Tuesday, August 15, 2006
by Wayne Besen
(Weekly Column) - Click here to listen to Wayne's column
I have long endorsed the political strategy of supporting both GLBT friendly Democrats and Republicans. For pragmatic reasons, it made sense not to put all of our eggs in one basket. However, that was before the GOP leadership was hijacked by right wing basket cases. Sadly, I think it is time for the GLBT movement to reassess the political landscape and consider saying goodbye to bipartisanship.
The defenders of the status quo will claim that loyalty is an important commodity in politics and this is why we must continue to back friendly Republicans. How can we abandon those who voted with us, they ask?
This circular reasoning reminds me of the "cut and run" argument for keeping our troops in Iraq. In essence, we should continue to adhere to a failed plan and bleed because we have promised loyalty to a situation that might not be salvageable. And, in my estimation, the Republican Party's hostility towards gay people is not something that can easily be fixed. The entire party will have to collapse and remake itself into an entity that does not exploit fear and prejudice before GLBT people can return.
While most Republicans are not anti-gay, the party is still the undeniable home for most haters and homophobes. Whether it is placing anti-marriage measures on the ballot, the Southern Strategy that fanned the flames of racial dissension or igniting fear of immigrants, the GOP has long pandered to bigots and theocrats and still considers them important constituencies. Fear is the commodity in which the Republican Party profits and until they are soundly crushed, they will win elections on the backs of GLBT families.
For those that say we must be loyal to supportive Republicans, I must question how loyal these officials are to us. These "friendly" candidates get our checks as we put out our necks for their reelection. Our reward for such allegiance is the continued reign of Speaker Dennis Hastert and Senate majority Leader Bill Frist. I'm no salesman, but this doesn't sound like a good deal.
Republican members of Congress in Blue states ought to be strongly urged to become Democrats or at least Independents if they want the support of GLBT organizations. Environmental and Pro-Choice groups ought to take the same principled stand, unless they think oil executives setting our energy policy and the ascension of John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court have helped their respective causes.
I want to be clear that I still feel that bipartisanship is the best long-term plan. There is no substitute for broad based support that ensures less volatility with each election cycle. However, such a cross-aisle coalition is a fantasy until the GOP becomes a mainstream party that does not prosper by sowing the sulfur seeds of division. When Republicans finally leave the thrall of Neo Puritan preachers, the GLBT community can again responsibly resume bipartisanship.
Moderate Republicans have more to gain than anyone by temporarily abandoning the GOP. The quicker the Pat Robertson/James Dobson crowd is expunged and sent back into the woodwork, the sooner moderates can step-in to reclaim their party.
Indeed, the old saw for bipartisanship was that the crusty old fashioned Congressional members of the GOP just needed to meet gay people and be educated on our issues. Once this occurred, they would abandon their hostility and vote for equality.
Well, guess what? Gay people have been visible now for more than thirty years. These conservatives have had ample opportunity to meet and greet gay lobbyists in their Capitol Hill offices. Yes, they have seen us in our finely tailored suits and geeky bow ties, yet they still cynically tie us to a radical agenda. This can no longer be excused as ignorance, nor explained as anything but malice.
The enlightenment our community had banked on did not occur. The only epiphany GOP leaders had upon hearing our heartfelt personal stories was that they could win elections by demonizing us. They care not how many families are destroyed or how many gay youth commit suicide because of their dehumanizing rhetoric.
Bipartisanship looks good on paper, but the disastrous consequences that have come from this strategy cannot be papered over. If we help give Republicans a slim majority by endorsing and helping to reelect our so-called friends, the reception to our agenda on Capitol Hill will continue to be quite unfriendly.
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