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Log Cabin (Republican) Syrup

April 23rd, 2009 1 comment

A gay friend of mine moved from New Haven, CT (he was a Yale professor) to Columbus, Ohio for a year. His dating life, he told me, was a disaster: “Every guy I met told me on the first date that he was a Log Cabin Republican.” There were no second dates.

http://www.otrcat.com/z/log_cabin_syrup_1938.jpg

For  those who don’t know, the Log Cabin Republicans are a gay advocacy group that, roughly, adheres to certain “old school”  Republican values like lower taxes and limited government (federalism, as convenient, too) while pressing for LGB (but not always T) equality. They’re mostly a bunch of well-to-do white guys. Their argument for existence is that they can work within to transform the Republican Party in what is, after all, a two-party system.

I’m not one of them. My politics are decidedly to the left, and I generally favor a substantial role for government in working towards social justice (while realizing the limits of this reliance, the benefits of markets,  and the importance of grass roots advocacy and effort). And my  view of the group wasn’t exactly improved after an argument in 2004 with one Log Cabin member who, to my astonishment, supported Bush over Kerry, even asserting that there was “no difference” between them on gay issues. We were (not close)  friends before this, not at all after that.

But there he was in late 2008, at a March for Equality in Philadelphia. We walked together. He stated that he’d been an Obama supporter, and that the Republican party was in danger of becoming a “fringe.” I then regretted my boorish behavior in 2004 (I wasn’t exactly civil, I’m afraid) and sent him an email of apology. His response was more than gracious, and he owned some responsibility, too. I wisely refrained from asking about his continued association with the Log Cabin.

Now I’m feeling a bit more charitable towards the group. A recent story reported that the Log Cabin had been involved in getting the leadership of the Republican Party in the New York Senate to allow its members to “vote their conscience” on the pending marriage equality bill. Given that at least four Democrats are poised to vote “no,” this step could spell the difference between success and failure. It would be neither fair nor charitable to deny that the group has had success in galvanizing what’s left of the moderate wing of the Republican party; as a sign of their effect, they and Meghan McCain apparently have a thing goin’ on, too. If she’s the face of young Republicans (or at least enough of them), then we can have a legitimate debate about policy that takes equality as a given and moves on from there.

But I’m still not syrupy sweet on the Log Cabin. They support formal equality, and their blog lists some recent accomplishments at the state legislative level that are, frankly, impressive. But what about addressing the deep and underlying inequities of race, gender, and even sexual orientation  and gender identity? Formal equality doesn’t really get to those messier issues. Marriage equality won’t help an adult woman who needs time off to take care of her ailing sister or grandchild, neither of whom is covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act. A law prohibiting discrimination in the workplace doesn’t address the issue of whether employees make a living wage.

But they’re not the only group that focuses on formal equality, and, if I’m being fair about it, they seem to be making more inroads lately than the national, non-partisan Human Rights Campaign, whose efforts on hate crimes, anti-discrimination laws, and repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act have yet to bear fruit. (Here’s an example of their behind-the-scenes achievements, though.)

So am I ready to enter a post-partisan era? Nah.

OMG! Meghan McCain, Like, Totally Gets It!

March 12th, 2009 No comments

Go here to find comments by the Arizona Senator’s daughter about the dismal state of the Republican party. She sees that Democrats right now are about 1,000 times cooler than members of her own party (being a Republican is about “as edgy as Donny Osmond,” she says). (According to her website playlist, McCain herself is pretty cool at least along one axis: Her website playlist includes artists ranging from flavor-of-the-month Lily Allen, to Charlie Parker, to the sludgy “Our Lady Peace.”)

But her criticism goes way beyond the GOP’s coolness gap: Warming to her task, she then expresses her disagreement with the party’s positions on stem cell research and marriage equality. She even offers this startling statement:

“Where has our extreme thinking gotten us? President Bush will go down as one the least popular presidents in history. I constantly hear stories about Republicans who previously worked for President Bush and my father feeling ostracized, unable to get jobs in D.C. right now.”

If I were a Republican strategist (about as likely as my being selected as host of Saturday Night Live), I’d say: Listen to this woman!

But no: Instead, the clownish Rush Limbaugh (played masterfully by the Obama Administration) elicits oohs and ahhs from the party faithful, while the comically inept RNC Chairman Michael Steele again finds himself in the soup for daring to suggest that the abortion issue should be left to the states (not, as he was “accused” of, stating that every woman should have the right to make that choice — no sirree!). Mike Huckabee and Ken Blackwell (his former rival for a position that now has all of the “earmarks” of a booby prize) jumped all over him, with Blackwell huffing that Steele needs to “re-read the Bible, the U.S. Constitution, and the 2008 GOP Platform.” So much for Steele’s promised — oh, and risible as well as cringeworthy — “hip hop makeover” of the party.

Let me offer some unsolicited advise for a quick, if incomplete, fix for the party’s problem; one suggested by Meghan McCain’s statements, above. The Republican governor of Vermont, Jim Douglas, should sign the marriage equality bill when, as is expected, it passes the state legislature. As his website discloses, Douglas is fairly progressive — a necessity for a politician in left-leaning Vermont. Yet he has signaled an intent to veto the bill, on the factually insupportable ground that the state’s civil union law is sufficient; and for the facially inane reason that the state has too many other serious problems, what with the collapsing economy and all. (Look again at the website for a list of the things he’s doing and tell me this argument passes the straight-face test.)

I’m no expert on Vermont politics, but I suspect Governor Douglas would suffer no significant backlash from signing the bill. And he might also help change his party’s image for the better. Almost certainly, this means it won’t happen. The GOP seems intent on marginalizing itself at every opportunity.

David Brooks, writing about the financial crisis, puts the party’s current ineptitude succinctly: “If Republicans were to treat this like a genuine emergency, with initiative-grabbing approaches, they may not get their plans enacted, but voters would at least give them another look. Do I expect them to shift course in this manner? Not really.”

He’s probably right, but maybe Governor Douglas can break the destructive spell.