Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The GOP Purity Experiment

Over the last few decades, an experiment has been taking place within the Republican Party. It has been conducted not by party leaders as much as by the rank and file or so-called base. It has been an experiment as to whether a politically pure party can be a viable party. To my knowledge this has never been done before.

Over the years, groups such as Club for Growth have sought out those who were considered apostates and targeted them for inter-party challenges. In many cases they have picked off those moderates and have made the party more pure.

These groups tend to be inward looking and wary of the outside world. For them, the reason the GOP last in 2006 and 2008 was because they were not pure enough. George Bush? He spent like a drunken sailor. John McCain? He was too feckless. No, there is no need to change and to expand the coalition, there is only the need to be more faithful and more pure and purge those who don't agree.

Ross Douthat,
in his debut column for the New York Times, argues that maybe Dick Cheney should have run for President last year, so that the purists would have their way- and when they lost, no longer have the excuse that they were not pure enough in their ideology.

Arlen Specter's decision to leave the GOP for the Democrats might have many conservative purists shouting Hallelujah today. But it means that they probably have resigned the GOP to a rump status, but hey, at least they are a bit pure than they were before.

Will being pure be the winning strategy for the GOP? I'm gonna say this: you can be an ideologically pure party or you can be a majority party, but you can't be both.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Truth, Consequences and Andrew Sullivan

David Broder doesn't get a whole lot of respect in the blogosphere. In more than one case, Border has been viewed as some what bland and grey with his calls for bipartisanship. But of course, Broder has been a reporter for a long time, longer than some of us (myself included) have been alive. He remembers when politics wasn't as nasty as it is now, and remembers when politicians of all stripes worked for the greater good.

Broder wrote an op-ed recently
where he called for the President to "stick to his guns" and not move towards the prosecutions of Bush-era officials who sanctioned torture. He thinks (as I do) that Obama was correct in releasing the torture memos, but fears that going after former Bushies will open a Pandora's box:

But having vowed to end the practices, Obama should use all the influence of his office to stop the retroactive search for scapegoats.

This is not another Sept. 11 situation, when nearly 3,000 Americans were killed. We had to investigate the flawed performances and gaps in the system and make the necessary repairs to reduce the chances of a deadly repetition.

The memos on torture represented a deliberate, and internally well-debated, policy decision, made in the proper places -- the White House, the intelligence agencies and the Justice Department -- by the proper officials.

One administration later, a different group of individuals occupying the same offices has -- thankfully -- made the opposite decision. Do they now go back and investigate or indict their predecessors?

That way, inevitably, lies endless political warfare. It would set the precedent for turning all future policy disagreements into political or criminal vendettas. That way lies untold bitterness -- and injustice.

Suppose that Obama backs down and Holder or someone else starts hauling Bush administration lawyers and operatives into hearings and courtrooms.

Suppose the investigators decide that the country does not want to see the former president and vice president in the dock. Then underlings pay the price while big shots go free. But at some point, if he is at all a man of honor, George W. Bush would feel bound to say: That was my policy. I was the president. If you want to indict anyone for it, indict me.

Is that where we want to go? I don't think so. Obama can prevent it by sticking to his guns.

It's a fair question. Going down the road towards prosecutions will infuriate the right and you can bet that when a Republican adminstation takes power, they will start looking under rocks for supposed crimes.

None of this impresses blogger Andrew Sullivan. He responds to Broder with a withering answer, full of fury at President Bush:

For an administration to secretly and illegally unleash this weapon - against citizens and non-citizens alike - and to demand that it not be subsequently called to account, that it be allowed to get away with it under some absurd notion that it's too divisive to hold war criminals accountable for their crimes is and was an outrage. Punishing those responsible for war crimes is not "scapegoating". You know what scapegoating is? It's throwing Lynndie England in jail for following orders given by George W. Bush, while leaving him to the luxury of a Texan suburb.

He concludes by saying that the stakes are high in not seeking justice:

If America - America - discovers that its own president has illegally tortured and decides that it simply won't do anything about it, that it doesn't matter, that it's too polarizing to restore the rule of law ... then what hope do those people have? To whom will they look when they fight far more pervasive tyranny, buttressed by the same absolute power to coerce the truth and break the human soul?

I have to say that I lost a lot of respect for Andrew Sullivan a long time ago. My problem with him is that he takes on a cause so passionately that he refuses to see the consequences of his actions. In the run-up to the Iraq War, he was one of the most passionate supporters for the war, damn all the concerns that the war could become a quagmire. Anyone that believed we shouldn't go to war, was basically consorting with evil.

Now, Sullivan wants to see the Bushies, the ones he once supported, prosecuted for war crimes and damn the consecquences. Nevermind if this could rip this country apart in ways we have not known.

I am no fan let alone a friend of the Bush Adminstration. I think they did a lot to destroy the Republican Party and sully America. I think they were wrong to even entertain the thought of torture. But other concerns have to be taken into account before we think we need to have war crime trials. If we start investigating a former adminstration in the way that Sullivan and others want, it will not stop there. We will have opened a nasty precedent that we will have to live with for generations. Investigations will fly like crazy.

Border's approach is not perfect. Yes it would allow the Bushies "to get away with it." But in the real world, we sometimes have to make some calls we don't like. Sullivan's approach might be feel better, wrapped in a cloak we think is justice, but it might end up a phyrric victory: winning the battle of bringing Bush to justice and destroying the fabric of America.

Broder remembers when Republicans and Democrats disagreed but were able to friends. he knows the past and sees the present which is not like that anymore. He also fears what the future brings.

Sometimes the old man has something worthwhile to say. It would be nice if young whippersnappers like Sullivan would listen.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

What the Tea Parties Can Teach Moderate Republicans

Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.
-Martin Luther King Jr.

In reading some of the blogs as of late, it might seem that moderate or progressive Republicans are finally getting some love. The recent speeches by Meghan McCain and former McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt, have given people the impression that maybe, just maybe, that those in the upper levels of the Republican Party are finally paying attention to us moderates. Maybe they will finally not focus on being against gay marriage and focus on more moderate issues.

Don't bet on it.

