Why the Cornyn meeting matters

This commentary is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect those of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin

Timothy Kincaid

July 30th, 2010

No one does homophobia like a Texas Republican. This year’s party platform is so ragingly anti-gay that it looks like it could have been drafted by any of the colorful people who make a living off of scaring folks about The Homosexual Agenda.

So, then, why is Texas Senator John Cornyn speaking at a fundraiser for the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay group? And, more importantly, what does this say about the current and future state of gay politics within the Republican Party?

For many conservative Republicans, Log Cabin is seen as an enemy to the Party. They are not “real” Republicans but rather (in the words of American Family Association’s Robert Knight) a Trojan Horse:

“It’s important to understand that the Log Cabin Republicans aren’t really a Republican group; they’re a group of homosexual activists who are inside the Republican Party, trying to neutralize the party on the issue of homosexual activism,” he explains. “It’s sort of a voluntary disarmament that they’re advising the Republicans to undertake.”

And for some Republicans, an organization of gay Republicans is no more valid than a club of Republican murders or Republican pedophiles. They would no more acknowledge Log Cabin’s existence than they would of the Republican Socialists Club – it’s an impossible contradiction in terms.

Conservative Republicans – or more accurately, purist Republicans – have long pretended that LCR didn’t exist. And when they did mention the group, it was as an illustration of Who We Are Not Like or in mockery. The term RINO (“Republican In Name Only”) is often applied as a slur against fiscally conservative people who didn’t follow the party’s social agenda.

And this is why it is important that Log Cabin receive official recognition from ranking officials within the Party and by Party structure. As the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Cornyn’s presence provides authentication, it says “you are real Republicans.” It says that Robert Knight is wrong, the disagreements between Cornyn and Log Cabin are defining.

And that is a very important acknowledgment. And it adds to a process that is changing the dynamic. Instead of being outsiders, vile scum whose opinions do not even matter (who cares what a rapist has to say?), gay Republicans are becoming family with whom they do not agree. Instead of being dismissed out of hand, your voice can be heard even if it does not immediately persuade change.

And, even more importantly, it sends a message to moderate members of the party that being friendly with gay activists is not political suicide. It says that you can consider pro-gay perspectives and still be considered “a good Republican”. (And I think that we have been seeing this for a while without giving it proper attention).

What will this do on a personal level? Will this shift Cornyn’s opinions or votes? Probably not. But it may change his future language.

Will this result in a change in policy? Probably not. But it may make it less easy for the American Family Association to make wild claims about “what gays are like”. And it may make it more acceptable for rogues to “just disagree” with the party position and support our community on some issues.

Our community says over and over and over that coming out is the most important thing to bring about social advancement. Nothing changes minds more than exposure to a real living gay person whom you like.

And that is also true in politics. Nothing – absolutely nothing – will change Republican Party positions on gay issues more quickly or more effectively than being exposed to gay people. And that is why this is such a tremendously important step.

TampaZeke

July 30th, 2010

I’m afraid I’m with Jim on this one. I see nothing positive about this. It’s the strangest and most inexplicable pandering I’ve seen yet.

Tim, you often seem desperate to find gay positive signs and portents where there are none.

Candace

July 30th, 2010

The message it sends is this: the SMART rats are already deserting a sinking ship.

Steve

July 30th, 2010

Hey Timothy…

I had thought that the Republican Unity Coalition was still a small but ongoing effort; your omission of it prompted me to google gerald ford gay republicans and find that I’m four years behind the times.

Not directly related to this post, I’ve been skeptical/cynical about LCR for a good while. Reading the transcripts of the DADT trial, I found myself addicted, as much as I was to the Olson/Boies Prop 8 trial. I’ve emerged from both with a sense that I need to be better at hearing and understanding the LCR.

andrew

July 30th, 2010

I’m not afraid to agree with Jim on this one at all. After decades of doing very little for gays in Massachusetts, it was Bill Weld, a Republican, who first made dramatic pro-gay legislation a priority (NOT an afterthought) in his administration — including the first GSA groups in schools. Frankly, the best hope for gay rights in this country truly resides with old-school “northeast” style (read: fiscally conservative, socially libertarian) Republicans.

As we’ve seen with the current administration, the Dems are too concerned about appearances to really commit to the changes they promise to our community. Our Republican allies remind the Democrats that the gay demographic isn’t captive — we have choices. And in many districts, neutralizing the “gay bloc” (the only demographic beaten by retirees with respect to % turnout) can tip the balance of victory — and many in the GOP are waking up to this in swing states — more importantly, as Dems figure this out, they’ll finally realize they actually have to fight for our vote.

You want choice & change? Get rid of monopolies. Works the same for politics as it does for commerce.

TampaZeke

July 31st, 2010

Andrew, it was Jim, not Tim, that I agree with.

TampaZeke

July 31st, 2010

See the story below to see what it is that Jim said with which I agree.

Priya Lynn

July 31st, 2010

Andrew said “You want choice & change? Get rid of monopolies. Works the same for politics as it does for commerce.”.

In Saskatchewan the government has a monopoly on auto insurance and our auto insurance is the cheapest in the country, 1/4 the cost of a number of other provinces with private insurance companies “competing” with each other.

Other Fred in the UK

July 31st, 2010

Personally, I reserve judgement until I read what Coryn had to say (and didn’t have to say).

Just out of curiosity, Priya Lynn, how much does the tax payer end up paying towards auto-insurance?

Priya Lynn

July 31st, 2010

Other Fred, nothing. Saskatchewan Government Insurance consistently makes a profit so people pay what it costs to license their cars and no more.

Priya Lynn

July 31st, 2010

In thinking about it, Other Fred, the profit means the government owned insurance agency helps pay for government services people would otherwise pay taxes for so its a double win.

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