Y]ou just can’t simply say, oh, like, ‘Tomorrow morning I’m gonna stop being gay.’ It’s like saying, ‘Tomorrow morning I’m gonna stop being black.’”

RNC Chairman

But let’s face it: Steele let’s himself get quoted like a man looking for a pink slip. It’s practically his core media strategy. For most of the party faithful, gay rights isn’t something to moderate on; it’s a rallying point. As Paul Jenkins writes on HuffPo this week:

“For now, Republicans seem to be settling their hopes on the usual suspects: abortion and gay people. When Steele is deposed of his chairmanship, it will be because of his intemperately moderate comments on both issues, which have predictably energized the party’s social conservatives. Indeed, Barack Obama may well add fuel to the fire if he extends benefits to same-sex partners of federal workers. This, says sex-obsessed right-winger Gary Bauer, will “provoke a furious grass-roots reaction [and] reinvigorate the conservative coalition.” So that is what will unify the Republican Party: keeping gay people uninsured. A sure winner.”

But, instead of dividing Democrats from Republicans, increasingly, the issue of gay rights is dividing Republicans from themselves. In one corner, you have a coalition of “intellectual conservatives” like David Frum and moderate Republicans like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Charlie Crist, and Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who believe the party must offer gay rights to citizens. In the other corner, you have our favorite social conservatives, like Focus on the Family, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and their ilk, who believe that you can’t give in on gay rights and keep your conservative soul.

This isn’t to say that the only thing dividing these two groups is the issue of gay and lesbian equality, but no where does the bright shining fracture in the GOP appear as obviously as does when the issue of gay rights brought up. Of course, when gay and lesbian rights are brought up in conservative circles, they aren’t really talking about you — we’re a shorthand for a certain kind of lifestyle and worldview.

For social conservatives, the anxiety over gays and lesbians stems from a fear that the country has strayed too far from its platonic ideal: Women loving their husbands, families gathering around the dinner table, and attending church every Sunday, and sex for procreation’s sake. For them, “America” is a state of grace, which the nation should be striving to achieve.

Watch former evangelical Frank Schaeffer talk to D.L. Hughley and explain how the GOP’s base is now under the control of neo-facists.

The moderate Republicans have no such delusions of grandeur — they want to win elections and if being beholden to a mythos keeps them from getting there, they’re willing to reformulate. These conservatives see the writing on the wall. The most virulent anti-gay conservatives are either dead or have one foot in the grave already. Americans are, despite our many failures, a tolerant people. Or at least we like to think we are. Actively hating on gays and lesbians is a big turn-off.

The result is an all-out civil war among Republicans, unsurprising when one-wing of the party, like Rorschach (the neo-con fascist superhero in Watchmen, operates on a ethical code of “No compromise, no surrender.” But it’s no longer the 80s and at some point, the GOP will want to win elections again. The question is, when they do, will anybody care?

Look at it another way: Social conservatism, may be as loud as ever, but rejected by mainstream America, it’s retreated to within the Republican Party. And like a crazy uncle you can’t kick out, they’re going to be a thorn in the side of the GOP for years to come.

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23 Comments

  • petted

    Very nice article I find the following sentence particularly apt:

    “For them, “America” is a state of grace, which the nation should be striving to achieve.”

    Though those of us of a liberal or more progressive persuasion put a lot of value in the ‘promise of America’. Though I think for many of us it is not the promise of America but the promise of humanity. Enough with the heights I have a book to read down here lest sly time pass me by….. yea its late and I’m starting to use literary devices indiscriminately – oh and to our editors thanks for all the posts this weekend, I found them all enjoyable

  • Jon B

    Great article, Japhy. I’m not certain that I would go as far as you in linking gay rights and the downfall of the Republican Party so directly, but I do think that the ethos that leads certain republicans to be anti-gay rights is certainly the cause of their downfall. That ethos is inately irrational, and simply stated is one based on the idea that things should be done a certain way simply because they have been done that way. That ethos is uncomfortable with change, and refuses progress and inclusion. That ethos plays on the fears of a people rather than their hope, and its adherents are constantly plagued by slippery slopes into the unknown. The ethos has popped up in numerous forms over the years in the form of racism, ethnocentrism, mysogony, and heterosexism, etc. It has been overcome numerous times in the past, and it will be overcome again.

    I think the rational wing of the republican party has simply gotten tired of the irrational, and is no longer willing, in the face of our seemingly dire circumstances, to turn a blind eye to rationality.