A recent article in Politico states that while there has been some beliefs and opinions that believe the GOP should change, the reality is that the so-called base of the party is still very much alive, even after two drubbings:

Rank-and-file Republicans remain, by all indications, staunchly conservative, and they appear to have no desire to moderate their views. GOP activists and operatives say they hear intense anger at the White House and at the party’s own leaders on familiar issues – taxes, homosexuality, and immigration. Within the party, conservative groups have grown stronger absent the emergence of any organized moderate faction.

There is little appetite for compromise on what many see as core issues, and the road to the presidential nomination lies – as always – through a series of states where the conservative base holds sway, and where the anger appears to be, if anything, particularly intense.

"There is a sense of rebellion brewing," said Katon Dawson, the outgoing South Carolina Republican Party chairman, who cited unexpectedly high attendance at anti-tax “tea parties” last week.

Politico goes on to give a passing statement on the vitality of three moderate groups:

Liberal Republican groups like the Main Street Republican Partnership and the Republican Majority for Choice remain essentially irrelevant, and even the main gay GOP group, the Log Cabin Republicans, is fending off a challenge from a more conservative gay splinter faction.

Ralph Reed, the longtime Christian conservative activist and former chair of the Georgia GOP, predicted that opposition to same-sex marriage would become, like abortion, a litmus test, if a lower-profile one.

"There used to be muscular and vocal disagreement in the party on our pro-life plank," he recalled. "That has largely been resolved. Nobody raises the issue of changing the pro-life plank."

In a recent op-ed also in Politico, Matthew Dallek states that the GOP needs to remember it's moderates. It follows a ton of articles by various writers accross the political spectrum that urge the same thing: The GOP needs to be more accepting of moderates and be able to moderate their views on social issues.

That is an important message to hear, but it's incomplete at best. The fact is, people have been saying that Republicans needs to be more tolerant and open minded at least since the the 1992 GOP Convention in Houston when Pat Buchanan and others presented a very right wing face to America. And in the ensuring years, not very much has changed.

The problem is that many of the writers fail to understand the notion of politics and how it operates. I will go even further and say that many moderates both within and without the GOP also fail to understand how politics truly work and as long as this takes place, there will never be a revivial of moderates in the Republican Party.

In many of the articles that fault the Republican Party for not supporting moderates, the plea is usually to the party in general. It's a nice statement to ask those who are in power to please let moderates in. It based on a belief that if the party leadership (those in the Republican National Committee and also at state and local levels) would simply appeal to reason and logic, then party leaders will see the light and by jove, they will let moderates in.

But politics is never about reasoned discussions. It is in the end about power, coalitions and organizing. The Left has understood this for a long time, as have those on the Religious Right. Moderate Republicans are wont to say that the GOP has been "hijacked" by the far right. Now, I have no love towards the far right which I believe have ruined the GOP. But such belief in a "hijacking" is simply a nice fantasy that we moderates can console ourselves with. It isn't real.

The fact is, the Religious Right for all the bad it has done, did things the right way: they got involved at the local and state level. They got on platform committees and inserted their agenda. The created political action committees to elect their candidates. Yes, they took over the GOP, but they did it fair and square, through good old fashioned organizing.

And such organizing has results. We complain that John McCain transformed himself into a right-wing candidate in 2008. If only, some moderates claim, McCain ran as he did in 2000. The fact is, the people that hold the power in the GOP is the far right. If McCain wanted to have the backing of the party he had to bend to where the party is. Yes, McCain could have ran as he did in 2000, but we saw what the power players did to him then and since they were still power eight years later, they would do it again.

Dirty? Yes. But it's also politics.

Then their was the task of picking a Vice Presidential candidate. McCain was leading towards former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge. But when McCain sent a trial balloon that he was considering a pro-choice candidate there were howls of protest. In the end, we got Sarah Palin, which wowed the far right, but turned off moderates.

Same goes for Mitt Romney, who ran in 1994 as a moderate Republican against Sen. Edward Kennedy. He was pro-choice and earned the support of Log Cabin Republicans for gay-friendly stances. But when he started thinking about running for President, his stances changed. Why? Because the current GOP isn't going to elect a pro-gay, pro-choice Republican governor as their nominee. To the victor belongs the spoils.

That's what's missing from the moderate faction (what's left of it) in the GOP. It is barely organized. There are groups that I think truly "get it" such as Log Cabin Republicans and Republicans for Environmental Protection. But for the most part, moderates seem to be waiting for the GOP to come to its senses.

But that isn't going to happen. Yes, a candidate like George W. Bush will come along and sprinkle a few words here and there about being a "different kind of Republican" that will woo just enough moderates,but in the end, once they are in office, they will dance with those that brung 'um.

The great moderate revival in the GOP will not happen unless those of us that are moderates make it happen. If we believe that the Republican Party needs to be more tolerant and accepting of same sex marriage, then we must be willing to get off our couches and out from behind our computers and go to the next meeting of our local Republican party and demand it.

I don't totally agree with the Tea Party folks. I think their message is to unfocused and not really for anything. But I do have to hand it to them: they were willing to get mad enough to get together and create something. The same goes for all the Ron Paul folk. Again, they might be just plain crazy, but they at least aren't waiting for someone to give them permission.

Politics is about having a good ground game. It's about getting into the arena, but we moderates perfer to stay on the sidelines.

Yes, there needs to be more diversity in the GOP. Yes, the party needs more moderates. But it is up to us to for that to happen. It will not happen because the leadership granted it to us; it will happen because we demanded it- because we got organized and went to city, county and state conventions, because we got on platform committees and because we created PACS to support our candidates.

Will that happen? I don't know. There is a part of me that is always hopeful, but I'm also a born pessimist.

But I want to be proven wrong. I want to see the flowering of a new moderate movement. But it's up to my fellow moderates. Please don't let me down.

Friday, April 24, 2009

A Tale of Two Queens

I've never been a big fan of the gossip columnist Perez Hilton. I don't why, but he just doesn't fascinate me. Hilton has made news recently by saying some not so nice comments about Miss California, Carrie Prejean when she answered a question about gay marriage from Hilton at the Miss USA contest. Her answer wasn't what Hilton wanted to hear. He slammed her on his blog by calling her a "bitch", apologized and then took back the apology and called her an even worse name that I am not going to say here.

