How Gays Can Save the Republican Party
This year, 1 out of 3 gay voters voted Republican—12% more than the previous election. This statistic has caused a lot of people to ask, “Why?” The best answer, however, is “Why not?”
Sarah Palin warned in her book Going Rogue of a gay takeover of the GOP. Most discount Palin as being an opportunist who spouts off rhetoric rather than facts in her speeches, but she may be onto something here. Turning that paranoid conspiracy into reality may be exactly what the Republican party, the gay community, and the country as a whole needs. (And what better way to piss off anti-gay bigots?).
If real change is what the LGBT community is looking for in society, then it’s time for the gays to save the Republican party and bring the kind of fresh ideas that voters have been waiting for.
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 Reagan-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 members. 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. Even if you don’t agree with a particular position it is important to recognize the benefits of debating the pros and cons of public policy.
This is our fight, and we double our chances if we play both sides.
Brett Edward Stout is a University of Iowa graduate, Marine Corps veteran, and author of the novel Sugar-baby Bridge.
Photo illustration: Wayne Acree