Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Minnesota's Progressive Republican Tradition Explored on Public TV

Well, I guess someone thought it important to talk about the moderate wing of the GOP. I applaud it, even if it was put forward by liberals. Any port in the storm, as they say...

Anyway, Twin Cities Public Television has produced a documentary in conjunction with Growth and Justice a non-partisan think tank (in reality, it leans left). Here is what they say:

Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) will rebroadcast “Minnesota’s Progressive Republicans” Sunday, Jan. 4 at 6 p.m. on TPT-Channel 17 on most broadcast television, satellite and cable systems, and channel 13 on Comcast in Minneapolis.

Co-produced with Growth & Justice, the documentary explores the strong progressive Republican tradition that has contributed to state’s success. It features speeches made by Govs. Quie and Carlson and U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad at a symposium hosted in September by Growth & Justice.

Of course, there are already conservative wags that are putting this down because it's being produced by liberals. I may not agree everything Growth and Justice puts forth, but if they are speaking the truth, then I will listen.

Here is a clip of the documentary:

If you live in Minnesota, try to catch it.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sunshine Conservatives No More and A Tragic President

If you want to read some of the best summaries on the current state of conservatism in the United States, you might want to read Mark Thompson's essays (here, here and here) over at Upturned Earth. He makes a good case for how the "sunny" conservatism of Ronald Reagan has given way to a more mean-spirited and dogmatic ideology.

There are many good thoughts, including the missed opportunities of President Bush. Liberals have painted him as a dunce or even evil, but I think that image is to simplistic. While there was a lot that he did do that was just wrong, the word that seems to mark the President to me is tragic. The tragedy is here is that Bush had several chances to help fashion the GOP into a more dynamic party and really make it a majority party. Instead, he ignored those opportunities and throw in a couple of stumbles like Hurricane Katrina, and we have a tragic presidency.

After the narrow and bitter victory that the President won in 2000, I had hoped he would chart a more moderate conservative course, one that would seek to heal the nation after the election and bring the GOP out of the vindictive Gingrich years of the 90s. But, sadly that didn't happen. Then came 9/11 and another chance to bring change. Instead, he followed a hard right course again.

After the 2004 election, he had another chance with his proposals to reform social security and immigration. But by this time, he had angered Democrats who blocked any talk of reform for Social Security, and his slowness in reforming immigration allowed time for conservatives in his own party to block that change.

I think President Bush is smarter than a lot of people give him credit for and I also think that he had it in him to change the tone of the Republican Party. But for some reason, he missed chances to do so, time and time again.

That's a tragedy...for us all.

"Dear Chip..."

An Open Letter to Mr. Chip Saltsman:

Hello, my name is Dennis Sanders. I'm not anyone special, just some guy in Minnesota who blogs from time to time. I wanted to write to you about your little storm that has been brewing since you sent a holiday CD with a little ditty called "Barack the Magic Negro."

I think the whole idea of sending out this CD was a major bad idea and isn't a good omen to what you might do as Chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Yeah, I know: the idea came from an article by a liberal. But you know what? It doesn't matter. I'm not calling you a racist, I don't know you. But what you did was insensitive to African Americans and isn't going to help you if you want the party to grow and reach minorities...if that's something you really want to do.

You see, I'm African American. A lot of African Americans voted for Barack Obama and they really look up to him. For them, the impossible has happened: someone that looks like them, has been elected to the highest office in the land. After being basically second-class citizens for about three centuries, this is a big achievement even if you don't agree with Obama's politics.

So, calling Obama the "Magic Negro" isn't a good idea. Maybe you haven't noticed, but the GOP has a bit of a PR problem with blacks. Maybe that is not deserved, but when you have people like the late Jesse Helms, former Senator Trent Lott praising outgoing Senator Strom Thurmond in a way that seemed to support his anti-segregationist policies, and the whole Willie Horton thing have not helped your standing with African Americans.

There is nothing wrong with making fun of a president including the President Elect. That's a noble American tradition. But when the Commander in Chief is an African American, one must be sensitive in how make fun of someone. You weren't sensitive at all.

There used to be a time when African Americans largely casted their votes for Republicans. They did this because it was Republicans like Abe Lincoln that freed my ancestors. Overtime, the Democrats have become the party of civil rights, while the GOP has been considered- fairly or unfairly-the party of unreconstructed bigots.

If the GOP is to stay a national party, then it has to be more willing to reach out to people who aren't white. And that means being more sensitive to minorities, which means, stop sending silly CDs using race to make fun of the president.

So, if you really want to make the GOP strong, you should offer an apology. If you want the party to be a joke, then don't. Your choice, but I would hope you have the sense to know better.


Dennis Sanders

Monday, December 29, 2008

"Government is the Problem" Is Only the Half of It

Wise words from the Ripon Society...

In recent weeks, several members of the more conservative wing of the GOP have stated that the reason the party failed so miserably this election is because it turned its back on fiscal discipline by turning toward the political center. Perhaps conservative stalwart L. Brent Bozell put it most succinctly when he said, “The liberal wing of the GOP has caused the collapse of the Republican Party.” Make no mistake — Republicans did fail to rein in spending over the past eight years. But the GOP did not lose this election because it abandoned its small-government philosophy. Rather, the party lost the election because its small-government philosophy was incomplete...For years, Republicans have extolled the virtues of getting government off our backs and out of our lives. In doing so, they were echoing the words of Ronald Reagan, who famously stated in his first inaugural address that, “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” But even Reagan knew that government has a role in our society. He understood that in addition to promising to make government smaller, Republicans also had an obligation to make sure government operated efficiently and effectively. “Now, so there will be no misunderstanding,” Reagan declared in this same inaugural address, “it is not my intention to do away with government. It is, rather, to make it work.” For years, Republicans have had selective retention with regard to what Reagan espoused. They have embraced the small-government aspect of his philosophy at the expense of the smart government part of it. And for years, they have been able to get by with a message that promised tax relief and little else. But after the mismanagement of Iraq, the ineptitude of Katrina and the failure of Walter Reed, the chickens have come home to roost.

Read more.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Dissin' Detroit and It's Consequences for Conservatism

Now that President Bush has decided to go over Congress' head and provide General Motors and Chrysler bridge loans through March, I think now is the time to see how the GOP and conservatives in general handled the issue. This is only my view and it's the view of a crank living in Minnesota. However, in the glorious age that we live in, with handy little computers connected to the internet, one crank can share his views with the whole world and that's what I am about to do.

In my opinion, I think the GOP and conservatism in general failed the test. We were correct on the merits: private businesses should not run to the government for help and should succeed and fail on their own. However, we failed in really looking at the situation around us and seeing if this we could apply this principle at this time. I think we were intellectually lazy, not willing to get from behind our computers and see what was actually happening on the ground. In the end, this shows a problem with conservativism in America in general and has hurt the GOP's chances to make a convincing case in the Midwest.

I've read enough from bloggers at how we should not support a declining industry. For example, this is what David Brooks (a columnist that I normally agree with) said about the bailout back in November:

This (the auto bailout) is a different sort of endeavor than the $750 billion bailout of Wall Street. That money was used to save the financial system itself. It was used to save the capital markets on which the process of creative destruction depends.

Granting immortality to Detroit’s Big Three does not enhance creative destruction. It retards it. It crosses a line, a bright line. It is not about saving a system; there will still be cars made and sold in America. It is about saving politically powerful corporations. A Detroit bailout would set a precedent for every single politically connected corporation in America. There already is a long line of lobbyists bidding for federal money. If Detroit gets money, then everyone would have a case. After all, are the employees of Circuit City or the newspaper industry inferior to the employees of Chrysler?

Brooks is think the danger here is that the government is going to try to save every failing company, thereby threatening capitalism itself. Give the money to these aging dinosuars and they will just misspend it and make the same mistakes over and over.

But is that what's going on here? Are liberals rushing in to end capitalism and create some new People's Republic?

No. Brooks and many others were looking at this from a philosophical standpoint and not a real time standpoint. They were talking about the vibrancy of the free market while at a time when the market is fragile and might not be able to mend so easily if one or more of the Big Three went down.

And that's been the problem here. I think conservatives have been more concerned about the letter of the law than its spirit. They have held fast to a rule and not noticed if the times warranted such close adherence.

In normal times, I think it would make sense to ignore the pleas of Detroit. In many ways, they got themselves into this mess. However, these are not normal times. The housing cum financial crisis has made this economy fragile. While I don't think we are rushing headlong into the Great Depression, Part II we are in a spot where doing the wrong thing could lead us down that road. Allowing the Big Three to fail would have created massive unemployment in states like Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Missouri. Those states would have to use already tapped resources to provide unemployment insurance. And it would have spread to suppliers as well. In some cases, that is already happening. A blogger at Autoblog sums up what is happening at a former workplace:

I've recently been in contact some former colleagues at TRW's headquarters complex in Livonia, MI. Since the start of 2008 there have apparently been five rounds of layoffs at the technical center. In the most recent round in mid-November, one former co-worker with 32 years of experience as a skilled technician was laid off as were numerous other engineers and technicians many with 25-30 years or more of experience.