Prejean is against gay marriage. I don't agree with her views. I happen to think that she is wrong on the issue. I am gay and for gay marriage. That said, I think Hilton came out look like an idiot. The problem here is that he asked a question. Maybe it's me, but when you ask a question, you need to expect that there is a 50% chance that you will not be happy with the answer. That's the risk of asking questions: sometimes you hear something you would not rather hear. Prejean responded truthfully; Hilton may not like, I may not like it, but she did what Hilton wanted; to answer a question. This wasn't a situation where Prejean was at some rally spewing hate, she did not put forth anything to provoke Hilton to ask the question. In the end, it was Hilton's call and he now he is whining because she gave the wrong answer.

Some people are looking at Hilton as if he is a hero and Prejean as if she showed up to the pagaent in a Klu Klux Klan outfit. But he's not a hero. In a way he is giving aid and comfort to the anti gay side, because now Prejean will be seen a brave and devout woman standing her ground against the mean-spirited gays.

I would hope that in this fight for equality, we don't become as spiteful as those on the other side. We need to be able to show some respect for people at times, even when they disagree with us. There is a time for anger, but a smart person knows when anger is called for and when it is better to keep things in check.

In the future, Hilton should keep his antics on the gossip columns.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Michelle Laxalt and Moderate Republicans

There was a good interview last Sunday on National Public Radio's Weekend Edition Sunday with Reihan Salam and Michelle Laxalt about the future of the Republican Party. Laxalt is a political consultant who has worked with several Republican Senators and in the Reagan Administration. While Salam had some good things to share, Laxalt was electric in what the GOP needs to do to rejuventate itself and in prodding moderates who have sat on the sidelines to get involved again. Give it a listen.

Random Musings on the Toture Memos

I haven't talked about this issue because it is one so fraught with emotion. But I'be decided to wade in the waters and share some thoughts:

  • While I think Obama did the right thing in releasing the memos, I think that if one is going to prosecute (something that I am wary of) then you need to not only prosecute the "intellectual authors" but those who carried it out. I will use my only reference to Nazis in saying that what we learned from the Nurmeberg Trials is that simply following orders is no excuse. Yes, I know CIA agents get their orders and act within a legal framework, but there is also a moral framework as well. I also think only going after the lawyers and up from there tends make this all look like a vendetta against the Bush Adminstration than it does trying to find out what happened and how to guard ourselves from it ever happening again.
  • On the topic of prosecutions, the whole thing makes me feel uneasy. It might seem trivial, but I wonder if such an adventure would be seen as impartial and willing to seek justice or as a partisan vendetta. Maybe it doesn't mean a lot to try to find ways to bring our nation together, but there is something to be said about trying not further divide the nation with trials that make one side happy and another mad. It's the old conservative nostrum: actions have consequences. Just as those who authorized torture might be facing a judgement day for crimes committed, there will be a consquence for having said trial and it might be a bad outcome for the future of our nation. If there are prosecutions and trials, there has to be a mammouth effort to make sure that there isn't even a trace of partisanship.
  • Republican Peter Hoesktra of Michigan says Congress knew of the decisions to torture, but his writings leave out; who in Congress knew? What did they know? Did they know the exactly that the CIA was torturing people? It could be that Republican and Democratic leaders did know about this, and if they did, they should answer for it. But Hoekstra doesn't say anything at all about who knew, what did they know and when did they know it.
  • I think it's important to talk about the context in which the decision to torture was made. Jeff Jacoby makes an interesting case in a recent op-ed about in the days and months following 9/11 how American society was wanting for ways to prevent another attack, even if that meant using some harsh methods. Jacoby shares an article by Jonathan Adler in 2001 where he wondered if it was time to use torture ala Israel. Jacoby goes a bit too far in saying that these methods prevented an attack, but he was correct in saying that context does matter, not in excusing the abuses, but at least in understanding why they might have happened. I think in those days after 9/11 many of us entertained thoughts of the "gloves" coming off to protect hearth and home.
  • I am bothered by the use on both sides of the issue of using something based on its effectiveness. Many conservatives who favor the harsh techniques think it was worth it since it prevented attacks and well, there are not nice people. Many liberals tend to say that torture never works, saying it is ineffective. It seems that both sides try to make a cost-benefit analysis on the issue, when what matters here is not that as much as it is a moral question. If something is effective, is it moral? Torture might be effective in stopping an attack, but just because it works, does that mean we should use it? And just because we use it on really bad people, does that make it okay? Even bad, evil people have certain rights and good people have certain standards. I agree with Megan McArdle on this one.

So those are my thoughts. I do have one final one: I think that we should have some sort of commission detailing these issues and not do any prosecutions. I think what is important is finding out what happened and how to prevent it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Greenest Republicans?

On this earth day, it's important to remember that care for the Environment has to be a bipartisan effort. Sadly, the GOP has not always lived up to it's environmental heritage, but there are those who still do. Republicans for Environmental Protection has released it's scorecard of Congress touting "Green Republicans" while slamming the "Brown Republicans." Here is their press release:

Republicans for Environmental Protection (REP) today released its fourth annual Congressional Scorecard rating the environmental performance of Republicans in Congress.

Senator Susan Collins (ME) and Congressman Mark Kirk (IL) shared top honors as the “Greenest Republican in Congress.” Each had perfect voting records and received additional credits for environmental leadership.

As a result of the formula that REP uses to calculate scores, which is based on the number of votes scored, Collins’ score of 107* was slightly higher than the 105 that Kirk received.

One other member of the House had a perfect score of 100: Frank LoBiondo (NJ). Former Senator Gordon Smith (OR) scored a perfect 100 in the upper house.

“REP is proud and gratified at the strong environmental leadership that our top-scoring lawmakers have demonstrated. Their hard work has been indispensable for moving conservation and environmental legislation, which history has shown cannot succeed without strong bipartisan support,” REP President Rob Sisson said.

