After their success in the midterm elections, many Republicans probably think their party is in pretty good shape and doesn't need to be saved. But one local GOP group is thinking long term. It argues that the party needs to moderate itself on social issues and attract gay voters in order to remain relevant, and it slams social conservatives as ignorant. Of course, it's a gay Republican group, and their message isn't going over well with other conservatives.
Benjamin Bullard, president and founder of the Sunshine Republicans, recently issued an open letter calling on the GOP to try and attract gay voters. He calls the social conservative segment of the party "out of step with mainstream America" and points to evidence that younger voters (who will someday, obviously be older voters) increasingly favor gay rights.
"Recently, the Republican Party has redefined itself as, shall we say, not-so-articulate or informed," writes Bullard. "They have cultivated an ignorant and misinformed base who blindly believe whatever their religious leaders tell them, and that is a bad situation for everybody."
He calls on LGBT voters who may agree with the party's economic stance not to be afraid to get involved with the GOP and change it from the inside.
"The open-minded perspective of the gay community is the exact remedy the ailing Republican Party needs right now," he continues. "While there are plenty of articulate gay Republicans already, they have stayed hidden in the GOP's closet too long."
Not all Republicans are welcoming the call. Florida conservative website the Shark Tank takes the trite road of painting gays as ridiculous because, gasp, sometimes there are dudes in little underwear dancing at gay pride parades.
"The gay community is ridiculed and has been cast aside by most in politics because of the way the community expresses itself -- a sort of in-your-face attitude about it," writes Javier Manjarres in response. "For example, every year in the month of June, gays from around the world hold 'pride' parades or gay demonstrations to celebrate their sexual preferences.
"At many of these events, you will see men dressed as women, with make-up and all. You will also see many of these celebrants wearing the most provocative clothing imaginable -- much of which is inappropriate and offensive in public settings. This, unfortunately, is the reputation that precedes and stifles the entire gay community throughout politics."
Does Manjarres not realize he's perfectly demonstrating the "not-so-articular or informed" views of the Republican party Bullard writes about? Without getting into the difference of opinion over such behavior at pride parades (believe us, there are plenty of gays who shudder at such displays and worry it paints the community in a bad light), pointing to such parades as something typical of all gay voters is about as ridiculous as pointing to Mardi Gras and similar events (you know the one where drunken straight guys throw beads at wasted girls for flashing their tits in public) as evocative of the straight community at large.
Certainly Ken Mehlman, the now-openly gay former former chair of the GOP, isn't dancing around in his Speedo on the street.
The point that Manjarres also misses, and perhaps Bullard doesn't drive home enough, is that even straight voters may take gay rights into account when they get to the voting booth. Holding on to increasingly out-dated bigotry and stereotypes isn't going to help the party much in the future.
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Of course, Bullard and his group might want to think about putting their money where their mouth is. They supported Allen West and Marco Rubio in the last election, and neither holds enlightened views on gay rights.
Here's Bullard letter in full:
Gays often view the Republican party as, at best, the group seeking to take away their rights, and at worst, the group looking to lock us away in queer concentration camps. But that's not really who the Republicans are. The true fundamental core of the Republican Party is fiscal conservatism and limited federal government, not so-called Christian "values." That condition was adopted during the Regan-era when party leaders discovered they could rally voters with the newly invented concept of a "moral majority."
The GOP can--and should--discover the gay community as a viable support system. Obviously there's a financial benefit, and we all know that money sways the political conversation. Likewise, the desire to control the government's size and spending is not impossible for gay brains to comprehend. In fact, gay business owners--and there are many in a community of over-achieving homosexuals--would prefer lower taxes. But more importantly, gays and lesbians can bring logical arguments to the GOP that religious fundamentalists can't. Gays understand that values-based policies are contrary to the idea of small government; they develop a "Big Brother" mentality, dictating how people should behave or live.
That socially conservative segment is out of step with mainstream America. Following California's vote on Proposition 8, numerous polls found that young adults didn't have a problem with same-gender marriage. The Pentagon's recent survey of 400,000 active duty troops and reservists showed that the majority of these soldiers didn't have a problem serving with a lesbian or gay service member. This new, young voting base needs to be courted if the Republicans want to stay viable in the coming years, but that can't happen if they're seen as the stodgy, backward-thinking party of their grandparents.
So why would going Republican benefit the LGBT community? Recently, the Republican Party has redefined itself as, shall we say, not-so-articulate or informed. They have cultivated an ignorant and misinformed base who blindly believe whatever their religious leaders tell them, and that is a bad situation for everybody. The worst outcome is that, inevitably, those same ignorant and misinformed constituents will eventually get into public office and start dictating how everyone lives--gays, non-Christians, mixed-race people, etc. It's time for some smart, well-spoken, educated gays to speak up. The open-minded perspective of the gay community is the exact remedy the ailing Republican Party needs right now. While there are plenty of articulate gay Republicans already, they have stayed hidden in the GOP's closet too long. There are also plenty of gay Independents and Democrats who have considered voting for certain Republicans but who have backed down for fear of ridicule in their own community. This is also the wrong move.
In the fight for equality, we need both parties to win. Without diversity we become caught in a simplistic "us versus them" struggle. LGBTs should stop running to anything blue simply because it isn't red. Rather, why not give today's homely GOP the makeover it needs? If you see a problem, be prepared to fix it or don't bother complaining. As the saying goes, if the problem is the regime, then the time has come for a regime change.
This is about taking our fight to the front lines and winning over those who don't agree with us. Sure, stepping into "enemy territory" is scary, but activism often is. The gay community needs to send a wake-up call to both parties that our votes are up for grabs and as such they need to take our needs seriously if they want our support. If Republican candidates don't dismiss gay votes as beyond their reach, they're more likely to take moderate positions. The end result would be a Congress that doesn't vote purely down party lines. And, through this, we can shift the center.
Make no mistake, the winning strategy is centrism. From civil rights and tax cuts to small business benefits, this is a scenario where everybody wins--gay and straight alike. With skillful intervention we can have a stronger position at the table to debate LGBT issues