Much of my former department has been let go, as the work they were doing has been consolidated at another facility. The most recent publicly available information about TRW indicated that the company had over 66,000 employees worldwide with 4,000 in the Detroit area, including 1,200 at the Livonia technical center. It's estimated that as many as one-third of the people in Livonia lost their jobs in the most recent round of layoffs. These are mostly college graduates with bachelors and masters degrees, and many of these same people are having a tough time finding jobs because every other company in the field is also letting people go.

These engineers are technicians are being fired because the vehicle programs they were involved in have been delayed or canceled outright. Lack of a paycheck means these people will be spending less money in the community in coming months, leading to cascading business failures and job losses. This is the real cost of the financial mess on Main St.

Any potential demise would also hurt suppliers, which would in turn, hurt the foreign automakers that have plants in the U.S. since they get their parts from the same suppliers.

If the government did nothing and the Big Three collasped, would we enter a depression? I don't know, I'm a pastor not an economist. But I do think that with the economy has fragile as it is and with rising unemployment, I wasn't interested in testing out that hypothesis.

In the end, I think conservatives did not do anyone a favor for not even trying to provide a solution and as the old saying goes, ideas have consequences. Don't be surprised if come 2010, the Democrats use this failure during the elections. The Dems and Unions will run commercials about how the GOP was willing to put this economy at risk and many people will remember. They will not care that these bloggers and politicians were sticking to principle, they will remember that the GOP tried to stick it to them.

The sad thing is that 30 years ago, it was the autoworkers that Ronald Reagan went after to win the Presidency. Back then, those autoworkers were disatisfed with the Democratic Party and started voting for the Republicans. It was in Macomb County a suburban county of Detroit where the term "Reagan Democrats" was coined. Three decades later, the GOP has basically told these people to drop dead and forced back into the arms of the Democrats. It's yet another sign of how tone deaf the GOP has become and so willing to write off total sectors of the American populace for a thin slice that they think will carry them to victory.

Maybe a "bailout" was a great idea, but the GOP wasn't that interested in presenting anything new. Creative destruction, as they say. Nevermind if this time the destruction was the Apocalyspe.

Again, I am not an expert, but I am the son of two autoworkers and have seen the hard times in my home state. In the past, I would have said this was the result of the economy and Michigan hasn't moved forward. And I still think that is true. The Big Three have been slow to change and again, if it were normal times, I would say they should go hang. But we live in risky times and the GOP failed to see that and was willing to gamble with the lives of tens of millions of people. I believe in the free market, but I wasn't willing to let such a massive calamity happen that could bring down the rest of the economy. I'm a conservative, but I am also loyal to my parents.

I don't know what the answer is for conservatives here. But before we start throwing out that "elitist" charge at liberals, we might want to check ourselves.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Towards A Progressive Conservatism, Revisited

About four years ago, I wrote something in an old blog based on a David Brooks essay from 2004. I called the post, "Towards a Progressive Conservatism" and it went something like this:

I've been reading the new book by Jim Wallis called , God's Politics: Why the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It. In it, he talks about a essay written by New York Times columnist David Brooks last summer. I remember briefly looking at it, but not really getting around to reading it.

If you haven't read it, do so. Now. It's entitled, "How To Reinvent the GOP" and it's a provactive essay on how the Republican Party can reinvigorate itself. His basic argument is that the guiding principle of the GOP in recent decades, namely the size of government, is not an issue anymore. Socialism, which called for a big and interventionist government, is a spent force and the old conservative argument over the size of government is not the issue. Instead he argues for a limited and yet robust government that would spur empowerment among individuals who would in turn, empower the nation.

There's a lot more I should be saying, but it's close to eleven and time for bed. What I can say is that Brooks is advocating for a conservatism in the view of Teddy Roosevelt, a progressive conservatism. I think it's a great blueprint for the party and I could see it expressed in someone like Chuck Hagel.

Okay, so I was wrong on that whole Chuck Hagel thing, but having re-read the Brook's piece, I still think it is an great blueprint for the future of the GOP and it seems that some of these ideas were expressed in the book by Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam, called Grand New Party.

Give the article a read
. Here's a taste:

Nobody knows who the nominee will be that year. (He's referring to 2008.)It could be Bill Frist, Chuck Hagel, Rudy Giuliani, Gov. Bill Owens of Colorado or somebody else -- maybe even Arnold Schwarzenegger. But if the party is going to offer a positive, authoritative vision for the post-9/11 world, which is a world of conflict and anxiety, then it is going to have to develop a strong-government philosophy consistent with Republican principles. It will have to embrace a progressive conservative agenda more ambitious and fully developed than anything the Bush administration has so far articulated.

A candidate who does that would not need to launch an insurgency campaign against the Republican establishment, the way Goldwater did in 1964 or the way Reagan did in 1976. The fact is the Republican Party no longer has a coherent establishment left to inveigh against. Instead, a progressive conservative candidate would have to play a more constructive role. He would have to lay out a vision that would rebuild the bonds among free-market conservatives, who dream of liberty; social conservatives, who dream of decency; middle-class suburbanites, who dream of opportunity; and foreign-policy hawks, who dream of security and democracy. He would have to revive and update the governing philosophy that did bind these groups, and did offer such hope, in the early days of the G.O.P. Long before it was the party of Tom DeLay, the G.O.P. was a strong government/progressive conservative party. It was the party of Lincoln, and thus of Hamilton. Today, in other words, the Republican Party doesn't need another revolution. It just needs a revival. It needs to learn from the ideas that shaped the party when it was born.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Warren, Prayer and "Unity"

I know that as a gay man I should be joining like everyone else in condemning President-elect Obama in selecting Rick Warren to give a prayer at the inaugeration since he vigorously supported Prop 8 which banned same sex marriage in California, but I'm not.

I don't agree with Warren's views on this of course, but I'm not convinced that this is a fight we need to pick. Why? Well, I agree with Steven Waldman, Warren has done a lot to highlight and try to solve issues like global poverty and AIDS. He is trying to get other evangelical ministers to not focus so exclusively on gay marriage and abortion and really focus on "the least of these." He's still a social conservative, but he is one that takes the Biblical concern for the poor seriously. I can't ignore that and I think that is something that needs to be lifted up. The more people who are involved in try to solve poverty, the better and I don't care what their background is when dealing with an issue like poverty.

Second, many gays and lesbians seem to forget that Obama was about bringing people together. Let's go back to that speech that made him a household name in 2004:

It is that fundamental belief -- It is that fundamental belief: I am my brother’s keeper. I am my sister’s keeper that makes this country work. It’s what allows us to pursue our individual dreams and yet still come together as one American family.

E pluribus unum: "Out of many, one."

Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us -- the spin masters, the negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of "anything goes." Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America -- there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America -- there’s the United States of America.

The pundits, the pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an "awesome God" in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.

Now, politicians always talk about "bringing the country together" and then govern as a pure partisan. While I still have my doubts, I think Obama really means what he says. I think he really wants unity, to find some way to get beyond the petty partisan bickering and towards some true American consensus.

Many who are now angry at the Warren selection talked a good talk about coming together and unity. But unity for them meant being in totally agreement. In essence, it meant politics as usual, except with a liberal face instead of a conservative one.

The fact is, the guy is living what he said four years ago. He is trying to build bridges, not create new chasms.

I don't agree with Warren on same sex marriage. However, his work has shown that while he might not appease some gays and liberal interest groups on this one issue, he is not a James Dobson.

Besides, we gay folk need to pick our battles and not go after everyone who supported Prop 8. Objecting to a guy that goes to the Third World and feed sick kids makes us, not Warren look bad. Gays need to be about making the case for gay marriage, not acting as some kind of 'star chamber' for those who disagree with us.

I'm not saying we can't criticize Warren or any other person for their role. But lets show a bit of class, shall we?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Putting the Bible Aside for a While

In my last year of seminary, I took a class where one of our assignments one evening was to debate the issue of slavery. Both sides used the Bible to justify their arguments. When the exercise was done, the professor told the side that was against slavery (the side I was on) that it was a losing battle to use the Bible in your argument since the other side could back up their argument with Scripture that indicated that slavery was "okay."