“We are especially proud of Senator Collins’ exemplary record. This is the second year in a row that we have honored her as the ‘Greenest Republican in Congress.’ She has been an outspoken champion of taking on climate change, expanding use of cleaner energy technologies, and of practicing good stewardship over our natural resources,” REP Government Affairs Director David Jenkins said.

“Mark Kirk was the first congressional candidate endorsed by REP. We are proud of the strong conservation record that he has compiled. He has met all our expectations and then some,” Sisson said.

“He has been a steadfast champion of protecting the Great Lakes, and as a resident of Michigan, I can tell you that means a great deal to me personally. He has worked hard to clean up air pollution, expand use of cleaner energy resources, and protect our country’s parks and wilderness lands,” Sisson added.

The overall environmental performance of Republicans in Congress improved from 2007 to 2008. The average score of Senate Republicans rose significantly from 27 percent in 2007 to 54 percent in 2008. The House Republican average increased slightly, from 21 percent in 2007 to 25 percent last year.

“The rising scores among our Republican senators and congressmen is an encouraging trend, and we hope to see continuing improvement this year and in the years ahead,” Jenkins said.

“At a time when the Republican Party is at a crossroads following two consecutive election defeats, our GOP environmental champions point the way towards a new, more constructive direction – the rediscovery of the Republican Party’s great conservation tradition,” Jenkins added.

“As we saw a few weeks ago when Congress passed a strong conservation bill with sweeping bipartisan majorities, including the support of Congressman Kirk and Senator Collins, Republicans accomplish great things for our country when they rediscover that conservation tradition,” Jenkins said.

Still, far too many Republicans had low scores. The lowest scoring members in the House were Congressmen Rob Bishop and Chris Cannon, both from Utah, who scored minus 5. In the Senate, the low achievers were Jim DeMint (SC), Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY), and David Vitter (LA), along with former Senator Chuck Hagel (NE), all of whom scored 29.

“Our scorecard is an essential tool for tracking our party’s environmental performance and a measure of REP’s progress toward its mission of restoring natural resource conservation and sound environmental protection as fundamental elements of the Republican Party's vision for America,” REP Policy Director Jim DiPeso said.

To download the scorecard, go here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pat Toomey: A Democrat's Best Friend

Pat Toomey, the former head of Club for Growth is running against Arlen Specter in the 2010 Pennsylvania GOP Senate primary. A lot of conservative purists are probably saying "good riddance" to the moderate Specter who voted for the Obama Stimulus package and is a social moderate. Toomey has made career out of going after "RINOs" or "Republicans in Name Only." But as David Jenkins shows, while he might have purged the party of moderates, he isn't good at getting his purist candidates to get to Washington and stay there:

In 2006, the Club strongly backed Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey’s primary run for the Rhode Island Senate seat held by then-Senator Lincoln Chafee. The bloody primary battle depleted Chafee’s campaign coffers and increased his negatives, enabling Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse to eke out a victory.

Regardless of how much conservatives were annoyed by the moderate to liberal Chafee, the reality is that a less moderate Republican would have virtually no chance to capture that seat. A recent survey by Gallup found Rhode Island to be the most pro-Democrat state in the nation, with Democrat and Democrat-leaning voters holding a 37 percent advantage.

Also in 2006, the Club helped Tim Walberg defeat incumbent Joe Schwarz in Michigan’s 7th Congressional District, and backed the intemperate Bill Sali in a crowded GOP primary field vying for Idaho’s 1st District seat. Both managed to win the general election that year, but were swept out of office in 2008.

Schwarz was a far better fit for the evenly balanced Michigan 7th than Walberg. In 2004, Schwarz beat Democrat Sharon Renier by 22 percent (58% to 36%), while Walberg in 2006 edged her out by only 4 percent. In 2008, Walberg lost the seat to Democrat Mark Schauer by 2 percentage points.

And if you think Toomey isn't that great of political gamesman, the following is truly a craptastic piece of art:

It takes a truly magical reverse Midas touch to identify and elect a Republican who cannot hold onto Idaho’s 1st District seat that, with a Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI) score of R+18, is one of the most heavily Republican districts in the nation to now be represented by a Democrat.

Toomey's "magic touch" has only been magic in sending more Democrats to Congress. There's a few lesson in this: the first being that those who make an enemy of the good over the perfect ends up losing.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Meghan McCain: The New Face of the GOP?

Talk about the apple not falling far from the tree.

Senator John McCain had been noted in the past as being a "straight talker." I think that this aspect about him was sadly muted during his run for President. That said, it seems that the penchant for straight talk can also be found in his daughter, Meghan. Meghan McCain spoke Saturday at the national convention for the Log Cabin Republicans and presented a new face for the GOP: a conservative that is forward looking on issues like the environment and gay rights and yet able to hold on the core values of the party.

In her speech, McCain isn't simply calling for Republicans to use old ideas with new technology ala Twitter and Facebook. She is calling for the GOP to start to wake up the current realities, a says that there is soon to be a civil war within the GOP. Here is a sample of what she had to say:

People in our country have much more important issues to deal with on a daily basis. But the experience did reinforce what I learned on the campaign trail in some major ways.

I’ll summarize them in three points:

1. Most of our nation wants our nation to succeed.
2. Most people are ready to move on to the future, not live in the past.
3. Most of the old school Republicans are scared shitless of that future...

..I feel too many Republicans want to cling to past successes. There are those who think we can win the White House and Congress back by being “more” conservative. Worse, there are those who think we can win by changing nothing at all about what our party has become. They just want to wait for the other side to be perceived as worse than us. I think we’re seeing a war brewing in the Republican party, but it is not between us and Democrats. It is not between us and liberals. It is between the future and the past. I believe most people are ready to move on to that future...

...Simply embracing technology isn’t going to fix our problem either. Republicans using Twitter and Facebook isn’t going to miraculously make people think we’re cool again. Breaking free from obsolete positions and providing real solutions that don’t divide our nation further will. That’s why some in our party are scared. They sense the world around them is changing and they are unable to take the risk to jump free of what’s keeping our party down...

...I am concerned about the environment. I love to wear black. I think government is best when it stays out of people’s lives and business as much as possible. I love punk rock. I believe in a strong national defense. I have a tattoo. I believe government should always be efficient and accountable. I have lots of gay friends. And yes, I am a Republican.