  • Jaroslaw

    Hard to believe the party of Lincoln has morphed into what we see today. Another interesting observation – I was watching a DVD about God & politics and the evangelical ministers met in a huge auditorium with then candidate John F. Kennedy. (1960) – they were concerned about him being Catholic and if that would have any effect on American politics! What a joke – when one thinks his Catholicism had almost no effect/contrast that with the effect evangelicals have had since then (Christian coalition, Focus on the Family, American Family assn. – all the money funneled there way from Elsa & Edgar Prince Foundation (Amyway) etc.

    But I digress. The bottom line for me is while one hopes that the rational wing of the Republicans are tired of the irrational it is also true that a very large percentage of white voters will never vote for a black man, etc. etc. so ultimately I think Gays or any other progressive force destroying the Republican party is wishful thinking.

  • rickroberts

    Japhy, this is some of your best writing.

  • Chitown Kev

    Good read, Japhy.

    The answer is not exactly. The Repubs may stay but the Dixiecrats in the GOP will go.

  • ggreen

    Schwarzenegger, is no moderate, he flew in on the stinking breeze of bellowing right-wing talk radio and stayed to wreck the state. Schwarzenegger knew that corrupt politics rule BOTH parties in Sacramento and that the lobbyists still write most of the laws in the California. He does favors for the wealthy in the state and makes the poor pay more for less. The schools are in a shambles, roads are horrific and now the VLF Schwarzenegger promised to eliminate is back.

  • Jamie

    “Gun-toting libertarians want mandatory school prayer.”

    There’s no such thing as a “libertarian” who supports mandatory school prayer (there are, no doubt, people who incorrectly identify themselves as libertarians and support such positions). Libertarians support total separation of church and state – and of education and state, for that matter. Libertarians DO support the rights of students of any belief system to free religious expression within school, but in a voluntary, non-coercive, and certainly not mandatory fashion.

    Your article is correct in identifying the philosophical and logical inconsistency of the right. It’s ludicrous to describe yourself as pro-life and then declare two major wars. It’s also equally ludicrous to call yourself “liberal” and support policies hostile to individual rights. There is a tendency to call the other side out on its hypocrisies while making endless justifications for your own side’s – witness eight years of “conservative” justification for a deeply un-conservative administration. It’s a tendency which, if we’re going to have any credibility, we need to be diligent about avoiding.

  • Darrien

    Fascinating analysis, beautifully written. Well done Mr Grant.

  • jr

    “Gun-toting libertarians want mandatory school prayer, it’s a mess.”

    Really? Ok, the party is having an identity crisis (long overdue in my opinion) but let’s not exaggerate the issue. Libertarians for school prayer? Please…

    if you want to see real contradiction in politics look at the dems, who routinely corral together longshoremen and trade protectionists, school voucher proponants and teachers unions, black church goers and gays (remember prop 8?) — by comparison the republicans are by far the more coherant party.

    Still this article touches on my biggest gripe about American politcs: why are the social conservatives stuck with the capitilists and the social liberals stuck with the socialists? It doesn’t have to be this way, yet we all just accept our flawed 2 party system.

    The present conversation in Republican circles is a welcome acknowledgement of that.

  • getreal

    I do not mean my statements as an attack on republicans. Many americans are finding it harder and harder to reconcile that the party that claims to love America and wraps itself in the flag the most has made the taking of rights and the political persecution of certain citizens part of it’s platform.

  • Chris

    Best thing I’ve read here. Feels like there’s some HuffPo or WaPo in your future Japhy.

  • JS

    Great article! I think this is the most realistic aspect showing a generational change within the Republican party.

  • bigjake75

    JR is somewhat correct in comment number 9. Both parties are amalgamations of groups, causes, etc, that form a coalition to win elections. Then, once in power, they enrich themselves and their supporters, and steal and attack those who dared oppose them.

    The greatest threat we face is any politician who wants to tread on our liberty to benefit the “common good.” Whether it is attacking gays, smokers, fat people, minorities, church goers, pro lifers, pro choicers…you get my point.

    Also, as a gay man who is not overly liberal on many issues, I am frustrated that I am expected to support any politician who supports one pillar of my civil rights (having to do with my being gay) but who wants to make us more socialist and restrict my second amendment freedoms, and push the state further into my life. Part of loving liberty is standing up for all liberties. How come we cant have a major political party that can do this? Could it be that we ALL have to let go of ALL our bigotries before we can stop being manipulated by enterprising politicos?