With that in mind, I thought this post by Adam Walker Cleaveland was instructive. He argues that maybe those who back up their opposition to homosexuality with the Holy Book put their Bibles aside for a while and actually meet a real live gay person. I'm familiar with Adam and have met him. What makes this argument so interesting is that Adam is himself a recent graduate of seminary, works at a church as a youth minister and is readying to become a minister. Here's a snippet of his post:

...presenting a coherent biblical argument for why homosexuality is not a sin and why our gay brothers and sisters should be fully welcomed into all areas of the church and ministry is not my point here. I think many people have done just that (Jack Rogers and Stacy Johnson come to mind), but they are easily dismissed by many because they apparently don’t have a “high enough view of scripture.”

Well - if that’s the problem - then I say, “Enough with the Bible already!”

Intrigued? Enraged? Delighted? Read more.

A Real 435 District Strategy

From former Governor Christine Todd Whitman:

To fully understand the importance of centrist Republican candidates in the 2008 elections, it is important to take a look at the results of this year’s hard fought Republican primaries and see how these candidates performed in the general election. It is in primaries, after all, where the voters must choose the candidate that best represents their own positions on the issues, the District at large, and the chances for victory in November. Their performance in the fall is, therefore, a good indication of the types of Republicans that can win tough campaigns...

...For the purposes of building our Party, expanding the coalition, and winning elections, it is best for Republican candidates to fit the Districts they represent – often a centrist agenda - rather than conform to a rigid ideology that pleases only those on the fringe.

That makes a lot more sense than trying to run someone against gay marriage in a place like San Francisco.

Conservatives Lose Another Vote

But of course it doesn't matter, since he's gay...

I am a registered Republican in my Junior year of college .... I love my country, believe in limited government and low taxes. I am a strong and believing Christian. I am also gay. ... No one chooses to be like this, and the least that we deserve is a level of respect instead of a constant bashing. All that I want to do is be able to marry the person I love, adopt and raise children with him and live a life like any other American. I just want to be left alone, without a government that stands in my way of equality, be it from discrimination or be it from basic rights that heterosexuals have to protect their families that many take for granted. ...

I should be the perfect type of person that the Republican party can appeal to; I am a student of business, own a gun, watch football and understand and wish to help eliminate the threat of radical Islam to the West. Why does the party hate me? Why do conservatives want to make my life harder than it already has been? ...

On November 4th this year, I did something that two years ago I would never have dreamed of doing. I voted for a Democrat for President. ... I have a feeling that I will be doing it for a long time.

Sadly he will be until the Republicans wise up, which isn't likely anytime soon.

Monday, December 15, 2008

I Left My Brain in San Francisco

In the wake of the recent victory by Joseph Cao, the folks over at The Next Right envision what it might be to run a Cao type candidate in San Francisco. They name this guy, who is Korean, Rob Wong (I thought Wong was Chinese name).It's an interesting and even appealing read until you get to the last few paragaphs:

At the same time, this Gay Marriage stuff has gotten under Rob's skin. While he has gay friends, and doesn't really have a problem with Gay Marriage, he was appalled by the arrogance of the CA supreme court decision and quietly voted against Prop 8. He thought that was the end of it. He was wrong. Nothing prepared him for the circus following Prop 8.

All this has left Rob Wong livid and ready to take it out on the incumbant leadership in his home city. He's decided to run for the House and he needs your help.

So let me get this straight: a Republican is going to run for Congress in San Francisco, against gay marriage? San Francisco. Known for being a "gay mecca."

I'd like to know what planet or alternative universe are these folks living in.

Nevermind that Cao, who the fictional Wong is patterned after, has said that he doesn't like church and state mixing together, these folks somehow believe that a man who voted agaist Prop 8 has a fighting chance in an area that is about as gay as one can get.

How removed from reality can you be?

The fact is, no matter how much one might agree with his economic platform, the fictional Wong has a snowball's chance in hell to even be competative because of his stance on an issue like gay marriage.

The sad fact is, someone who was socially liberal, but also fiscally conservative would have a chance in the Bay Area. If you are going to run a candidate in Dem strongholds, you are going to have put up people who are more socially liberal since that is the premodominant ethos of the area. But that would be an anathema to those who hold fast to their socially conservative views. Here in Minneapolis, we have had socially conservative candidates run for Congress and get trounced everytime.

I think this shows how addicted some are to social conservatism in the GOP. Instead of trying to moderate those views in Democratic leaning areas to put forth competative candidates, they basically think they can just put forth and attractive package like being a minority and still have the same socially conservative views.

If people even think that someone opposed to gay marriage could have a shot in San Francisco, then it shows how out of touch conservatism has become.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Auto Bailout Fails in Senate

The Detroit News is reporting that the bailout deal has failed in the Senate.

In the weeks since this has become an issue, I've gone from saying let them hang, to doing what we can to help the Big Three, to thinking that maybe bankruptcy wouldn't be such a bad idea. In normal times, I would say, no to any government help, but then these aren't normal times.

Maybe my fellow conservatives are correct that giving the big three money is just throwing good money after bad. But I keep having this bad feeling that we might be ideologically correct at the wrong time. I keep wondering if one of the automakers goes under, what it will do to an already sinking economy.

But tonight I keep thinking about my native Michigan and all those families wondering what will happen next.

The GOP's "God Problem," Part Four

A reader responds to a post on Rod Dreher's blog:

I am that, which for many American conservative and or literalistic and or fundamentalist Christians, does not exist: A gay man who is a Christian.

And that is a big part of their problem. Beginning roughly in the late Nixon era and increasing by leaps and bounds, a very intolerant, totalitarian faction of Christians shouted down all other Christian voices in the republican party. Just as anyone who dared to argue that torture was not an American way to conduct war was screamed down as unpatriotic, just as anyone who dared suggest our enemies were the the people who declared war on us on 9/11 and not Irak, was labeled a traitor, so any Christian who dared to point out that the republican party was not God's Only Party was hastily shown the door.

I believe it was the sad Shiavao death in Florida which ultimately forced other genuine Christians to come out of their ecclesiastical closets, stop muttering "but they are only a very loud minority, they don't speak for my Christianity" and say: Enough.

It is not so much that the voters left the republicans, it is the republicans who left the voters. Look at the number of conservative thinkers who were tossed under the bus, fired from their editorial chairs and roundly reviled in the months leading up to the election. George Will was made out to be somewhere to the left of a Marxist-Leninist-Fascist-pinko-commie. Chris Buckley (not over fond of him personally, but I know good writing when I read it) was reviled as some sort of Trojan horse at best, a turncoat most likely. I could go on for hours, even Douthat got a pretty rough trouncing for daring to apply reasoned analysis to the mess.

Instead of seeking a dialog, these Christians have vilified everyone who does not share their goals exactly . I am gay, therefor any recognition of my civil rights must mandate that the church be forced to marry me. If someone suggests we could reduce abortion by providing teen-age girls with better sex-education, it is equated with opening a neighborhood brothel and making daddy's little girl put on those fish-net hose and stand on the corner.
When a vaccine is offered which will reduce a young woman's chances of dying a horrid death from cancer is brought to market, both the manufacturer and those who advocate saving women from cancer are typecast as the spawn of satan...

OK, I will stop there. Speaking directly to these fundamentalists, now:

I believe in monogamy, committed life-long marriage and find no-fault divorce a horribly bad idea. Abortion appalls me. Guess what? Instead of making me your ally, you strip me of my rights, equate me with the most debased of criminals and try to have children adopted by gays and lesbians stripped from them. You have made enemies of us, and done so in God's name. There's a pretty severe injunction on that...oops, forgot, it being OT, it no longer applies. Right, only those texts in the Bible which support your views count. And anyway, what is the word of God's son against Paul's Christianity? Goodness, in the end, Jesus was only God incarnate as a Jewish Rabbi who ran around offering salvation and the joy that comes of knowing God. What is that when you can push hatred and intolerance? They work, for a while. Eventually, they always fail. And that is exactly what has happened.

Fine, you say - but since I'm gay, who cares? Well, the republican party says only somewhere between 1.7 and 2 million of us gays voted republican this year. By their own estimate, at least 2/3 of us voted against you or stayed home. Now add in all the other Christians you booted out, all those who actually were awake and present in Macro and Micro Economics 101, all those who oppose torture and senseless wars...and there you have your problem.

In all honesty, if Sarah Palin is the future of the republican party in the eyes of fundamentalist and or literalistic and or conservative Christians, that alone should tell you it's time to read those parts of the Bible which talk about Jesus message of love. You have re-interpreted the Bible's message and Christianity to mean what you want it to mean. For the first time in quite a while, the Americans didn't fall for it.

I couldn't have said it better.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Michael Steele Shows Some...Steele

While I don't agree with him on every issue, I have like Michael Steele. The former Lt. Governor of Maryland is running for the leadership of the GOP. There have been rumblings from some "true believers" that because of his work in reviving the moderate Republican Leadership Council (a group I support) that he would make a bad leader for the Republican party. For a while, he was trying to distance himself from the RLC and all things moderate. Now he seems to be changing his tune:

“They have been beating me upside the head with it and let me give it to you straight on: Wake up people. I mean what are you going to do? Are you going to kick these folks out of the party? I have watched this party self disintegrate for the last four or five years. I’ve watched this party isolate itself from itself.”