Read the whole speech. McCain puts forth a clear vision for what the party can be, not just on the issue of gay rights, but on a whole list of issues.

Yes, some will say that making changes will mean we lose our conservative roots. But what they are saying is they want to cling to the past. True conservativism honors the past, but it move forward into the future with ideas to deal with that future.

Kudos to Ms. McCain. I could not have said it better.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Gay Marriage, the GOP and Political Courage

Steve Schmidt, the former campaign manager for John McCain's presidential campaign has been making news today for saying that it is time for conservatives to back same sex marriage. In a speech to the national convention of the Log Cabin Republicans he makes a conservative case for gay marriage:

"There is a sound conservative argument to be made for same-sex marriage...I believe conservatives, more than liberals, insist that rights come with responsibilities. No other exercise of one's liberty comes with greater responsibilities than marriage. In a marriage, two people are completely responsible to and for each other..."

...If you are not willing to accept and faithfully discharge those responsibilities, you shouldn't enter the state of matrimony, and it doesn't make a damn bit of difference if you're straight or gay. It is a responsibility like no other, which can and should make marriage an association between two human beings more fulfilling than any other."

He makes a pretty sound argument based on the conservative belief in responsibility. Marriage is in the end about being responsible. You stop simply living for yourself and live for that other person. When they hurt, you hurt. When they are happy, so are you.

Schmidt understands that a younger generation, personified by Meghan McCain, is much more accepting of gays and doesn't understand what all the big deal is. Younger voters will be turned off by what they see as intolerance.

While appreciating the argument put forth by Schmidt, political writer Marc Ambinder doesn't think that the GOP survive without social conservatives. He writes:

I know that there are many Republicans who support gay rights, and that most members of the Republican elite are pro-gay, and that the business wing of the party could care less about the issue. I know that suburbanites are turned off by conservative intolerance of homosexuality and gay rights. I know that younger Republicans tend to be pro-gay and are alienated from the rest of the party. But I also know that the possibility that the Republican coalition will find some way to organize itself without social conservatives is a ways of a way off. Schmidt's concerns may be valid, but urging the GOP top adopt a tolerance platform WITHOUT figuring out how to declamp itself from the social conservative hook -- that's not terribly realistic. That's why so many Republican strategists, even as they're sympathetic to gay rights (and virtually ALL of them are), don't advise their clients to so much as acknowledge the dignity of gay people.

If one were to look at this with the steely eye of politics, this might make sense. And I don't doubt that the GOP would lose votes in taking a step towards gay equality.

But as a gay man who is a Republican and who is partnered, this isn't an issue that is that far away from me. It IS me. It is my issue. It has been said that when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act in 1965, he said that the Deomcratic Party would lose the South for a generation. He was right. The segregationist wing of the party basically walked out and became Republicans.

Of course, we know what the upside was. African Americans were allowed greater freedoms and, well all you have to do is go to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to see some of the results.

The other thing is that while the Democrats did lose a substantial voting bloc, they also picked up other voting blocs to become the party they are today.

The Republican Party faces a hard choice. If the party does become more tolerant of gays, then they will lose a substantial voting bloc. But they could also gain new voters, especially young voters who would normally vote Republican but don't because they are so intolerant of gays.

Ambinder refuses to dream. He refuses to see that things can change. Yes, for the GOP to make such a leap would be a big risk. Courage to do the right thing always comes with a cost. But there is a payoff down the road. One wonders what would have happened had LBJ not sign landmark civil rights legislation because he was worried about losing votes in the South.

Ambinder forgets that the status quo is killing the party NOW. Republicans are already losing votes. So, either way we lose votes, but I can say that what we gain by standing for gay equality is far more valuable than what we lose.

An Interview with Terry Hamilton of Log Cabin Republicans

Log Cabin Republicans are having their annual meeting in Washington, DC this weekend and Politico interviewed Terry Hamilton, the chair of the Board for Log Cabin about the convention, the outlook for the GOP, how President Obama is doing on gay issues and if Meghan McCain is the new gay icon for gay Republicans:

Thursday, April 16, 2009

GOProud? Hardly.

The following is a note posted on Facebook, by Joseph Chambers, a young gay man from West Virgina who until recently indentified as a Republican. I've posted his article in its entirety since not every has access to Facebook.

I was reading the Wall Street Journal recently when I came across an article covering the founding of a new organization for gay Republicans: GOProud.

Let me be clear: I'm a strong proponent of capitalism and a free "marketplace of ideas," so to speak. While the unnecessary duplication of energy and effort may at first be inefficient, we can be reasonably sure that in the end, either the Log Cabin Republicans (the "establishment" gay Republican organization) or GOProud will emerge victorious, and the other will wither. It's natural selection, in a political context.

What troubles me, however, is what this new group purports to fight for.

If you go to the website of the Log Cabin Republicans, and look at their "Issues" menu, you'll see the following agenda items, which correspond to their public policy priorities:

  • Gay and Lesbian Families (Support adoption rights, civil marriage equality, and fair treatment in the tax code).

  • Protect Marriage in California (Repeal Prop H8).

  • Don't Ask, Don't Tell (Repeal it, too).

  • Health Watch (Promote safer sex practices).

  • Campaigns and Elections (Encourage gay-friendly Republicans to run for office and support their campaigns).

  • Workplace Discrimination (Pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would make discrimination by employers against gays and lesbians a federal crime).

If you go to the website of GOProud, and look at their "Legislative Priorities" menu, you'll see their own to-do list, but not until after you read a slanderous attack on the "gay agenda."

  • Tax Reform (Give lip service to fair tax treatment for gays and lesbians, but the real focus is on cutting taxes for high-income earners).

  • Healthcare Reform (Allow purchase of insurance across state lines, which actually makes sense, and end employer-provided health insurance, which would pass costs along directly to the consumer).

  • Social Security Reform (Privatize Social Security).

  • Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal (Self-explanatory).

  • Holding the Line on Spending (Assumedly, massive cuts in spending on education, healthcare, transportation, and public safety).

