Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Will the GOP's Anti-Gay Strategy Come to Haunt It?

Looking at long term demographic trends and the changing views of younger generations of voters on LGBT equality and same sex marriage, I've argued before that the GOP is committing a long term form of suicide if it continues to pander to elderly, anti-gay generations that are literally going to be gone within the next 10 to 15 years. Now, Michelangelo Signorile has a column in The Advocate that looks at this same issue of why the GOP's divisive and anti-gay political strategy may ultimately come to haunt the Party. Here are some highlights (read the entire column):

Is it possible that a sinister strategy that worked so well for Republicans in election cycle after election cycle — throwing out antigay red meat to its ravenous, energetic, evangelical base — could actually, finally be the party’s undoing? Pointing to the GOP’s nasty, homophobic actions could actually work in the Democrats’ favor.

Stephen Hill, who is serving in Iraq, was among those asked to present questions to the candidates during the Fox News–Google debate in Orlando, Fla., in September. He identified himself as gay and asked former U.S. senator Rick Santorum if he would bring back “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Before Santorum could give his answer (which was a resounding, ugly “yes!”) audience members booed at Hill’s mere mention of the fact that he is gay. Neither Santorum nor any of the other candidates stood up to the bigotry at the event.

It’s yet another indication of how vulnerable Republicans are on the gay issue, captive to their increasingly extreme base while the American mainstream is moving forward rapidly. And it’s something Democrats and the media should pick up on, point out forcefully, and run with.

[T]he booing would not have taken off as a controversy and outraged so many Americans if a majority had not also come to believe — as the polls have shown us — that gay and lesbian Americans should have full civil rights.

Indeed, all of a sudden Republicans would rather not talk about gay rights, after years of using it as an issue to fire up their base. Look at the GOP debates for evidence. Not until the Fox News–Google debate, the seventh one, which solicited questions from Americans online, did we see LGBT issues raised much at all, including the issue of marriage, . . .

Born-again Michele Bachmann, a darling of the Christian right when she was a Minnesota state legislator who tried to get a marriage amendment passed, didn’t want to discuss her antigay positions with reporters throughout the early part of the campaign, when she was surging in the polls and trying to appeal to the mainstream. She wanted to discuss her husband Marcus’s “pray away the gay” program at his Christian counseling centers even less. Only when her candidacy plummeted did she begin publicly addressing gay issues, desperately turning to the religious right to jump-start her dead campaign.

The LGBT cause is now something for the Democrats to use to their advantage and indeed as a wedge against the GOP.

The history of the Defense of Marriage Act is yet another example. Ever since the Department of Justice decided not to defend DOMA, leaving it to Republicans in Congress to hire a lawyer to do so, House speaker John Boehner, in statement after statement, has treated defending DOMA more like a chore than something he’s passionate about.

Boehner has been on the defensive ever since. Six House Democrats spearheading the DOMA repeal have demanded a briefing from the outside counsel the House hired, former Bush solicitor general Paul Clement, pointing to his use of arguments that are based on antigay junk science and opinion.

The defensiveness is all the more reason why President Obama, if he wants to capitalize on the issue, needs to evolve on marriage now. He has nothing to lose (most of those opposed to marriage equality are already opposed to him) and everything to gain, as the Democratic Party base and the LGBT community would be enthusiastic, working in full force to get him reelected at a time when polls show Democratic voters to be disillusioned. More so, the president should be speaking out on anti–gay marriage amendments in Minnesota and North Carolina, and pointing to the GOP’s recklessness, intolerance, and waste of taxpayer dollars at this time.

With the GOP on the ropes over gay issues, it’s time for Democrats to deliver a knockout punch and end its political gay-bashing once and for all.

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