“This may be a unique opportunity to build a relationship or a bridge between the conservatives and the moderates in our party and so she asked me to serve on her board and I said well this will be good. It’ll be a pro-life conservative voice on a board with a pro-choice leadership that is looking to elect moderates. We have to elect moderates in the party.”

I applaud Mr. Steele for showing some backbone and standing up to those who want to diss him because he dares to try to widen the party. But I have to sadly agree with Justin Gardner, I don't think the people who really control the party are in the mood to really expand the party and actually make a case. In the view of many, anyone that isn't sufficiently pro-life or incredibly anti-gay is not fit to be a proper Republican.

Social conservatives like to pretend that they have no power in the party. They love to play the part of victim (the right knows how to play victim politics as well as the left) even though they have this party by the you-know-what. Case in point, many think John McCain wanted to pick either Joe Lieberman or Tom Ridge for veep, but the mere mention that he would consider a pro-choice candidate (both politicians from "blue states") brought howls of protest from the "so-cons." In the end he picked Sarah Palin, who was wonderful on their issues and fired up social conservatives, but did little to win the center.

Still, Steele is to be commended for his honesty. It might have doomed his candidacy, but he still has his pride.

Bravo, Mr. Steele.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Conservatives for Gay Marriage

There are conservatives out there that actually are for gay marriage and are also willing to call a spade a spade:

The supporters of traditional family values are afraid of giving same sex couples equal protection under the law because they wonder if the next law we’ll want will allow traditional family values people like Warren Jeffs to do what they do legally. Last time I checked, the bible (which I generally consider to be a fairly authoritative source for “traditional family values”) had many, many examples of righteous men who took multiple wives when they were as young as 13 years old.

You want to know if legalizing same sex marriage is going to lead to pedophilia and polygamy? It won’t. Traditional family values legislation might – but gay marriage won’t.

I don’t know about you, but I have some measure of self control. When my brain sees an issue of equal civil rights, it doesn’t think, “Dude, I would totally love to nail that goat! Let’s legalize it!” Does yours? No? Then can we drop this rediculous line of thought? Please?

Read the whole thing.

Monday, December 08, 2008

A Letter from a Gay Christian Conservative

It's not often that I start to write something shaking in anger, but two fellow conservatives, Joe Carter and Daniel Larison have done just that with their callous response to a Newsweek cover story on gay marriage. What's so callous about it, is that their words are written without understanding the life of gay person, who isn't interested in tearing down society, but just wants that he and his partner have the same rights that Joe and Daniel have. What makes me mad is that they are so willing to judge me and those who favor gay rights as something beyond the pale, as heretical to the Christian faith that I have belonged to since I was a child, a traitor to conservatism, when I have in choosing a partner for life, done what is most conservative.

But first you have to know something about me. First, I am a devout Christian. I grew up in the black Baptist church and also in evangelicalism. I am proud of that heritage. As I grew older I knew that I was different, that I felt different. But back then, I didn't think one could or should be gay, I thought it a sin. As I graduated from colllege I decided to do some real studying on the issue; being an evangelical, I thought it important to do what I was taught to do: study scripture. It was there that I learned more about what the Bible really said about homosexuality. I came to wonder if what I was taught was totally correct. I made some cautious steps to start to wonder if what was said was in the Bible was really there after all. I remember one day, lying in bed thinking on all these things, when I felt like I was in the presence of God. I felt as if I revealed to God that I was bisexual (I could only accept that I was bisexual at the time, more caution). I felt God's answer as total warmth. There was no hate or anger, just love.

Now, I am not that much of a mystic, but I have to believe that experience was from God.

Skipping a few years, I was now fully accepting of being gay and then another thing happened: I have a call to be a minister. This time, I went forward in faith, knowing that it was God through the Holy Spirit that calls people to a life of service. I went into seminary and was ordained in 2002. It was hard at first because of restrictions for openly gay clergy, but today I am an out person serving God as a minister.

In 2005, I met my partner Daniel. He's the son of a Lutheran pastor and still works in the church as a church musician. After two years of dating, Daniel wanted to get married. I didn't understand why one would want to go through such an endeavor, but he did. Daniel is a big political liberal, I am a conservative and yet, it was the liberal that wanted a ceremony, a way of publicly expressing our love and mutual joy for each other, to care for each other.

In many ways, we are opposites: he's white, I'm black. He's an extrovert, I'm an introvert. He grew up in small towns in North Dakota, I grew up in a small city near Detroit. But the thing is, we are there for each other. We support each other and care for one another.

Larison makes a case that those of us in favor of gay marriage and homosexuality in general are playing fast and loose with the Bible. But if what God's word is what it is, if it is unchanging, then we shouldn't eat shrimp, or wear mixed fabrics, or get a divorce. If God's Word is "unchanging" then I guess as an African American, I should still be a slave.

I find all of this hyperactivity concerning homosexuality among fellow conservatives with sadness. I wish that instead of hiding behind the Bible, they would listen for God. I wish they would talk to gay people. I wish they could listen to how we have been hounded out of families and churches.

The fact is, this kind of fear is devasting to the conservative movement. Gay marriage is not about destroying hetrosexual marriage. It is instead about gays doing something most conservative, entering into a long standing tradition. Traditions change over time, but they are still traditions.

Conservatives have much to be proud of. We have defeated communism and worked for a smaller government. But I fear that the stain of homohobia will hamper our movement for decades to come.

Monday, December 01, 2008

The GOP's "God Problem," Part Two

Conservative columnist Rod Dreher, has an interesting column in today's USA Today, where he defends the role of religious conservatives in the Republican Party. What's interesting about the piece is how yet again, a religious conservative paints themselves as the victim and bashes anyone that complains about them as being a stooge of liberals.

But maybe what is more fascinating still is how much these religious conservatives live in a cocoon, thinking that what is popular in GOP circles is what is popular among the whole nation.

Take Dreher's notion on how important the Religious Right is to the GOP:

Republicans interested in rebuilding the party would be fools to shun us. White evangelicals (and, to a lesser extent, Mass-going Catholics) are the GOP's backbone. Just more than a third of President Bush's 2004 vote came from white evangelicals — and they turned out for McCain in comparable numbers. Cut social conservatives loose and you get a GOP that, as blogger Daniel Larison archly puts it, is "the party of all the remaining Episcopalians, Californians and New Yorkers who prefer lower taxes."

In the opinion of Dreher and others, religious conservatives aren't just a part of the GOP, but they are the GOP. Take them out, and all you have is a little coalition that couldn't win dogcatcher.

But Dreher is only focusing on the percentage of white evangelicals that make up the Republican vote. He forgets that there is a wider public out there and the Republicans are losing that vote. Remember those white evangelicals that Dreher says are the "backbone" of the GOP? Well, they are shrinking:

In 2000, according to CNN’s exit polls, 42% of voters claimed to attend church on a weekly basis. That number remained steady in 2004, but dropped to 39% in 2008. 55% of those voters supported McCain in 2008. About 60% of them supported Bush in 2004 and 2000. With most young voters thinking that the church is too involved in politics and incorrect on the issue of homosexuality (most young voters support gay marriage, too), what is the Christian Right to do?

Additionally, religious candidates are increasingly marginalized as regional candidates. With the weird exception of Iowa, Mike Huckabee was only able to win Southern states in the Republican primary season. Sarah Palin’s favorability ratings were only in the positives in the South by the end of the election season. The two of them are religious populists, very appealing to a niche section of the base, but with absolutely no ability to attract independents, Northeasterners, or people on the coasts. Whether one wants to assail them as “elitists” or not, they did just decimate our candidates and we need to appeal to them if we’re going to be a majority party.

And by the way, those elitist jerks were voting for our candidates just a few cycles ago.

Let's take a look at the youth vote, which Obama won:

voters ages 18 to 29, almost one-fifth of the electorate, went better than 2-to-1 for Obama.

Here, too, the trends in the past couple of elections have been all Democratic. Some of that is because there are more minorities among younger voters; some of it is the lousy economy, and some the opposition to the Iraq War.

But interviews and survey data suggest that another reason is tolerance, and the feeling that on matters like gay rights and race relations, Republicans are out of step. Most young people have no trouble with gay relationships.

Cultural conservatives celebrated that three states, California, Arizona and Florida, voted last month to ban gay marriage. They will learn these were pyrrhic victories much like the anti-immigration measure California Republicans rode to electoral success in 1994, where they won an election and lost a generation.

Research suggests that once young people cast a few votes for one political party, it’s often a lifetime habit.