  • Fighting Global Extremists (Fundamentalists don't exactly like gays and lesbians, in this country or any other, so this makes sense).

  • Defending our Constitution (Opposing any anti-gay federal marriage amendment).

  • Encouraging Community Entrepreneurship (Support small business, which I think is a good idea).

  • Revitalizing our Communities (Mainly, an assault on public education).

  • Defending our Community (Assault weapons for everyone).

Please note: GOProud, which claims to be the new "it" group for gay Republicans, waits until the seventh point in a 10-point list to address the single most important issue for gays and lesbians in this country: civil marriage equality. Not only do they do that, but they do not commit to wage the fight for gay equality using whatever legal tools available, or to stand up in defense of court decisions expanding our rights when other Republicans attempt to undermine and compromise them.

I know a fair number of gay Republicans. Many of them are fine people, who understand that our country will be more prosperous and more free if we embrace principles like better government, fairer taxes, individual liberty, personal responsibility, an assertive national defense, and free markets. They get that our struggle for equal rights is just one chapter of a greater American story, and so they stand with women in their struggle for reproductive freedom, or with racial minorities in their struggle for civil rights. Mostly, they understand that the Republican Party can be saved from itself, that its prevailing homophobic worldview is morally indefensible, and that the Republican Party's true goal should always be to expand opportunity and freedom, not inflict a religious philosophy on those who do not share it by using the power of the state.

Most gays and lesbians are Democrats. I understand this. It is important, however, for everyone to know that there are gays and lesbians who are not Democrats, but still believe that our struggle for justice is noble, and should be aggressively prosecuted.

Look at the two lists of priorities, and you'll see what I'm saying: for the Log Cabin Republicans, equality is a cause worth fighting for.

I also know the types of people who populate GOProud. A few are misinformed, and just don't know what this new group really stands for. Some are simply hyperambitious, and will do anything to get a few scraps tossed to them from the RNC table--even sell out the rest of us.

But many of them are the same type who have held our community back for all these years by insisting that it's no community at all. They're the ones who internalize the shame and doubt of the closet, and believe in getting along by going along. They're the ones who accuse the rest of us of being shallow, egocentric whores, while they occupy some higher moral plane. They're the ones who introduce themselves by saying "I'm gay, but not like you think." Finally, they're the ones who made "straight-acting" a medal of honor, while making "gay pride" a badge of shame.

Not all of us perform in drag. Not all of us attend BIGLM meetings at WVU or Lambda meetings at Marshall. Not all of us march in gay pride parades. Not all of us lobby legislators. Not all of us manage campaigns or run for office. Every person who does these things, however, is a hero in the fight for equality and justice. They're heroes because they do their part, however small that part might be.

The other side? They insist that we should be just a little less adamant. They insist that we should show just a little more restraint. They insist that we should feel just a little less proud. They insist that we'd get just a little more respect if, instead, we'd ask for just a little less, and that we'd achieve victory if we just laid down and surrendered.

Closets are safe, yes--but they're also dark, and suffocating. And frankly, it disappoints me to see a gay Republican group decide that it's more important to fit in than to speak out.


Not on your life.

    Wednesday, April 15, 2009

    Republican. Presbyterian. Male. Proud Parent of Lesbian.

    Every so often, you see something that shows there is hope for the GOP. The Des Moines Register profiled a businessman that has been described as the stereotypical Republican with one execption: he is a tireless campaigner for gay equality. Here's a sample of Ted Coppack's life:

    A longstanding membership in the Republican Party, a career in insurance and ages-old religious affiliations and understandings of right and wrong had not prepared him for this phone conversation with his daughter.

    Valerie, 30 at the time, divorced and living in the Washington, D.C., area, was planning for her parents' visit at Thanksgiving. She wanted them to know beforehand that she was in an intimate relationship. With a woman.

    In that moment, Coppock, now 70, had to discard a lifetime of accrued images and expectations. As Valerie spoke, he was thinking about these two guys he used to know in his jock days at North High, who everyone assumed were "homos." They were straight-A students and on the student government, but Coppock and the other jocks made fun of them - right to their faces. "All I could think," says Coppock of listening to his daughter speak, "was what an a------ I was in school."

    He had a lot of thinking to do that day. He had to get past wondering whether they had somehow raised her wrong to understanding that Valerie could no more choose to be gay than choose to be deaf, which she also is.

    After coming to terms with his daughter's sexuality, Coppack became an activist for gay rights:

    Coppock, who calls himself a citizen lobbyist, has played that role before. Sharing his own story, he's lobbied members of his party to expand the state's civil-rights law to protect gays and lesbians. In his church, Westminster Presbyterian, he's president of the Gay Lesbian Affirmation Small Group. He's been active in the bid to get the entire Presbyterian Church to change its stance that homosexuality is not in line with its beliefs, and to drop the requirement of chastity or heterosexual marriage to be ordained as a minister, deacon or elder.

    He has found that the best way to resolve differences is to talk personally and share life experiences. He did that with Pat Ward, his West Des Moines senator, when the Legislature was debating a bill to outlaw school bullying based on real or perceived sexual orientation. Republicans were in the majority. Ward, a Republican, thought the anti-bullying policy at Valley High was good enough. But from Coppock and other constituents, she says, "I learned that even though a school may have a policy, it's important that state law backs up the policy." She supported the bill, and it became law.

    "He had something affect him very personally in his real life," says Ward of Coppock. "Because he's a businessman he knows how to communicate in a very articulate and non-threatening way.... He's not the guy that comes out with the banners and posters and protests."

    Another lawmaker Coppock approached told him he believes homosexuality is wrong, and that he had not spoken to a gay sister in years because of that. Coppock urged the lawmaker to consider calling his sister - which he says happened.

    Mr. Coppack is a hero in my book. This man is the perfect textbook Republican who is also making sure that his daughter and others like her are able to live as equals in this place we call America.

    I've said it once, and I will say it again: as important as it is for gay Republicans to come forward and fight for equality, it is just as important that the Republican parents, siblings and friends of gay and lesbian persons also come forward and work for equality. The more Meghan McCains and Ted Coppacks we have in the GOP, the more the Republican party can shake off the shackles of bigotry.

