Tag Archives: Culture War

The Minnesota Moderate Massacre

Okay, it’s probably not as bad as the title suggests, but as Tyler Craft notes, it is rather disturbing what the Minnesota Republican Party did to 18 of its own a few days ago.

During the 2010 gubernatorial race here in Minnesota, a number of high profile moderates within the state party decided to back Tom Horner, a former moderate Republican analyst who broke with the party and ran a losing third party bid for governor.  Some persons on the state central committee pinned the close election loss between the GOP candidate Tom Emmer and the Democratic candidate and now governor-elect Mark Dayton on these moderates.  The punishment is basically banishment from any GOP activities for 2 years.

I know that there are many who are very conservative and will say, “serves them right.”  But I also wonder what effect this will have on the whole GOP.  Will other states follow suit and look for ways to purge moderates?  Would the GOP be successful as a party where there is uniformity of thought? 

GOP state chair Tony Sutton seems to think that the party is more sucessful now than it was when the brand of Republicanism practiced by these banished moderates was vouge.  The reality though, is rather mixed.  Former governor Arne Carlson won two terms, David Durenberger was in office from 1978 to 1994.  The current GOP has control of the state legislature, but has been swept out of all the constitutional offices. 

Demographer Joel Kotkin notes that two factors will determine which political party will have clout in the future.  If the factor of demography wins, then the Democrats will write the future. If the geography wins, then the GOP will own the time to come.

If the “red states” with their emphasis on growth lead the way, then I wouldn’t expect the GOP to moderate anytime soon.  If, the changing demographics of America, with its emphasis on the growing Latino population and the rise of the multicultural-minded Millenials  become the driving force in American politics, then Tony Sutton will have to eat his words.

Time will tell if the GOP will remain a political home for me.  The future is not looking bright for me.

The Establishment vs. the Tea Party, Round Two

Josh Krushaar of National Journal notes several Republican Senators might be facing primary challenges in 2012, and not all of them are “squishy moderates.”  One of those with the biggest target is Senator Richard Lugar:

Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., is the poster child for Republicans putting their political health at risk. The six-termer is all but daring conservatives to challenge him, refusing to sign onto an earmark ban and being outspoken in supporting the New START nuclear weapons treaty. He’s his party’s leading maverick when his political survival is most threatened, and has already drawn interested challengers, even though he faced no Republican or Democratic opponent in 2006.

Two Republican officeholders are interested in running against Lugar. One of them, state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, received the most statewide votes of any Indiana candidate this year. The other, state Sen. Mike Delph, writes on his legislative site he is “increasingly concerned with” Lugar’s actions.

If Lugar loses a primary, Republicans would have to concentrate on an otherwise safe seat, as Democrats would likely find a credible candidate, unlike 2006. Indiana is friendly to Republicans, but they would still have to spend resources to defend the seat.

Not surprisingly, Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, well known moderate, is also vulnerable and if she goes down in a primary, it might be a pickup for the Democrats:

In Maine, Sen. Olympia Snowe is different. If she loses the nomination, Democrats would be favored. She’s forged a moderate path in a Democratic state with longstanding success, but has never faced a serious challenge from her right. That could change as tea party groups make noise, particularly in the wake of getting their favored gubernatorial choice, Paul LePage, elected in November.

The state’s closed primary system only allows registered Republicans to choose their nominee, making Snowe potentially vulnerable. Like Rep. Michael Castle, R-Del., who lost to an insurgent in a closed primary, Snowe is widely popular but less so among dedicated primary voters.

Snowe is highlighting her conservative credentials, voting for the earmark ban, emphasizing her fiscal stinginess and trumpeting her alliance with LePage. None ring particularly authentic.

As both parties become more and more ideologially pure, we should expect more primary challenges for those that go against the grain.

Why Sarah Entrances Us So

TimothyDalrymple has a great post about the fascination the nation has with Sarah Palin.  He notes that it has less to do with her policies than it does about what she stands for:

The loving and loathing, at least for most, have little to do with her past or her policies. They have to do with her persona. For the populist Right, Sarah Palin is a personification of all that is still good about America: rugged individualism and bootstrapping success, toughness and pluck, firm devotion to Christian family values, a commitment to the cause of life, and the kind of folk wisdom that cannot be gained through graduate degrees but is packaged in common sense and reinforced through the experience of a hardscrabble life. Palin also represents the blue-collar and no-collar ideal of a leader who comes up from the general ranks in a time of great trial in order to restore sanity and common-sense clarity to a government gone mad.