Did John McCain lose soley because of the Religious Right? No. Dreher is correct that there are a lot of reasons that McCain lost. But the fact is, the Religious Right did play a role in loss nevertheless. Americans still have the whole Terry Schiavo fiasco in their minds, and young people don't understand why people who claim to be religious are so interested in banning same sex marriage or not allowing women to get an abortion if they are raped, or banning embryonic stem cell research, when a loved one is dealing with Alzheimers or diabetes. Conservatives are correct when they say culture matters; it's just that the GOP is on the losing side.

Conservatives have long believed that faith has a role in our civic life. I have no problem with that, being a person of faith myself. What is wrong is that American conservatism has held too long to a narrow understanding of faith and has given it too high a place of honor. Religious conservatives seem to only notice their own faith and not realize that we are a multi-religious society. They really believe that the GOP stands for "God's Own Party" instead of realizing that a sucessful political party has to be willing to reach out to all Americans, even those that may have a different faith or none at all.

The problem with Dreher and others like him is that their conservativism is too myopic. It doesn't see a need to expand the tent and appeal to the center.

Until that happens, the Republicans will be destined to be a regional party.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Building A Progressive Republican Movement: An Interivew with Travis Johnson

A few weeks ago, I got an invite to join a group on Facebook called Progressive Republicans. The group was described as "...Republicans interested in social justice, civil rights and a clean environment as well as a small government and strong national defense." I was curious about it and the person behind the group. A few days ago, I decided to see if I could interview the person behind that Facebook group as well as a blog. The following is a conversation with Travis Johnson the founder of Progressive Republicans.

First off could you tell me a little about yourself: where you live, your age?
I’m a 33 year old father of a three year old. We (My daughter, my wife and me) live in Reston, Virginia. I pay the bills by working in high-tech for a firm here in Northern Virginia.

How long have you been a Republican? Have you been involved in any campaigns?
I’ve been a Republican since lat 1993-early 1994. I was President of the College Republicans at my University and worked on Secretary Kemp’s staff during the 1996 Presidential campaign.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The GOP's "God Problem"

I believe there is an old story about a prominent liberal Democrat who upon hearing that President Nixon won re-election, expressed shock. How could that be, she thought, she didn't know anyone who voted for the Republican.

The story has been used to show how Democrats can end up living in a little bubble where the only reality that exists is that which is around them. They were never curious to look at the wider culture and admit that there were people who might have other views and who were in essence being ignored.

In some ways, the same can be said about some in the GOP these days. In the wake of a devastating loss, no one wants to admit that the GOP has a problem. Like the family that doesn't want to admit that uncle so-and-so is an out and out drunk that needs help, the GOP doesn't want to accept the reality that it has a problem that needs to be address if it is to remain a viable political party.

That problem is the "God problem." It's the problem of allowing religious zealots to control the party that has driven what could be good conservatives away.

In today's Washington Post, Kathleen Parker (a conservative writer that has been on a tear recently since she called for then VP candidate Sarah Palin to step down) writes a blistering attack on the GOP for not owning up to it's "God Problem:"

Simply put: Armband religion is killing the Republican Party. And, the truth -- as long as we're setting ourselves free -- is that if one were to eavesdrop on private conversations among the party intelligentsia, one would hear precisely that.

The choir has become absurdly off-key, and many Republicans know it.

So it has been for the Grand Old Party since the 1980s or so, as it has become increasingly beholden to an element that used to be relegated to wooden crates on street corners.

Which is to say, the GOP has surrendered its high ground to its lowest brows. In the process, the party has alienated its non-base constituents, including other people of faith (those who prefer a more private approach to worship), as well as secularists and conservative-leaning Democrats who otherwise might be tempted to cross the aisle.

She calls for the GOP to bring religion back to being a matter of the heart instead of on the front lines of what it means to be conservative. Why? It's all in the numbers:

Religious conservatives become defensive at any suggestion that they've had something to do with the GOP's erosion. And, though the recent Democratic sweep can be attributed in large part to a referendum on Bush and the failing economy, three long-term trends identified by Emory University's Alan Abramowitz have been devastating to the Republican Party: increasing racial diversity, declining marriage rates and changes in religious beliefs.
Suffice it to say, the Republican Party is largely comprised of white, married Christians. Anyone watching the two conventions last summer can't have missed the stark differences: One party was brimming with energy, youth and diversity; the other felt like an annual Depends sales meeting.

Parker's poison pen is in a similar vein to an op-ed written by former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman who says that among the myriad of reasons for John McCain's loss, chief among them was the social conservatism of Palin:

Following the conventional wisdom of the past two presidential elections, McCain tried mightily to assuage the Republican Party's social-fundamentalist wing. His selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, whose social views are entirely aligned with that wing, as his running mate was clearly meant to demonstrate his commitment to that bloc. Yet while his choice did comfort those voters, it made many others uncomfortable.

Palin has many attractive qualities as a candidate. Being prepared to become president at a moment's notice was not obviously among them this year. Her selection cost the ticket support among those moderate voters who saw it as a cynical sop to social fundamentalists, reinforcing the impression that they control the party, with the party's consent.

In the wake of the Democrats' landslide victory, and despite all evidence to the contrary, many in the GOP are arguing that John McCain was defeated because the social fundamentalists wouldn't support him. They seem to be suffering from a political strain of Stockholm syndrome. They are identifying with the interests of their political captors and ignoring the views of the larger electorate. This has cost the Republican Party the votes of millions of people who don't find a willingness to acquiesce to hostage-takers a positive trait in potential leaders.

Unless the Republican Party ends its self-imposed captivity to social fundamentalists, it will spend a long time in the political wilderness. On Nov. 4, the American people very clearly rejected the politics of demonization and division. It's long past time for the GOP to do the same.

Of course, both women have been rebuffed by conservative bloggers. Erika Anderson over at Culture 11 said the column was like "swallowing soap." Anderson then issues what seems to be the standard line from the Religious Right: we are victims.

The Christian religion is an important part of American culture and cannot be chopped off because people like Parker and Christine Todd Whitman aren’t concerned with those issues.

What is interesting here is how Anderson seems say that only th Religious Right constitutes American Christianity. Nevermind the millions of Christians who don't associate with the far right, but are who would still consider themselves conservative. For Anderson, saying anything bad about Christian conservatives is being anti-religious and masking what is the true problem that ails the GOP. Whatever that is.

I think the problem with whiners like Andersen as well as Jonah Goldberg, is that they live in a conservative echo chamber that doesn't allow them to see what is going on outside of Washington. Having worked for several years in Log Cabin Republicans and being a Republican in the liberal bastion that is the Twin Cities, I can say that things are different around here. I know of people who would be loyal Republicans but refuse to get involved because of the party's stance on issues like gay rights and same sex marriage. Goldberg can complain about how bigoted Parker is, but he ignores how bigoted the Religious Right has been to gays and lesbians, which has had a big effect on the GOP.

What many conservatives have failed to see is how the social conservatives have really turned off potential converts. Try going to a district convention where the talk is always about things like same-sex marriage. Political parties in America are built on coalitions, but the social conservatives just don't play well with others.

Frankly I don't see how being against gay marriage or gay rights in general, being pro-life, or being against stem cell research became the heart of what makes one a conservative these days. What about the emphasis on small or limited government or being fiscally prudent or being strong on national defense?

Is the heavy reliance on social conservatism the only reason the GOP failed this year? Of course not. There are many reasons why the GOP lost. But when you have a bunch people talking about how two men are going to destroy American society as we know it, who think the only way to deal with illegal immigration is to deport 12 million people instead trying to find ways to make them legal and to also stem the tide of illegal immigration and who are more concerned with what happened in 1970 than in what is happening today, you have a party that is not in tune with the times and is not willing to reach out to people who may not agree with the whole agenda, but still could be vital parts of a conservative coalition.

Maybe a few years in the political wilderness will amount to an "intervention."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Green Conservative: An Interview with Jim DiPeso

REP LogoThese days, it seems rather odd to use the word "conservative" and "environmentalist" in the same sentence. But that wasn't always the case. Recently, I interviewed Jim DiPeso, who is the Policy Director for Republicans for Environmental Protection, a national organization for "Green Republicans." The group's mission listed on their website is this:

Republicans for Environmental Protection was founded in 1995 to resurrect the GOP's great conservation tradition and to restore natural resource conservation and sound environmental protection
as fundamental elements of the Republican Party's vision for America.

On a personal note, I have been a member of REP since 2001. During the interview, we talked about the GOP's environmental heritage, how it got off track and what lies ahead.

Thoughts from the Son of An Autoworker

I was born and raised in Flint, Michigan, a company town. Both my parents worked for General Motors. My dad came from his native Louisiana to work at Buick from 1953 to 1992. My mother got on a plane in Puerto Rico and headed to Michgan in 1963. After stints as a teacher and a nurse’s aide, she ended up at AC Spark Plug in 1967. With the exception of some stints in the 80s due to health issues, she worked from ‘67 until 1992.