    Tuesday, April 14, 2009

    Is the Religious Right Dead?

    It seems that whenever the Democrats are back in power there is talk about the demise of the Religious Right. Kathleen Parker, decides to bring up the end of the Christian right in her April 5 column. Blogger John Armstrong also wonders if this is the end of the road for the symbiotic relationship between the GOP and the Right. He, along with Parker, thinks there is a generational shift afoot that is changing the Christian Right:

    The "deals" made with the GOP took most evangelical Christians out of the Democratic Party for more than three decades. This is changing. I would maintain that both parties are deeply flawed, on different points and directions. Christians can and should be found in both parties, working to influence and change their party accordingly. But the Christian right absolutized issues into "moral" vs. "immoral." Thus a pro-life Democrat became a virtual impossibility until the last ten years. Large numbers of young people are now seeking a new way, many of them energized by Obama's campaign. (Boomers from the Christian right believe this is the equivalent of a massive apostasy!) Time will tell what all this means but I maintain the last thirty-plus years was a net loss to the cause of Christ and his kingdom in the culture. I also maintain that the mission of the church suffered huge loss in the process.

    Speaking as a gay Republican who has dealt with the Religious Right for a few years, I would be glad if the Religious Right were not as big a force in the GOP and in American culture. But I am not so convinced that this is the end of the Christian Right- at least not yet- for a few reasons.

    First, it's hard to determine the future of a movement after one setback. We have only had two elections where the Republican Party has loss seats and the White House. That could be a trend, but then again, it might not be. The far right still has power in many parts of the GOP and they aren't going to give up anytime soon. It might not happen, but what happens if Obama and the Democrats make a huge blunder between now and the midterms in 2010. We could see the Republicans come back into power and look for people like James Dobson to be happy again.

    Second, there is no visible counter movement in the GOP. Even if the GOP is weak in the wider society, as long as no one in the conservative movement is mounting an effective challenge against their hold on the Republican Party, then they will remain in power. If the Religious Right is losing power, then groups like Log Cabin Republicans, Real Republican Majority, Republican Majority for Choice, Republicans for Choice and the Republican Leadership Council should be working like mad to fill the gap and make sure they are no longer a force in the party. But most of these groups are either not taking the advantage or are so weak as to not really make a difference, at least at this time.

    All of this is to say that the Religious Right will not go quietly into that good night. If conservatives who don't identify with the Religious Right want to limit their influence, then we need to make sure of that and not just hope for the best.

    Monday, April 13, 2009

    "A Gayer GOP"

    If you have not read the latest article by Meghan McCain, you need to. The daughter of Senator John McCain talks about the importance of the Republican party becoming more tolerant of gays and lesbians. Here's a little sample:

    I am determined to build a more-inclusive GOP not by making us "sound" more inclusive, but by doing it. And I know people are out there waiting for it to happen. One of the speakers I’m most looking forward to meeting at the Log Cabin Republicans' convention is former New Jersey Governor Christie Todd Whitman. She’s a role model for women in politics, and she was also ahead of her time in calling for a more-inclusive Republican Party. Whitman began talking about the changes we need to see happen in the GOP years ago—way before it was popular, and way before conservatives had the guts to agree with her.

    It's always good to see gay Republicans speak up, but it is equally important to have our straight allies speak us as well. If McCain is a representative of her generation, than the GOP will need to shape up.

    Sunday, April 12, 2009

    The Coming Gay Republican Schism?

    Before I go any further, I need to let you all know that I have been a part of Log Cabin Republicans since 2002. I've served in various positions with the local chapter including a stint as President.

    Ben Smith over at Politico
    , revealed that there is a move a foot to create a rival organization for gay conservatives. The new group will be called GOProud and will launch next week.

    So, why the need for another gay conservative group? Because some believe that Log Cabin has become "too liberal" leaving no true conservative voice. Christopher Barron, one of the founders of GOProud and a former staffer with Log Cabin notes that there isn't much difference between Log Cabin and many gay left organizations:

    "It (Log Cabin) has simply moved way too far to the left and is basically indistinguishable from any other gay left organization."

    Barron also noted that focusing on issues that other gay groups tackle, like marriage is not something real Republicans deal with:

    "If your main issue is hate crimes or [federal anti-discrimination legislation] or marriage, you're probably not a Republican"

    Huh. Since two of those issues Barron mentioned, marriage and anti-discrimination laws are important to me, I probably won't be getting an invite to join.

    Bruce, over at Gay Patriot,
    seconds the notion of GOProud and is even more vocal about Log Cabin being nothing more than a center-left orgainzation:

    I am thrilled to help announce the birth of a new national gay conservative organization, GOProud. As long-time readers know I have been very critical of the national Log Cabin Republicans for many years.

    Their left-of-center positions on important issues have bothered me as LCR has continually sucked the teet of the Gay Leftist agenda. LCR’s silence and unwillingness to stand up and be vocal on true gay conservative issues (outing of Republican staffers, increasing threat of gays being selectively aborted, peril gays face by Islamic extremists) has been mind-boggling. And LCR’s continued obsession in trashing Republicans, yet letting Democrats get a pass on their gay-related hypocrisies, has been infruriating.

    So, what do I think about all of this as a gay Republican? Well, it's hard to judge a group that has even formed yet, but if some of the comments are any indication, I don't think I will be sending any money to them anytime soon.

    Does Log Cabin have problems? Yes. I disagree with the support for Hate Crimes legislation, which I disagree with on philosophical grounds. I also think they should have spoken more forcefully when gay GOP staffers were being outed. But that said, on the whole, this group has been a good organization showing that one can be gay and conservative.

    As for all this talk about how Log Cabin has become "liberal?" Pure bunk. Please tell me, what is "liberal" about wanted the right to civil marriage, or the right to not be fired from your job because you are gay? What is "liberal" about wanting to serve in our military? The "liberal" term is used by those who are more interested in a "small tent" GOP, than in creating a movement and working to make the party that we love a more tolerant and welcoming party. Just because I believe in that doesn't make me accept single-payer health care.