For the cultural elitists on the Left, Palin lacks everything they pride themselves on possessing, possesses everything they pride themselves on scorning, and stands for everything they pride themselves on opposing. She lacks cosmopolitan tastes and elite university credentials, a well-worn passport and fluency in foreign tongues, a blueblood vocabulary and literary speech patterns, not to mention a fashionable address and a vacation home on Martha’s Vineyard. She possesses a beauty-queen title and the wrong kind of good looks, a large brood of lily-white children with outdoorsy names like Track and Piper, a commoner’s cadence and a steady supply of you-betcha folksy phrases, and a background in conservative white evangelical and even Pentecostal churches. And she stands for the defense of the unborn, for heterosexual marriage, for premarital abstinence, for the extraction of our natural resources, for small government and second amendment rights, for conservative Judeo-Christian traditions and for American exceptionalism.

Dalrymple makes the case that Ms. Palin has become the personification of the ongoing culture wars.  While it’s no secret where Dalrymple is on this issue, he does have some cautionary notes for both the left and the right:

There are cautionary notes here both for the Left and for the Right. The Left should understand that their scorn for Sarah Palin is of the same stream as their scorn for a wide swath of fellow Americans. It does not show their good side. Progressives of good will can recognize, I think, that they dislike Palin in part because they dislike the kind of people who support Palin, the kind of people she represents. The stereotypes and prejudices made manifest in their hatred for Palin are deeply unbecoming, and only serve to fuel the devotion to Palin for many on the Right.

For the Right, the cautionary note is this. It is partly because so much of the opposition to her is cultural that we also find high-culture conservatives who dislike her, from Peggy Noonan and Barbara Bush to Michael Gerson and Karl Rove. But Palin supporters would be mistaken if they assumed that this was the only reason why Republican elites are wary. There are legitimate concerns about her experience in national and international matters, her electability, and her political judgment. These are not the insults of enemies, but the concerns of friends. Is Sarah Palin the best electable candidate from the conservative ranks? And even if she were electable, would she, amongst all the electable candidates, make the best President? Even if we like her, and even if we could get her elected, should we? Is she ready for what is arguably the toughest and most consequential job in the world, the performance of which could lead to prosperity or to calamity for our country?

Palin is the proxy for the ongoing culture war and I’m beginning to think that the culture war distract us from bigger issues that really need attention.

The Man Trap

One of the knocks against blogger Andrew Sullivan is his fascination with Sarah Palin, to point of wondering whether or not her youngest child is really hers or not.  He has been pilloried on the right for this, but he has also recieved a few knocks from the center and the left as well for writing about the former governor day-in and day-out. I know personally, I’ve not read Sullivan the way I used to once, and part of the reason comes from his staying focused on Palin.

Now it seems that David Frum is heading down the same path.  Frum is a smart-writer and thinker, and I’ve been pleased to have some of my writings show up at FrumForum.  But lately he has also been focusing on Palin a bit too much. 

It’s been puzzling enough to me to wonder why Palin has become such a fixation on the Left, but it is even moreso a mystery why some centrists and conservatives are also obessesed with her.

I’ve been wondering why Sullivan and Frum are so Palin-obessed.  Why do we care about woman that didn’t even serve a term for governor?  Why do folks who used to be or are on the right want to pore through every book she’s written and watch her reality TV series?

I asked this question to frequent commenter Bubbaquimby who replies:

I think they see in her the manifestation of everything they see that is wrong with the GOP (anti-elite, very socially conservative, uncompromisable, more rhetoric than substance, etc). So they see themselves as heroes off to slay the evil dragon.

For one they are just preaching to the choir and in someways go off the deep end with craziness (more so Sullivan). They have really convinced themselves that she has a chance of winning the nomination. I just don’t see it, granted I don’t even think she will run.

But what I find odd is, wouldn’t they want her to win? I mean her getting trounced by Obama in some ways would be the best thing to moderate GOP. It would be like what Mondale/Dukakis did for the Dems.  It finally killed off the old left.