I came along in 1969, a little over a year after they married. I can remember growing up around cars. I remember driving in Dad’s 1965 Buick Wildcat. It was a sweet car.

In the late 70s, times in Michigan started to get bad. Gas prices went up and the Big Three got flat footed in responding. They ended up making cars that no one wanted. People stopped buying American cars and went to the more efficient cars from Japan: the Toyotas and Hondas.
Meanwhile, things in Flint changed. Plants closed, and people were laid off. Businesses started to leave. Unemployment rose and rose and for a time in the early 80s, Flint had the nation’s highest unemployment rate. The town went from a clean city to an economic basket case.
I left Michigan for good in 1992. Flint was still losing plants and would continue to see GM shed more and more jobs.

I still come back to Michigan to visit my parents. Flint is a shadow of its former self. The population was around 200,000 when I was born; now it is around 100, 000.
These days, I worry about the state of GM. My reasons are personal: my parents. Both of them are now GM retirees in their 70s. I wonder what would happen should GM go under. I know that their pensions are insured by the government, but will they get their full pension or some pittance?

If there is anyone that would like to say “good riddance” to the Big Three, it should be me. For decades, the companies made cars no one wanted, spent time making gas-guzzling SUVs and basically drove away a generation of car buyers. That includes myself, who is the proud owner of Toyota Prius.

I would also say (out of earshot of my parents) that the United Auto Workers forced the automakers into contracts that were not sustainable.

I agree that the Big Three got themselves into this hole. But I have to say that in the end, I think the feds should consider giving them some kind of financial help, with strings attached, of course.
I know, some would say that the free market means that you are on your own. Some would also say that we can’t “nationalize” every industry. After all, it’s only throwing good money after bad.
Most would say that if the Big Three go, life will go on. This is what Megan McArdle has to say about autoworkers:

GM can’t be saved. It needs to go into bankruptcy, which is the only possible
way I can see to adjust its legacy labor problems, and possibly provide
sufficient shock to the corporate culture to allow the company to make a
competent car. Even that may not work. And it’s going to involve a whole bunch
of pain for everyone.

But unless we’re willing to essentially nationalize three auto companies,
that pain is going to come, sooner or later. And if we want to keep auto workers
from feeling pain, then we should just up and give them money. There’s no reason
to waste steel on a lot of crappy cars.

Forgive me, but I want to know what planet she is on. Autoworkers have been feeling pain for a long time. Look at the factories that sit empty or the ones that have been razed. Think about all the jobs lost. There are people that have been feeling pain for 30 years.

A recent NPR interview thinks that if one or more of the Big Three close, the costs would be big. And let’s not forget that if the companies close, so do the suppliers and every business that depends on autoworkers. States like Michigan would become economic disasters.

All this has been met with some annoyance. Again, I understand. But I also know what could happen in states that have a heavy American auto presence. The results would not be pretty.
I do wonder if those who don’t seem to care about this, do so because they have never lived in working class towns like Flint. It’s easy for someone in California to say to Ford to “go hang,” when your job isn’t going to be affected. But for someone who has seen the downturn up close, this isn’t something to take lightly.

So, even though it goes against my conservative fiber, I hope that President-elect Obama does do something to help. Hold them to promises, make them pay back loans, whatever. But don’t tell us that this pain is good for us. Because I sure as hell know it isn’t.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Gays, Blacks and Marriage

The defeat of Proposition 8 in California and the fact that a large proportion of African Americans voted in favor of banning same sex marriage is of course, an important issue for me and bisects both my race and my sexuality. Many in the gay community are upset about how blacks helped sink the measure while others are saying that African Americans and Latinos shouldn't be scapegoated.

I come at this with a lot of mixed feelings. One the one hand, I am frustrated at how the gay community tends to pretend that gay persons of color don't exist and then have the nerve to get angry when people of color vote against gays. On the other, I am upset at the homophobia that is present in the black community that forces gay men and lesbians to live lives on the "down low," hiding their sexuality from their loved ones.

As an African American, I have to say that racism and homophobia are not the same thing and the predominantly white gay community needs to be aware of that. I'm not minimizing homophobia, but I am just asserting that it is different than the discrimation that blacks have felt. But even more so is the fact that when the subject of gay marriage is brought up in the media, the people we see are all white. It's as if blacks or Latinos or Asian gays don't exist. So, if you are black person going to vote for this measure and you see no black people being portrayed, then why would you vote for it? It's just going to help white folks.

But as a gay man and as am African American gay man, I know how pervasive homophobia is in our communities. Growing up, I remember being chastised if I bent my wrist downward, since that would tell people I'm gay. Because I didn't act in the hyper-masculine way that all black boys were supposed to act like, I recieved my fair share of the "faggot" epithet. And I remember preachers condemning homosexuals from their pulpits and the derogatory chatter in barbershops. Because of all this, gay African Americans have tended to hide in plain sight, downplaying their sexuality.

Prop 8 passed for a lot of reasons, but two main reasons is because of racism in the gay community and homophobia in the black community. We can't try to shut our eyes to either sin.

In my view, state and national groups have to be more willing to be truly inclusive. Stop just talking about white gay couples, but seek out mixed or couples of color.

And please stop linking gay rights to the civil rights movement. Black people find that belittling to their struggles. Find other ways to influence African Americans.

But the other thing that has to happen is that African Americans have to confront their own homophobia. Gay African Americans have to come out and be bold. We have to live our lives in the open and not hide.

Straight African Americans who are gay-supportive need to also speak up and condemn homophobes in our community. Black parents of gay children need to speak up for their kids.

There is a lot of work to be done, but nothing will change as long as we point fingers.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

And So the Rebuilding Begins...

I was going to blog about this sooner, but it looks like there is already an effort among Republicans to retool and renovate the GOP. Called "Rebuild the Party," it's a group of young conservatives under the age of 40. In many ways, they have learned from the Obama campaign and are using technology to help in finding ways to modernize the party.

Here are a few words from the homepage:

As Republicans, we face a choice.

Either we can spend the next several months -- or years -- trying to figure out what just happened, excusing our defeat away as a temporary blip or the result of a poor environment, and waiting for Barack Obama to trip up. Or we can refuse to take this defeat lying down, and start building the future of our party now.

2008 made one thing clear: if allowed to go unchecked, the Democrats' structural advantages, including their use of the Internet, their more than 2-to-1 advantage with young voters, their discovery of a better grassroots model -- will be as big a threat to the future of the GOP as the toxic political environment we have faced the last few years.

The time is now to set in motion the changes needed to rebuild our party from the grassroots up, modernize the way we run campaigns, and attract different, energetic, and younger candidates at all levels.

We must be conservative in philosophy -- but bold in our approach. We don't need a slight tweak here or there. We need transformation. We can't keep fighting a 21st century war with 20th century weapons.

This is a document about bringing the Republican Party into the future -- and it isn't just about strategies and tactics.

They also seem to be saying it's fruitless to look for another Reagan:

Revitalizing the party will have much to do with how we talk about issues and standing on principle. And, above all, it will require leadership.

At the same time, waiting for a political savior to materialize out of thin air is not an option. Eventually, strong new leaders will emerge. And when they do, they must inherit a party stronger than the one in its current state. Our grassroots must be stronger and more open. We must inspire young leaders to want to run for office as Republicans.

There are several ideas afoot, but there is one that makes the most sense and it basically copies what the Democrats did in 2006 and 2008:

By 2012, the Republican Party will field candidates in all 435 Congressional districts in America, from inner city Philadelphia to suburban Dallas, and our leaders must be held accountable for progress towards this goal. With an 80 plus vote margin separating Democrats from Republicans in the House, it's time to widen the playing field, not narrow it. While our targeting has gotten narrower, honing in on a class of seats we feel entitled to because they lean Republican, Democrats have been stealing traditionally 60-40 Republican seats right and left. It's time to return the favor.

What's more, it won't be good enough to run perfunctory races in safe seats. 2008 showed us that every seat -- Republican or Democrat -- is potentially a target. If you aren't seriously challenged this time, chances are you'll be challenged the next time, or the time after that. Incumbents who don't prepare for this reality will find themselves scrambling to catch up when the inevitable happens. That means that our party needs to set a new standard that campaigns will be professional and fully staffed in each and every seat.

That's a good strategy, but that will also mean that they have to make some accomdations on social issues due to location. The Dems ran candidates that were more conservative in areas that leaned more Republican. If this group wants to run candidates everywhere, especially in districts that lean Democrat, then they need to run candidates that are pro-choice and pro-gay rights to have a shot. Here in Minneapolis, the GOP seems to always run people who are socially conservative in a district that is not even close to that.