  • rick

    the republicans seem to be doing a fine job at bringing themselves down. especially the not gay ones that seem to have a thing for tea rooms and falling face first into the laps of sleeping young gentlemen. and then you have vitter.

  • Mister C

    ?

  • Mister C

    Regardless of what, This will NEVER be a party to welcome The LGBTQ Community.

    PERIOD!

    But @ JR……UMMMM This really wasn’t neccessary to state “black church goers and gays (remember prop 8?)” WHAT ABOUT PROP 8?
    I am so tired of this still wanting to blame Blacks as if no other race voted for this HORRIBLE f^cking proposition.

    It’s getting tired now QUEENS. Admit what you really feel about Blacks or bury this issue in the backyard…

    PLEASE!

  • Jaroslaw

    BigJake75 – why can’t we have a party to ensure liberty? Easy – no one wants to do the work or take the flak. We have a couple devoted souls here at my office building who pass out alternative newspapers/newsletters. In the cold, in the snow, in the heat – coming early before their own work starts, to do this “for the cause.” One of my coworkers commented (about the newsletter distributor) “she’s kind of out there.” I don’t know what she meant because I think she’s just friendly. Then when we discussed the newletter group’s views, they were “too radical.” I wanted to say “and how much is getting accomplished by us sitting around here complaining” but I didn’t.

    So meanwhile, Congress has its own pension plan outside of social security, votes itself pay raises, makes sure they have health insurance but can’t seem to find a way for the rest of the country to have it, makes back room deals amongst themselves, and other countries, hands Wall St. billions with no strings attached, starts wars that kill 10’s of thousands. But communism is too radical! (no I don’t mean I advocate the dictatorships of China, former Soviet Union etc.) OK.

  • bigjake75

    jaroslaw you are right. no one wants to take the flak. Thieves and cowards they are!

  • Captain Freedom

    @Mister C:

    Mr. C I completely agree with you! One thing that really got me were the oft mis-cited CNN exit poll suggesting that blacks voted 60% for Prop 8. These exit polls had EXTREMELY low samples of black voters (since blacks make up a small percentage of CA).

    Newer studies suggested something along the lines of 58%.

    Besides, blacks are not our enemies. We’ve known since the beginning it is not the blacks who hate us but the white Evangelical neo-fascists who have called for gays to be exterminated at CPAC and have promoted these gay camps where they try to “cure” us (sounds like a modern day concentration camp).

    Look up Paul Cameron. He is the leading voice of the anti-gay “research” movement. He wrote all the talking points for conservatives and the lunatics of the Right on gay rights. He has publicly argued for having gays exterminated and supported putting tattooed numbers on the foreheads of AIDS victims. I wish this were a conspiracy theory but its documented and real.

  • Steve

    I doubt the Republican party will be destroyed any time soon. They will learn that their marketing campaign about social issues (abortion and gays) no longer get enough votes to win. They will decide that there are not as many “social conservatives” as there were, so the campaign that gained power a generation ago no longer wins elections.

    But their core belief, that they are the ruling class, and the purpose of government is to control the masses to prevent them from threatening the ruling class, will not change. They will just develop a new marketing campaign.

    They will probably start another war, exacerbate the Islamic terrorist situation, crash the banking/finance system, or something else equally as damaging. (OK. They already tried three of those.) The important part is to convince enough people that the sky is falling to regain political power. The hard part will be to fix the blame, for whatever it is, on the Democrats.

    With any luck, they will become a minor fringe party, and the two big parties a generation from now will be the Democrats and the Progressives.

  • Jared

    @Jamie:

    Yeah, that’s the only thing I noticed that I thought was incorrect about the article. Thanks for clarifying that very well.

    Other then that, great article.

  • Midge Baker

    @Jon B:

    “and simply stated is one based on the idea that things should be done a certain way simply because they have been done that way”

    For many of the ultra-right-wingers it’s because “the Bible says so,” and they’re determined to legislative it into law despite the separation of church and state.

    Do you think they’d desist if they realized that is an Islamic extremist goal?

  • Extream

    Why does everyone in the republican party sound like they are with the KKK but always come out having to explain to thier wives and us that they either like young boys or gay prostitutes? I am just waiting for the tape with Palin and her wife, Mr. Palin and some crack whore to hit the internet.

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