To which I say: yup.  Sullivan and Frum are the only ones obessed with Palin, but for those who are worried about the direction the Republican Party is taking, Palin provides away to package all those fears into one person.  She becomes the living embodiement of the modern GOP.  Now that we have a known demon, we can hurl all our hate towards it and feel like something is getting done.

In a slightly more odd take, the blogger zomblog thinks there is a sexual thing going on with Palin- haters.  I don’t know if I buy his take, his point  that seeing her as some kind of sexy, evil bully gives the opponent a sort of moral superiority makes a whole lot of sense.

But while it might make the opponent feel good, I wonder if it also prevents said person from actually doing anything else.  Palin obession reminds me of the Star Trek episode called “The Man Trap.”  A creature that needs salt shapeshifts into attractive women to lure men.  She then is able to extract the salt from the men leaving them dead.

So it is with Palin obession.  People are drawn to her and start attacking her.  They build her up as an unstoppable threat to GOP and to America.  It drains the energy of fellow conservatives from focusing on how to reform conservatism.  Why do you want to talk about tax policy or new ideas, when you can focus on what is seemingly the source of all your problems?

Sarah Palin isn’t the source of all that’s wrong in the GOP.  The problems are pretty complex and the solutions even moreso.  But the more we all focus on her every move the more power she draws from us.

As Bubba notes, focusing so much on what’s wrong with the GOP and/or conservatism is a dangerous game.  Conservative critics start focusing so much on what’s wrong with conservatism, the stop focusing on what’s right.  That’s what happened with Andrew Sullivan.  He righly focused on some of the drawbacks of modern conservatism, but then started focusing on them so much that conservatism became nothing more than its weaknesses and not its strengths.

If there is one conservative writer that has learned not to focus on Palin, it would be David Brooks.  He has written about the GOP and conservatism’s shortcomings, but he has also written about what is good with conservatism and has provided some ideas to boot.

In the end, if conservatism is to be reformed, we have to move forward and not get tied up in distractions like Sarah Palin.  Don’t fall for her lures.

ReRepost: Why Moderate Republicans Suck

This was originally posted in the Spring of 2009. When I talk about the lack of moderate conservative blogs, I didn’t mention Frum Forum, which has become a go-to place for people not crazy about the hard right.

Okay, that the above title might be a bit harsh.  But even so, we Moderates really are in a world of hurt.

The moderate/liberal movement in the GOP that once had the likes of Thomas Dewey and Dwight Eisenhower is barely alive these days. Some of that is due to the fact that social conservatives have driven moderates out of the party with their emphasis on issues like abortion and gay rights as litmus tests.  As David Jenkins has reported, hard right conservatives have done what they can to get rid of GOP leaders that are deemed not Republican enough.

So, one important reason that there is not a thriving moderate movement in the GOP is because the party has done a good job at trying to purge us from the party.

Many a writer tends to stop at that point and not ask anymore questions. The belief is that the current Republican leadership, which tends to be made up of hard right conservatives, needs to be more open to moderates. Of course, this is true.  Even though the current leadership is far more conservative, they need to be willing to bend on certain issues, especially in those swing districts.  What works in a Republican dominated area, doesn’t work in all areas. This is what helped bring Democrats back into dominance: they ran more conservative Democrats in areas that were swing districts.  It tended to work swimmingly for them.

But this is only part of the story.  Bloggers and journalists tend to write what is the easy story: narrow minded Republicans harrassing their more moderate brethren. But there is another part of the story that tends to be missing, though some people do catch it now and then.

The missing story is the lack of a credible countermovement within the GOP, a movement for change. When one talks of Moderate Republicans, we talk of basically a loose group of individuals who are basically on their own. For example, take Senator Arlen Specter, who until recently was a moderate Republican. After he voted for the stimulus package, he recieved a fair amount of protests from Republican groups.

The image in the media was of a lone Republican Senator against a phalanx of hard right groups. In the end, Specter decided to leave.

This image has been seen again and again. A lone, moderate Republican legislator is attacked, not by a collection of cranks, but by organized groups that have the money and more importantly, the people to take down those who are not pure.

The lesson here is simple, the hard right is a movement. There are groups of like-minded individuals that come together and are able to force change in the party. A single person realizes they are part of a larger movement and that gives them the stregnth to march forward.

