Toward a Bipartisan Future

by Stephen H. Miller on March 17, 2012

Another promising new organizational leader is the Gill Action Fund’s Kirk Fordham. As the Washington Blade reports:

Growing up in a Christian and Republican family, Fordham said he also has experience with parents who initially were unhappy about his sexual orientation, but later came to terms with it, and he knows what it takes to change the hearts and minds of people like them. …

A lifelong Republican, Fordham currently serves as CEO of Everglades Foundation, but has had experience working for several GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill, even some with anti-gay records. …

Fordham said he “absolutely” plans on reaching out to Republican lawmakers to influence them on LGBT issues and he knows “how to speak their language.”

Along with the impressive R. Clark Cooper at Log Cabin, the team at GOProud, and perhaps Chad Griffin, newly named head of the Human Rights Campaign (a liberal Democratic activist who has reached out to and worked with Republicans), the broader LGBT movement may yet realize that focusing on electing and lobbying Republicans who are socially libertarian (and preferably fiscally conservative) is the best way to make the Democrats less complacent toward us.

{ 8 comments }

Tom Scharbach March 18, 2012 at 9:11 am

First, it is good news that GAF seems ready to move the battle for equality into the red states and, I hope, into the Republican Party itself. Given the work that needs to be done in the next decade (repealing anti-marriage amendments from 2004 and 2006 and rolling back a myriad of related anti-equality legislation in the red states), it is time to make that move, as Stephen correctly, points out.

It is particularly good news because GAF is important in a way that more visible organizations are not. Acting under the radar as it does, GAF works to turn carefully targeted state-level races, helping elect pro-equality candidates without drawing attention to the fact. In socially conservative rural areas, in particular, that makes a real difference.

So bully for them. GAF has been the most effective pro-equality organization in politics, in my opinion, and GAF is doing the right thing.

Second, I want to make my usual quiet reminder that pro-equality conservatives need to get involved in party politics and local/state races to turn the party. Outside money, like “Gil money” (as we call it in Wisconsin) can help turn a targeted race (and because GAF targets carefully, that’s important), but outside money isn’t going to change the Republican party’s anti-equality culture. The culture will change if and only if pro-equality Republicans get to work, as those of us on the progressive side of politics have done in the Democratic Party for several decades.

Third, with respect to efforts to “make the Democrats less complacent toward us“, that is a coin with two sides, one side being the Democratic Party and the other side being the Republican Party.

On the Democratic side of the coin, we have made gains over the last thirty years, and our work has born fruit, as is witnessed by the heavily pro-equality votes from Democratic legislators in recent years in the states and at the federal level. It is not an accident. It is the result of hard work, spanning decades, by gays and lesbians, and pro-equality straights.

The fact that a number of state Democratic parties in the “heartland” — read “red” or “purple” states — will adopt marriage equality planks this year is an indication of the progress we’ve made, whether or not the national party comes through with a marriage equality plank.

We’ve got our work to do on the Democratic side, obviously, and we keep working at it, but we’ve moved the Democratic Party to the point where the culture of the party is pro-equality.

It is important, though, to look at the other side of the coin, as well. The Democratic Party does not operate in a political vacuum, and the Republican Party influences the political landscape in which Democratic politicians work. The primary reason that the Democratic Party can even think of remaining “complacent” (if that is the right word for a party that repealed DADT, refuses to defend DOMA, and so on) is that the Republican Party currently offers no competition at all for pro-equality votes.

If you doubt that, look at where we are this year. Republican politicians continue to actively push the anti-equality agenda in state after state (even to the point of working to repeal marriage equality in several states where the majority opinion seems to be pro-equality), and the Republican standard-bearer in 2012 (whether Romney, Gingrich or Santorum) will be on record as supporting hard-line, anti-equality positions up and down the line.

That’s not good. President Obama, for example, may be “evolving” (his latest baby step is to have come out against the North Carolina anti-marriage amendment) rather than leading, but his Republican opponents are “de-evolving”, taking harder anti-quality stances in 2012 than did the late and unlamented President Bush in earlier years. That’s really bad news, and there is no way around it.

Fourth, I think that it is time to point out the obvious, in light of the current anti-equality culture of the Republican Party: In 2012, a vote for a candidate who takes anti-equality positions is an anti-equality vote.

The battle for equality has progressed to the point where it is no longer possible to evade the stark truth of the matter — voting for anti-equality politicians will prolong inequality. It is a choice. Each and every pro-equality conservative has to make the choice, and accept the responsibility for the choice that they make. The days when pro-equality conservatives could say “it doesn’t make any difference” are gone.

TomJeffersonIII March 18, 2012 at 10:47 am

I am more and more convinced that — in terms of gay fights — it is less of an issue of elected Democrats versus elected Republicans. You have Democrats and Republicans who will vote against gay rights bills or push for anti-gay laws.

Yes, more in one major party then the other tend to be anti-gay, but in more conservative districts or States, elected candidates in both parties are probably not going to be great.

Tom Scharbach March 18, 2012 at 1:55 pm

… the team at GOProud …

Unlike LCR and HCR, GOProud doesn’t seem to have come out in favor marriage equality (or, for that matter, even marriage-equivalency) yet. Have I missed a change of heart?

craig274 March 18, 2012 at 4:13 pm

If you can get Republicans who don’t support marriage equality to still vote to repeal “don’t ask” and maybe support extending some types of federal recognition to gay couples short of marriage, that is still progress.

Houndentenor March 19, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Democrats are afraid to vote for gay rights for fear that Republicans will use that vote in the next election and beat them. In some cases they are probably right.

Tom Scharbach March 20, 2012 at 9:49 am

Afraid or not, most all of the Democrats vote on the right side, state after state.

TomJeffersonIII March 23, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Yes, it is interesting. I was talking with a young gay Republican recently about this very fact. When elected Democrats tend to be leery of supporting gay rights it is because they fear the Republican party or challenger will use it as proof that they hate God, family values or whatever the latest buzzword is and the well financed Fox-conservative press will be on hand to help.

Yeah, In more socially conservative States or districts, it can be difficult to tell the two candidates apart on gay rights issues. This can like, kinda totally suck, because we only have two candidates to choose from.

The main difference seems to be that the Democrat will basically avoid the issue all together and maybe be willing to quietly support some bills down the road. Where as the Republican will be openly hostile, use his hostility in his campaign and do everything he can to roll back any State or Federal progress.

My young gay Republican friend was upset about this, but did not feel like he really could do much about it. He does vote in the primaries, not that seems to do much and he did go to a GOP caucus, but was not welcomed.

He wants to run for public office somewhere down the road, but frankly he is not sure that he will be able to do so as a Republican.

TomJeffersonIII March 23, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Although…if I may add one more comment. Over some ‘pillow talk’, we wondered about the prospect of some sort of group that help train/give money to openly gay people to run for public office.

Yeah, their is the gay and lesbian victory fund, but this would be focused less on getting openly GLBT into office and more on getting more GLBT to run for office, major party, minor party, independent or whatever.

In the short term that was all that we really could thing about. At least, that would maybe get more gay Republicans and gay Democrats and gay Independents on the ballot/running for public office.

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