    As to the Gay Patriot's claim of trashing Republicans? Well, if someone is going around and saying bigoted things about gays, well it is the duty of a fellow Republican to call them on it. Anyways, Log Cabin has also praised Republicans who have stood up for inclusion. But probably for the Gay Patriot, they weren't the right kind of Republicans.

    Again, I could be wrong since the group's purposes have not been released yet, but I fear that GOProud will be a group of gay Republicans not so interested in making society and our own party, more tolerant of gays, than it is about preserving the status quo. It's interested in rallying around the GOP as it currently is and adding a dash of gayness to it. So they will promote the current GOP agenda, but do very little to change it. If that is there agenda, they are welcome to it, but I will remain with Log Cabin, imperfect as it is. My African American heritage and my upbringing in the Black church remind me that one must fight for their rights and that is what Log Cabin does.

    One of the reasons that I like Log Cabin is because it resembles what the GOP should be: a "Big Tent" kind of party. In my local group we have various stripes of conservatives, from pro-life to pro-choice, from Goldwater-style Republicans to Rockefeller Republicans. We are all different, but we come together under one roof. I don't know if GOProud is even interested in that kind of conservative diversity.

    Several years ago, law professor Dale Carpenter wrote an essay about the rift among gay Republicans. It wasn't as much a rift as it was two different ways of seeing things: those who were gay first and Republicans second, and those who were Republicans first, and gay second. There has always been a natural tension between the two groups and for a long time, Log Cabin has housed both groups.

    Come this week, one group will leave the Cabin. Will it make Log Cabin stronger? I don't know. But I do wonder what this will all mean down the road.

    Wednesday, April 08, 2009

    Say Goodnight, Norm.

    I have to agree with Ramesh Ponnuru; it's time for Norm Coleman to give up his fight for the Senate seat here in Minnesota.

    Now, I'm not a fan of Coleman, but I did vote for him because he was and is a better candidate than Al Franken. Franken comes accross as mean-spirited and while Coleman has been faulted with doing what the political winds told him to do, he was at least independent enough to be respected. Franken is nothing more than a liberal yes-man who will add nothing new to the Senate.

    That said, I think Coleman should give up his fight and let Franken have the Senate seat.

    Why? For some of the same reasons, Ponnuru says, we have been deprived of a Senator, it makes him look like a sore loser, and so on.

    Some Democrats and some in the media have long ago claimed that Coleman should do the honorable thing and drop out. Of course their claims were disingenuous, this wasn't an appeal to honor, as much as it was being "sore winners." (One doubts they would be asking Franken to do the honorable thing if the situation was reveresed.)

    But, Coleman should drop out with honor while he still has some. After nearly six months, the people of Minnesota want this election resolved. Yes, it means that the GOP loses one more seat and yes, liberals will talk about how great they are. But that's what happens in elections: one person wins and another loses.

    But the thing is, Franken may well be the vulnerable one here. Even if he is the winner, it is by a razor thing margin, which means that the Republicans will be lying in wait for 2014. If Coleman tries to keep fighting and manages to win, Democrats will see him as having stole the election and will make his next six years a living hell.

    So, Coleman should step down. Do something else for a few years and try a run again in 2012 or 2014.

    Sometimes one has to swallow their pride and let the other guy win. It's not fun and it sucks, but life sometimes sucks.

    Weekly Standard Gives Much Love to GOP Moderate

    It's not every day that the Weekly Standard gives praise to a so-called "RINO," or Republican in Name Only, but there is a favorable article about Illinois Representative Mark Kirk, a Republican that is strong on the environment and also has been a leading voice against the Obama budget.

    Maybe it's the fact that the Weekly Standard realizes that you need all kinds of Republicans to become a winning party. Let's hope it's not the last time the Standard does this.

    h/t David Frum

    Remembering Fair-Minded Republicans

    In recent weeks, we have seen several states make strides towards equality for gay aned lesbian Americans. Jeff Cook, a former staff person at the national office of Log Cabin and currently working with the New York state chapter of Log Cabin, has done a good job of letting people know of the brave Republicans that stood up for civil rights. You can read his posts on victories in Vermont, Iowa , Connecticut and Delaware.

    The GOP has a pretty sorry history when it comes to gay rights. That said, there are still Republicans who are willing to take a stand for equality, and they should be properly saluted for doing so.

    Kudos to these brave men and women.

    Friday, April 03, 2009

    Iowa Supremes Strike Down Gay Marriage Ban

    I had heard this decision was coming, but it's still surprising. The issue of same sex marriage (or civil unions for that matter) has been something that has happened out on the coasts, Massachusetts or California. Those opposed to same sex marriage could say that this was something that affected the liberal coasts and not the conservative heartland.

    Until now.

    I know that many will say that this ruling is allowing the court to legislate over the objections of the people of Iowa and there is a hint of truth to that. I would have perfer that this came from a vote of the state legislature instead of through the courts. But I will take a win when I see one.

    It wasn't that long ago that the idea of two people of the same gender getting married was an odd idea- too mundane for gays and too radical for straights. But as America has started to see gay people and learn about their lives and hopes and dreams, that idea that was once foreign isn't that strange anymore.

    This morning, Iowa just placed an exclaimation point on the idea of same sex marriage. Is gay marriage okay? YES!

    Wednesday, April 01, 2009

    But There's Nothing Wrong with Conservatives, Right?

    The race in the 20th Congressional District in New York is too close to call. Which should be a wake up call to those Dittoheads that that think there is nothing wrong with GOP these days. Here is what David Frum says:

    Too close to call? NY-20 is one of the most conservative districts in the northeast. Maybe the most conservative. The Republican candidate, Jim Tedisco, had experience and name ID. The GOP organization strongly backed him in a race recognized as one of the most important in the country this season. And it’s too close to call? If we cannot win NY-20 easily, where can we win?

    Now, the GOP probably can win somewhere, but it needs to be competative everywhere to be a real party. Frum goes on to note that there will be a lot of excuses given by the conservative talking heads, but at some point, there will need to be some real soul searching by leaders in the GOP.

    But of course, according to Rush Limbaugh, we don't need to do any soul-searching, right?

    Riiiiiiight. You just keep living in your dream world, Rush.