On the other side, moderates are at best a collection of individuals.  We tend to feel lost and alone and don’t feel a connection to anything greater than us. Because we are isolated, we don’t feel as empowered and tend to give up easily.

If the GOP is to moderate, then there needs to be an effective moderate movement within the GOP forcing change. Nothing will ever happen unless these collection of frustrated individuals come together and organize.

Hence, why we moderates suck.

What conservatives in the Republican party have done over time is to create a culture that could sustain them.  Think tanks, magazines, organizations and blogs have all been developed to foster this culture. Yes, it has been inward focus and it does have its weaknesses, but what this conservative culture is good at is empowering people, making them believe that it is in their power to change things.

The reason moderates do not feel so empowered is because we have no discernable culture or movement to back us up and give us meaning.  The result is that we feel adrift and powerless to make a difference.

There are many ways to help build a credible movement of moderate to liberal Republicans.  I want to focus on a few area where there is a weakness.

Blogs. There are many blogs on the far left (ie: Daily Kos, Huffington Post) and on the far right (ie: RedState, Hot Air) that cater to those parts of the political spectrum. Some have many readers, some have a few.  But all of them have something in common: they reinforce a person’s political viewpoint. Now, many of these partisan blogs are more heat than light on the political issues of the day. They are more cheerleaders than they are trying to think about issues.  In the past, I would have said that being a cheerleader is of little value, and to some extent, I still believe that. However, there is also a case to be made that a little cheerleading for your side can make one feel that they are part of a greater movement; that they are not alone in how they feel of think.

When one goes to look for blogs of moderate/liberal/progressive Republicans, you will tend to find a graveyard of blogs that were started with good intent, but then died for various reasons. Take for example, the Lincoln Coalition, (link no longer active) a blog that states it’s goal as “a grassroots organization of current and former Republicans that is dedicated to building a party based on traditional Republican principles.” It has not published a new post in over two months.  They had a wonderful description that talked about wanting to return the party back to its principles.  They had a few months of post and then…nothing.

It’s hard to try to rebuild a party when you aren’t trying disseminate ideas.

There are other bloggers that have also stopped for various reasons.  Go to Charging RINO, or Plain Talk GOP (link no longer active) or the Liberal Republican (which has since been removed), and you will find blogs that are basically dead. Now, the internet is full of blogs that are no longer in use, and there are probably a good number of conservative and liberal blogs that are also on life support, but for some reason, the ones that I see that have become ghost towns tend to be moderate Republican blogs.

I’ve been blogging on politics in one form or another for a few years now.  I don’t know how many people see my blog, but I do know it is important to keep blogging on the events of the day.  And I do know that over time people do see your work and take notice. Blogging can be about yelling, but it can also be about sharing and presenting ideas to people. It can be about getting out a message and letting others know they are not alone in the political world.  An active blog can also help grow a living movement. A dead blog can’t do that.

Lack of Strong Institutions. One of the glaring problems among moderates in the GOP is the lack of a counterpart to the Democratic Leadership Council. The DLC describes itself as a organization started to bring Democrats out of the “political wilderness. ” The goal was to moderate the Democratic Party and wrest it from the hands of the liberals who controlled the party and brought it to defeat. If you go to the DLC website, you find papers on various issues from immigration to health care, all placing a centrist Democratic spin on things.

There really isn’t a counterpart among Republicans. Yes, there is the Republican Leadership Council, and it has done some good by supporting moderate candidates. That said, it doesn’t seem to offer ideas in the way that the DLC does. The RLC does have state chapters, but the site doesn’t say a whole lot about what is going on.

That doesn’t mean that groups like RLC or Republican Mainstreet Partnership are somehow wastes of time. I think both groups have good and grand intentions, but they lack the people to help promote and fuel their agendas. If moderates feel disenfranchised and isolated, then trying to buck up worthy groups like these seem pointless.

Weak Web Presence. If you check out the website of Republican Youth Majority, you will notice that it hasn’t been updated in a long while.  Go to their Facebook Page and you will find the same thing. If IanTanner is correct and the GOP needs to reach out to younger populations that are more moderate on social issues, this group should have a live page showing what they are doing. But instead we find a very old website and Facebook page.  I have no idea what they are doing.