All in all, Rebuild the Party has a good idea and is not just a flash in the pan. It's headed up by Patrick Ruffini, a GOP operative and seems to be pretty diverse, with people accross the GOP political spectrum. They have also added a tool where people can suggest ways the GOP can change and also vote on those issues.

I don't know if this has a chance, but who knows? If you know of someone who is a conservative and under 40, you might want to pass this along to them.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Message to the GOP: You're Close to Losing Me.

As I write this a day after Election Day, I feel a bit angry, not at the election results, but at the party that I have tried to make a home in: the Republican Party.

For years, I have been involved in trying to help steer the party away from the hard right and more to the center right. It has not been easy and at times, it has felt rather fruitless.

Tonight, it not only seems fruitless, but pointless.

Republican leaders seem to have a tin ear when it comes to dealing with the future of the party. The message to them after two losses was that they are not conservative enough, as if people are crying for earmark reform and not health care reform.

This is what Brent Bozell has had to say about last night's losses:

The liberal wing of the GOP has caused the collapse of the Republican Party. It is no longer a viable player in the political conversation, and deservedly so: For a decade it has spat on the values of Ronald Reagan. Conservatives let it be known on Tuesday in races all over the country that it has had enough with the betrayal.

There's a liberal wing of the GOP? Please. There hasn't been an active liberal wing of the Republican Party for about 30 years. When you lose the last Republican in New England, you don't have a liberal wing. If there was a wing, I'd be joining that party.

The frustrating thing is that the party has closed their eyes to people like: someone that is economically conservative, but socially liberal. If you saw my ballot yesterday, it was split ticket, Obama at the top, but the GOP downballot. I'm someone that is open to taxes, but also wants the budget balanced, and I don't want to us to go back to the bad old days of 70 percent tax rates. I think health care reform is important, but I don't want the government running the show, just making sure that everyone has access and help those who can't pay. I think welfare reform was a good idea and think that charter schools are a good thing that could help our educational system. I am strong on defense. I believe in immigration, but I also think that those who come into the country illegally have to pay something for breaking the law before we talk about a path to legal citizenship. I am for regulation, but not at the expense of the entrepenurship that has fueled America.

What is hopeful is that there are people like David Frum, David Brooks, Ross Douthat and others who are calling for a more responsive conservatism. But the thing is, the people in charge aren't listening. On Thursday, members of the far right are going to meet as if the answer is to be more conservative instead of responding to the needs America as it is today. Isn't that conservative, to view the world as it is, not as what we would like it to be?

In the end, I don't know how long I will stay. I'm not going to the Democrats because I just don't agree with all of their ideology. Philosophicaly, I am a conservative. But the GOP is losing someone like me. I know of many who have left or are just hanging on.

The Brent Bozells of the world can meet and talk about how they need to "more conservative." That's a ticket to a looong time in the wilderness.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

John McCain's Classy Act

One of the reasons that I have liked John McCain is because he adheres to some old values like honor and respect. As the Arizona Senator delivered his concession speech, he did it with the grace and humility that is classic John McCain.

How we lose is just as important as how we win. If Obama showed solemity in winning, McCain showed honor in losing. Kudos to Senator McCain.

A More Perfect Union

It's hard for me to hold back tears right now. Philosophically, I am a conservative and a Republican, so some level it is sad to see the GOP lose so dramatically.

But I am also an African American. My father grew up in the Jim Crow South, and I've faced my share of racism and discrimination. Tonight, as my partner Daniel and I heard now President-elect Obama speak, I started to shed tears and that says a lot, since I don't cry that often.

I'm crying because something unimagninable happened tonight. Something I had never dream would happen anytime in the near future. A man that has skin like mine, was elected the President of a country that only a generation ago gave its former slaves full civil rights.

Maybe the most telling thing tonight as I watched the returns come in was to see when Iowa was called for Obama. The news person circled the statistic that revealed the percentage of African Americans living in the state that started Obama down this road: 2 percent. A state with 2 percent of African Americans was able to vote decisively for an African American. We may still have a long way to go, but we have really come a mighty long way.

In the coming weeks and months, the task of governing will begin. President-elect Obama will face a nation with a lot of troubles and the GOP has to begin the hard task of rebuilding again.

But for tonight, I will celebrate and wish Obama the best. I will also thank God to live in a country where a skinny kid with a funny name can become President.

And I will probably shed a few more tears.

My Choice: 2008

My partner Daniel and I went to vote at our polling station around noon today in North Minneapolis. It was nice and sunny here in Minnesota for early November, with temps in the upper 60s. Strangely, there were no lines at the station, so we went in to vote immediately...almost.

Daniel and I had moved five blocks away and we didn't think to update our the state with our new address. Thank goodness that Minnesota is one of the few states that has same-day registration, so we were able to re-register and then vote.

As I've said before, I voted for Obama for President. But I voted a split ticket, voting for Republican Norm Coleman for Senate. He is the incumbent and while most of my liberal friends can't stand him, I have appreciated his pragmatism, his ability to get things done when he was mayor of St. Paul and in his time in the Senate where he has reached accross the isle to pass legislation. It's interesting that the normally liberal Minneapolis Star Tribune endorsed Coleman. Kinda similar to Obama, I am voting because of temperment than because of specific policy.

As for Coleman's challenger, Al Franken? Well, Minnesota has already had one entertainer in Jesse Ventura that turned out to be a disaster in some cases.

More thoughts later today...

Monday, November 03, 2008

Dennis' Election Prediction

Let's see if this turns out the way I am predicting:

Madelyn Dunham

This is pretty heartbreaking, regardless of your political persuasion.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Understanding An Obamacon

Since I am now one of those "Obamacons," I wanted to ask a question to those who are questioning those who would jump ship and vote for someone that is so opposite of our views.

Daniel Larison
can understand why people are upset:

the most credible pro-Obama argument that can be made is that the GOP must be held accountable and Obama is not McCain, but I still don’t think that is a persuasive case for casting a vote for Obama, much less urging others to do likewise. You have to believe strongly that a McCain Presidency would be an intolerable disaster for our country, but for the most part the people who are most inclined to believe this about him are not the ones going over to Obama. Many have hedged their Obama endorsement with paeans to the “old” McCain whom they once liked and their alleged Obama endorsements are filled with disappointment that McCain has let them down, as if to say, “I can’t believe you’re making me do this.” Pretty clearly, the Obamacon phenomenon is on the whole not really an endorsement of Obama or anything he proposes to do, which is why most of the endorsements coming from the right cannot withstand much scrutiny. That’s the whole point: the Republican ticket is so unappealing to these people that they will vote for its defeat in full knowledge that there is little or nothing to say on behalf of the man they’re electing. That is how complete Republican failure now is. Imagine how much worse it might have been had the Democrats nominated another “centrist” Southerner.

But he also thinks we are kidding ourselves:

Endorsing Obama is a vote of no confidence in the Republican Party, but in a weird way it is also an expression of what is probably utterly misguided hope that the Republicans will learn from the defeat and adjust to new political realities. It is also a failure of imagination to the extent that Obamacons sometimes rhetorically ask, “How much worse could it get?” It could get much, much worse, and Obama endorsers have put themselves in the odd position of taking on some responsibility for what is to come while having absolutely zero influence, but if it doesn’t bother them I can’t get very worked up about it.

In fact, we might be. We could be electing a very liberal president with a liberal Congress that will basically leave Obamacons high and dry. But I think instead of saying that we are setting ourselves up for a heartbreak, one should be asking why are people defecting. To put it another way, instead of mocking the people who jump off the ship, the GOP and the conservative movement should be asking why the ship is sinking. Larison aludes to this in his last paragraph:

Far more important in the aftermath than coming up with new and amusing ways to mock the Obama endorsers is an effort to understand and remedy the profound failures that made this phenomenon possible before a major realignment does occur.

Right now, that question is not being asked. That's understandable, since the leadership of the GOP is probably in denial right now. However, after Tuesday, bloggers, writers and GOP leaders need to ask what has happened to Good Ship GOP and how to best right the ship. (Pun intended.)

The truth is, people having been jumping ship long before McCain ran for President. There have been many Republicans that have been disgusted with how the GOP has run the country over the last few years. But the leadership has ignored those voices. So, the people decided to answer in a way that people would understand: by not voting for the Republican candidate and voting for the other party's candidate.

Is it silly? Maybe. I can say personally that my vote is less for Obama, than against the GOP. I don't know, how else can people send a message that things are not going right among conservatives?

Will it work? I don't know. Having the GOP lose Congress in 2006 didn't do much to help the GOP understand that it has a problem and that it needs to change.

I don't really want a liberal mandate. But the conservative movement is in such a shambles, maybe it needs to have a "time out" before it can assume leadership again.