If an organization doesn’t bother to update its website, then it might as well not exist. The only way for a group to thrive is to have an active web presence getting its message out. Some groups like Log Cabin Republicans and Republicans for Environmental Protection get it, use blogs, and social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook and update their webpage.

Individualism. Maybe the thing that is most destructive to creating a moderate movement is that most moderates tend to see themselves as individuals and not part of a movement.  Moderates are not one to just follow someone.  While that can be commendable, it can also breed a sense of isolation, so that when the cold winds of extremism blow, they are easily knocked down and they leave the party.

There is an old saying from the civil rights movement that goes, “Walk Together Children, Don’t You Get Weary.”  Maybe if we learned to walk together, to support each other in the hard times then we would see a stronger movement. Trying to change a party takes stamina and fortitude, but it also takes numbers and as they say, there is strength in numbers.

These are only a few observations. If people want the GOP to be a center-right party again, then it is up to moderates to make it happen.  But we have to be able to do it as a team and make the long slog to change. We have to be willing to blog, create strong organizations, and use the web to get out the message of change within the GOP.

Then, Moderate Republicans won’t suck.

Repost: The Good Life

In my continuing posts on food and the culture wars, I share this blog post which originially appeared at NeoMugwump in 2009.

About 15 years ago, I was with friends and the topic of conversation went to the recent death of comedian John Candy. The two friends, started clucking their tougnes and then said in effect that his death was the result of how lived.

Of course, we all remember John Candy, this big bear of man. He wasn’t the specimen of fittness that my two friends were. They tended to believe he reaped what he had sowed.

I remember being bothered by their attitudes. There was something a bit pious and mean-spirited in their pleasant condemnation of Candy.

I tend to be someone that tries to live sensibly. I drive a Prius. I tend to buy organic foods, especially milk that is free of hormones and meat that isn’t loaded up with antibiotics. If I have a choice between brown and white rice, I go with brown rice all the time. I don’t smoke and rarely drink.

I do these thing for various reasons. But I rarely talk to others about them. I just happen to do them for my own benefit.

One thing that has bothered me at times is this belief that we have to tell others how to live their lives for their own sake.

David Frum has an article on his website about conservatives and living the healthy life. There are some good things in this article, but there were also some things that frankly bother me. Part of it is that I feel that there is a sense of health puritanism that makes me feel that no matter how much I try, I will still fall short of the healthy living goal.

Some of his concerns are worthwhile: I too fear about the amount of antibiotics that are used in cows and chickens. I like eating grass-fed beef. (After my trip to Argentina last winter, I don’t think I could ever go back to corn-fed beef.)

But what bothers me is when we start to worry about things such obesity, which as Megan McArdle has said tends to be a moral panic.

What bothers me is also how this fear that people start living right leads into some kind of moral scold. We tend to put down those who smoke for instance. I’ve seen how people who are at heart good people, treated like they were war criminals just because they lit up. We are starting to do the same thing with those who don’t follow the same way of living that we do.

Frum is correct that conservatives should not celebrate bad habits, but we shouldn’t denounce an occasional steak or cigar either.

In the end, for me what is important is what we are living for. All of this healthy living sometimes comes from a fear; a drive to live a long life and a fear of death.

But the thing is, eating right is not a guarantee that we will live a long life. I am reminded that Linda McCartney, the wife of Paul McCartney was a committed vegetarian who died of cancer before the age of sixty. This weekend, I saw Julie and Julia, which features how Julia Child became a foodie godess. In the movie she smoked and the food she cooked was rich in butter. She lived to be 92.

I’m not saying we should eat what we want or go out and buy a pack of Winstons. I am saying that we can do all the right things and still die early. And in the end, we will die: no gets out of here alive.

What matters more to me is what I am living for. Do I show my partner, my parents, my friends love? Do I enjoy my life? Do stand up against injustice?

In my view, people won’t remember that you drank organic milk every day. They will remember what kind of person you were.

So, yeah I will still do all the things I have done, but in the end what matters to me is the quality of my life. I let the quantity work itself out.

Food Nostalgia

Since we just finished an American holiday that focuses on food, I thought it might be  good idea to talk about food.

Back in October, the progressive magazine, the Utne Reader had a great article on “food nostalgia,” or the desire by some in American society to romaniticize how people ate in the past. If you have time read the article.  Author Rachel Laudan notes that the current emphasis on natural food was not something prized in the past:

For our ancestors, natural was something quite nasty. Natural often tasted bad. Fresh meat was rank and tough, fresh fruits inedibly sour, fresh vegetables bitter. Natural was unreliable. Fresh milk soured; eggs went rotten. Everywhere seasons of plenty were followed by seasons of hunger. Natural was also usually indigestible. Grains, which supplied 50 to 90 percent of the calories in most societies, have to be threshed, ground, and cooked to make them edible.

So to make food tasty, safe, digestible, and healthy, our forebears bred, ground, soaked, leached, curdled, fermented, and cooked naturally occurring plants and animals until they were literally beaten into submission. They created sweet oranges and juicy apples and non-bitter legumes, happily abandoning their more natural but less tasty ancestors. They built granaries, dried their meat and their fruit, salted and smoked their fish, curdled and fermented their dairy products, and cheerfully used additives and preservatives—sugar, salt, oil, vinegar, lye—to make edible foodstuffs.

I’ll have more to say about this in the coming days, but I’d love to know your thoughts.

Science, Innovation and the GOP

There are a few stories on science and the Republican party this morning that you should read if you have the chance. Former GOP congressman and environmentalist Sherwood Boehlert of New York chides his party for becoming a party of climate change deniers:

Watching the raft of newly elected GOP lawmakers converge on Washington, I couldn’t help thinking about an issue I hope our party will better address. I call on my fellow Republicans to open their minds to rethinking what has largely become our party’s line: denying that climate change and global warming are occurring and that they are largely due to human activities.

National Journal reported last month that 19 of the 20 serious GOP Senate challengers declared that the science of climate change is either inconclusive or flat-out wrong. Many newly elected Republican House members take that position. It is a stance that defies the findings of our country’s National Academy of Sciences, national scientific academies from around the world and 97 percent of the world’s climate scientists.

It’s a great article in stating the case that while we can disagree on how best combat climate change (ie: supporting “cap and trade” or not), it is foolhardy to ignore the science behind it.

Meanwhile, Tevi Troy talks about how highly educated folks are leaving the GOP because it seems hostile to science, innovation and free trade. He presents five good ideas that the Republicans can glom on to that doesn’t also   upset the evangelical base of the party.

With President Obama’s job-approval ratings in free fall, Republicans feel justifiably confident about the 2010 congressional elections. But even if the GOP has recovered some swagger, the party’s long-term political fortunes require it to recover something else: the votes of well-educated, well-compensated elites. Over the past decade and a half, Republicans have watched scientists, high-tech workers, doctors, financial leaders, and academics in engineering and business abandon the party in favor of the Democrats. This exodus has weakened the GOP politically and left it dependent on white evangelical voters. But the elites’ home could again be the Republican Party—if the Republicans welcome them back.

Troy has some great ideas, and good insight into how the GOP was not always so hostile to those with advanced degrees.

Finally is a blog post by Rick Moran on how science is being used by the Left to advance their agenda as well as being attacked by the Right .

All of these are good articles, but I wonder if anyone in the party will take heed of them.  The GOP is winning right now, inspite of its lack of any agenda.  For a party that was declared dead two years ago, there is a strong temptation to believe everything is okay and that 2006 and 2008 were but mere blips in American politics. 

The second concern is the anti-elite mood within the GOP and its manifestation in Sarah Palin.  The base of the party tends to shun those with smarts, so a wonky solution to problems is not on the party radar at this time.  Palin connects with folks not because she is the smartest gal in the room, but because she is “one of us.”  Unlike Ronald Reagan, who had a common guy persona as well as a curious mind, Palin at least doesn’t present herself as someone the least bit interested in ideas and that seems to resonate with folk.

So will the GOP listen?  I don’t know.

Republican Evolution on Gay Marriage?

An op-ed in the Los Angeles Times thinks there is a quiet change happening in the Republican Party when it comes to gay marriage:

As the “tea party‘s” outsider challenge to Republican Party orthodoxy grabs headlines, another, quieter revolution is unfolding inside the GOP. This rebellion has at its heart a truly surprising issue, one that could have long-term consequences for the party: gay and lesbian couples’ freedom to marry.