Saturday, November 01, 2008


Republicans Against 8 has released one final ad before Tuesday's vote that if approved, could ban same-sex marriage in California which has been legal since the summer. The ad goes back in time to 1978, when the Briggs Initiative threaten to ban gay teachers from teaching in schools. Ronald Reagan came out against Briggs. It then flash forwards to the present when the current governor and fellow Republican, Arnold Schwarzenegger came out against banning gay marriage:

If you know of people in California, please share this message with them.

*WWRRD stands for What Would Ronald Reagan Do?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Why Same Sex Marriage Matters (To Me)

A few weeks ago, my partner Daniel woke me out of a deep sleep. He was complaining of chest pains, so we got dressed and went to a nearby hospital. I went into emergency with him as they tried to find out if this was his heart or something else. It turned out he was having a gallbladder attack and he was scheduled to have surgery the next day.

The day of surgery, I met up with his sister and her husband and also placed a copy of Daniel's health care directive in my backpack just in case.

In the end, everything turned out okay, but all through the experience I was wondering how the medical staff would look at me, who in their eyes had no legal standing. Lucky for us, when we explained that we were partners, the staff treated us with kindness.

When some fellow Republicans and other conservatives talk about how same sex marriage will destroy society as they know it, I wonder if they think about something as mundane as hospital visits. You see, I was lucky in that Daniel and I live in an area where there is some tolerance for gays (I guess liberals do have their uses at times). And we were lucky that we were able to afford the $900 we had to pay a lawyer to make sure we had the right to make medical decisions on each other's behalf.

But that's all that we have: luck and the ability to pay for some legal protection. If we lived in area that was not as tolerant or didn't have good-paying jobs, we would have been in big trouble.

Heterosexual couples get these protections simply by signing a marriage license. But same sex couples don't enjoy those privileges automatically.

Many of my fellow conservatives see Daniel and I as a threat to society. But that fact is, same sex couples are doing something that is fundamentally conservative: wanting to enter in to the institution of marriage. We want to form stable families like our parents did.

There was a time when many gay people didn't even think of marriage or when they did, they might have seen it as a repressive tool. But these days, as we have become more open and more mainstream, we want to form life-long partnerships with each other.

I want to know how in the world Daniel and I can be a threat by simply wanting to make sure we see each other in the hospital or make sure we can get each others benefits upon death or other boring things like that.

If a church doesn't want to marry same sex couples, they are free to do so and I would defend that right. It's the conservative thing to do. But I want to have the right to legally marry my husband and be left alone. That's the conservative thing to do as well. Why do people who claim to want small government, want to have the same government decide who can get married and who can't? Isn't that government activism, something that is not very conservative?

My Dad grew up in Jim Crow Louisiana. He has told me that when he first moved to my native Michigan, he would sometimes drive down South to visit his mom. In Michigan, my Aunt Nora would fix a basket of food for him to eat on the way down, and his mother would do the same thing in Louisiana for his return trip. Why? Because in the 1950s, he couldn't pull over and stop at a restaurant for food, since they didn't serve blacks. He also couldn't stop at hotel for the same reason, which meant taking a snooze on the side of the road.

I know that those who are opposed to same sex marriage and for things like the amendment in California don't like being called bigots. They say this about larger issues. But the fact is, the only reason one would support such an amendment is because they have a problem with being gay. There is just no way around that.

Same sex marriage matters because we are talking about my life and the life of my partner and many of my gay friends who are also partnered. It's simply about our lives and the freedom to live our lives without interference from the State.

That sounds conservative to me.

The Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy

We haven't even voted yet and there are people thinking about 2010.

One of the things that I have noticed over time is that the hard left in the Democratic Party is acting very eerily to the far right in the GOP: looking for those who don't fit their agenda and taking them out via elections.

The Hill Newspaper
is reporting that a new progressive group backed by two unions, and two liberal bloggers are planning to target centrist Democrats in 2010 by running progressive candidates against them:

The Accountability Now coalition, whose members include the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and the United Steelworkers of America, plans to target members of Congress who waver on their agenda. The group is raising money to fund progressive primary challengers in 2010.

Created by liberal bloggers Glenn Greenwald of and Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake, the Accountability Now political action committee has already raised $500,000 since starting up in March. The group hopes to press Democrats to use their majorities to pass liberal legislation and work with a White House occupied by Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

“A lot of people see this as the way to make sure Obama is able to do what he wants to do,” Hamsher said.

Progressives in the party are trying to make sure that wayward Dems tow the party line or else face a challenge.

Republicans have long had "witch hunts" to get rid of people who were not conservative enough. I think that has diminished the party in the long run, because it is the appeal to the center that wins elections, not trying to be pure enough.

What these progressive activists fail to see is that appealing to the center is what has made Senator Obama so popular and has brought the party back into power. You think they would have learned that by now.

H/t: Poligazette

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Notes from a Disgruntled Hollywood Conservative

My partner told me about this post by Los Angeles Times blogger Patrick Goldstein, where he interviews Michael DeLuca, a Hollywood conservative (a rarity) who is leaning towards Obama in this year's race, but grudgingly. His words read like something I would say, heck it IS something I said. He liked McCain, but wonders what happened to the McCain of 2000:

As much as I’ve been impressed by Barack Obama’s ascension, I was sure that this year would be an easy call for me. McCain would have been my choice in 2000 had he survived the South Carolina bloodbath and won the nomination, and I was looking forward to having a chance to vote for him this time around. Then a funny thing happened on the way to the election. The McCain of 2000 vanished, and the man on the left who was supposed to stand for a new kind of politics proved he could pander with the best of them, in a decidedly old style of politics. Where to go now? What to do? Anguish has set in.

After the incompetence and cronyism of the last four years, fours years that I admittedly voted for, I swore to myself that this time I would be extremely well versed in all the issues and every candidate’s positions. I watched every single primary debate on both sides, I’ve read every op-ed piece, seen every pundit, heard every radio talk show host and devoured issue after issue of the Economist and Foreign Affairs. Through it all I’ve watched McCain 2008 with increasing alarm. The move to the hard right, that convention, the stutter-step on the economic crisis, the robo-calls, Palin’s positions and lack of gravitas, they’ve all stopped me in my tracks. There’s something more emotional than policy at work on me here. It may be shallow, but it’s affecting my gut and it has to do with the “type” of leader these men are revealing themselves to be. Disappointingly partisan and not transformative or maverick enough by half.

But don't count him as someone who is look at Obama with rose-colored glasse, either. He thinks both candidates are not ideal by a long shot:

Obama’s initial painting of McCain as out of touch and caught in a perpetual “senior moment” insulted my intelligence and offended my sense of fairness, as has McCain’s shocking effort to paint Obama as anti-American. When I want to believe the myth of “Obama the messiah,” he opens his mouth and sounds an awful lot like the hell-spawn of Jimmy Carter and George McGovern. When I want to believe in the McCain of 2000, the man who decried the “agents of intolerance,” he then goes out and seeks their endorsements. Like many Americans, I operate out of a base of centrist common sense. It makes sense to me to not raise corporate taxes in the middle of a recession if you want to protect job creation and lower the risk of inflation. It makes sense to me not to give tax refunds to people who pay no income tax. It makes sense to me to not afford regimes like Iran the same treatment you’d give countries like the former Soviet Union.

On the other hand, common sense also tells me it is blasphemous to threaten something as sacred as the U.S. Constitution by suggesting we use it to deny people equal rights on the basis of sexual orientation. Common sense tells me it’s about time the right stops calling evolution a “theory.” It’s not. Common sense tells me not to trust the government to get between a woman and her doctor on reproductive rights, nor to trust it with the power of life and death in the form of the death penalty. I want the government to keep its boot off my neck, hands out of my pocket, eyes out of my bedroom, I want it to keep the playing field fair so people can achieve and not just collect handouts, and I want it to keep us safe. That’s it. That’s a common sense role for government. Where’s that candidate?

Where, indeed. But maybe the part of the interview that was telling was this:

Maybe it is unrealistic of me to be a pro-choice, pro-school voucher, anti-affirmative action, pro-business, pro-environment, pro-gay marriage, anti-death penalty, pro-globalization, pro-universal health care, pro-tax cuts, anti-pork barrel spending, pro-war on terror Republican, but that’s where I am.

I think this sentence is telling because it sums up what is wrong with the GOP and the conservative movement as a whole: it has become rigid, only wanting people who line up with some imaginary checklist on who is a conservative and who is not, instead of trying to build a coalition of people who may not agree on everything, but agree on many issues.

The people who are falling over themselves at the sight of Sarah Palin seem more than willing to let people like this go by the wayside and vote for Obama. The enemy of good is the perfect, and that is what is going to determine how long the GOP stays in its well-deserved wilderness.