The latest evidence of this quiet revolution came with the release of the Republicans’ midterm-campaign “Pledge to America.” Though the pledge gives a perfunctory nod to “traditional marriage” (in a single line in a list of things, like “families,” that it supports ), explicit opposition to marriage for same-sex couples is conspicuous in its absence. The document never uses the word “gay” (or “homosexual”) — a stark contrast to past party platforms, which have made opposition to gay equality a centerpiece of their social agenda.

Is this an isolated development? After all, the 1994 “Contract With America” was also focused solely on fiscal issues and government reform. But in 2010, there is compelling evidence that the shift is deep, and possibly lasting.

The GOP, in large part, isn’t displaying its usual anti-gay election-year demagoguery, and not just in the “pledge.” As recently as 1995, a Republican-controlled Congress was holding hearings investigating “homosexual recruitment” and the “promotion” of homosexuality. During the George W. Bush administration, the party used its fervent opposition to marriage for gay and lesbian couples as a get-out-the-vote strategy, encouraging more than a dozen anti-gay state ballot initiatives geared at driving turnout in the 2004 election and engineering repeated efforts to pass an amendment to the Constitution. This year is the first election year in recent history in which anti-gay rhetoric has been significantly muted: No state is facing an anti-gay initiative on the ballot, and marriage has not been a focus of the national conservative agenda.

The opinion piece then goes on to list the number of conservatives that have come out in favor of gay marriage and the appearence of Texas GOP Senator John Cornyn at last month’s annual meeting of the Log Cabin Republicans, the gay Republican group.

So, what to make of all this, especially when we have stories of homophobes like Carl Paladino and Christine O’Donnell? 

Two things.

First, I think it’s interesting who wrote this article.  Jon Cowan is the co-founder  of Third Way, which a centrist Democratic think-tank.  Evan Wolfson is the founder of the pro-gay marriage group, Freedom to Marry. It’s telling when a Democrat and the leader of a mainstream gay rights group, which tends to favor Democrats, are actually saying something good about the GOP when it comes to gay rights. 

Second, I think this is a trend that the media has not focused on very much.  We have seen folks that would we thought would never reach out to gays actually do so.  However, such moves don’t get as much attention as say, Carl Paladino’s remark on gay marriage and gays. 

Why?  Because the media (as well as bloggers) have come to just expect that Republicans are anti-gay.  Whenever some GOP candidate says something stupid on gay rights, watch how many hits those articles and blog posts get.  It becomes major news on every major blog and news outlet.  It has become common wisdom to believe that every Republican is anti-gay and no one ever questions that. 

In the end, that’s lazy journalism.  Journalists (and bloggers) are supposed to be asking questions that no one is asking, not simply following the herd.  And yet, we do it all the time. 

I can’t leave out bloggers because we are just as guilty.  We make a big deal of the latest social conservative to say something homophobic, but we do little to praise or seek the conservative that is pro-gay. 

Yes, we need to call out those hypocrites like Paladino.  But we also need to praise folks like Ted Olson and Log Cabin for fighting the cause for gay rights.

“A Blight on the Republican Party”

In light of the Carl Paladino rant against gays, the blog  Opinions and More takes on the social conservatives:

The District of Columbia once had a gay Republican Councilman, David Catania. Because of anti-gay remarks by people in the 2004 Bush campaign, Catania left the party and endorsed John Kerry, though he did not become a Democrat formally because he has a Council seat reserved for non-Democrats. I am certain that Catania’s endorsement of Kerry was purely because of the gay rights issue, since Catania had obviously good reasons for being a Republican at first.

It is “social conservatives” who are hurting the GOP by being a part of it! By making the GOP appear anti-gay, anti-abortion, and such, they are driving away those who belong in the party because they dislike the “socialism light” that the Democrats favor. The GOP would be better off without them. They are a blight on the party.

It’s a good thing to see straight Republicans step forward and take on the social conservatives that are making a lot of gay folk like myself think about leaving the GOP.  Gay Republicans have long made the case for gay rights and have taken on the social cons, but there is a need for those conservatives who are hetrosexual to “come out” for equality and take those who want to make people like me second-class citizens to task.