August 10th, 2011
Politics is in many ways a game of association. Who is elected, what bills are supported or opposed, which allocation is prioritized are based on group affiliation and political identity. And political identity is created in two ways: primarily who we are, but sometimes who we are not.
Who we are is based on shared experiences and often guides positions that impact members of a group. Who we are not, however, can have murky motivations and can run the risk of becoming bigotry. And, of course, each of our identities have elements of both.
But, in our community the contrast in ways of defining oneself is dramatically illustrated by looking at Log Cabin Republicans and GOProud. Both organizations identify as gay Republicans, but the way in which they view that identity and on what it is based are worlds apart.
Log Cabin Republicans see themselves as full members of the gay community and as lobbyists on the community’s behalf to the Party. This is no small job, and consequently legislation and issues of inclusion that directly impact LGBT people are their primary focus (along with being ambassadors of sorts, building bridges, nurturing relationships, and being the face of the community in Republican circles.)
So it was natural for Log Cabin (being on the pro-military end of the community) to step up and craft a multi-year three pronged attack on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell that ultimately led to the reversal of that policy and (depending on the eventual outcome of the case) may establish precedent for finding anti-gay policies as unconstitutional.
Log Cabin sees their Republicanism primarily through the lens of fiscal policy, defense, and localized government. This isn’t to suggest that they pay no attention to social issues – they do – but rather that such issues are based on their analysis rather than handed down from the Party. And, as such, they work to support Republicans who share their fiscal conservatism but are not anti-gay and to serve as a source for the roughly one third of the community that votes Republican, providing analysis on candidates and issues.
Although Log Cabin has been attacked by social conservatives and anti-gay activists and the far right, they are not defined by their opponents. Knowing that in many many situations every possible vote counts, Log Cabin strives for communication, relationship, and access wherever they see an opportunity – even when those opportunities might raise eyebrows from others in our community. And they are careful not to make opposition to a candidate a part of their strategy, utilizing instead a “refusal to endorse” which has, in a number of presidential campaigns, made front page news and forced candidate concessions.
On the other hand, GOProud – who broke from Log Cabin in April 2009 – is primarily focused on who they are not: the Gay Left. And their fierce opposition to the Gay Left appears to drive all of their actions and statements.
The so-called “gay agenda” is defined by the left through a narrow prism of legislative goals. In contrast to the approach of the left, GOProud’s agenda emphasizes conservative and libertarian principles that will improve the daily lives of all Americans, but especially gay and lesbian Americans.
GOProud ostensibly is a gay organization, in that their tiny membership is comprised of people who are homosexual. But while the language of their positions pays token homage to the existence of gay people, most have no specific bearing on the issues of importance to actual living breathing gay folk.
And the gay and lesbian Americans for whom they are supposedly advocating seem to either be theoretical or limited to their own membership. Although Log Cabin agrees with the fiscal position stated in most of GOProud’s 10 legislative priorities, they too are “absolutely, unquestionably, too far to the left” because LCR’s legislative agenda is comprised of pro-gay advocacy. And by looking at the totality of GOProud’s statements, actions, programs and advertising, it soon becomes evident that by the Gay Left, they mean anyone who views gay people as entitled to equality and inclusion.
Perhaps GOProud did not set out to be the organization they have become. Perhaps they wanted to focus on, say, supporting the Second Amendment, but discovered that no one really cared about their perspective on that subject. Nor did the press come calling for their views on health care reform.
But as a group of gay people willing and ready to demean other gay people and to attack their priorities, that made for good television. And whether it was their original intention, opposition to pro-gay advocates rather than support for conservative principles appears to now be the motivation for every action.
And while GOProud has not yet actively opposed specific goals towards equality, they have sought to punish those within the Republican Party who support those goals.
In the last election, they got involved in the California senate primary. They did not support anyone, but they ran an add in opposition to Tom Campbell, a Log Cabin ally. They compared him to Didi Scozzafava and declared him to be too far to the Left. As best I can tell, the issue which unites the two is that they both are pro-gay Republicans.
I’m not a psychologist, but there appears to be a couple things going on here. Part of GOProud’s antics can be seen as antagonism towards Log Cabin for not turning the organization over to them. And no doubt part is anger at a community which has not adopted the values that GOProud endorses.
But by focusing entirely on their opposition to the Gay Left, and defining Gay Left in such a way as to include every gay person who supports the community’s legislative goals, GOProud ceased being pro-Republican and now are best described as an anti-gay organization. Not anti-gay in the sense that they campaign against legislation that we support or in the sense that they seek laws to harm gay people, but anti-gay in the sense that they oppose gay people.
We are discussing a group who, while homosexual, have nothing but contempt for other homosexuals who see seek equality. GOProud members see themselves as different from such “Left” gays. And it soon becomes evident that it is not some leftist agenda that offends GOProud, but rather self-pride and an unwillingness to accept an inferior role. It is the gayness of the gay community that so offends them.
And the “why” is just sitting there waiting to be said. For decades, those who seemed to believe that orientation dictated fiscal policy would shrilly declare, “Log Cabin members are just a bunch of self-loathing Auntie Toms.” (Log Cabin members just role their eyes at that original bon mot)
But I am becoming more and more convinced that GOProud could be the real thing.
Oh they don’t loath themselves entirely, they are far to arrogant for that. But they do seem to loath that part which they share with you and I. Otherwise it is difficult to understand a strategy that recognizes that gay people are targeted for discrimination, but which consistently attacks any effort to correct it. And other than some desire to compensate for their feeling of inadequacy, it is difficult to understand the motivation behind consistently demeaning gay allies and praising those who treat us with contempt.
And it was an obvious attempt to spite the gay community – and to attract attention to their organization – that inspired GOProud to hire Ann Coulter to come deliver a speech in opposition to gay rights. And it did get them some attention.
But it also demonstrated their priorities. Even assuming that supporting conservatives was a higher priority for the group than advocating for equality, when they accepted Coulter’s criticism of Ted Olson, whose conservative credentials far outweigh Coulter’s, based solely on his support for marriage equality, then any question about GOProud’s nature evaporated. GOProud is comprised of people who see homosexuals as intrinsically inferior to heterosexuals and who accept slurs and inequality as their due.
And we cannot discount the confirmation that GOProud feels from people like Coulter. Sharing her opposition to self-accepting gay people, they get to be “good gays” and “Real Republicans” by contrast.
And as Coulter went on with her usual anti-gay snark as part of her increasingly predictable and boring shtick, it provided further opportunity for GOProud to set themselves apart from those who have self-respect. Unlike “leftists” like NGLTF or HRC or “leftists” like you and me or even “leftists” like Log Cabin, the “non-leftist” GOProud members will reward those who see them they are inferior.
When Ann Coulter went on Joy Behar’s show and tried to shock Joy by saying that the military should be limited to heterosexual men (the same with firemen), that she wishes that everyone would shut up about gays, and that “there are some people” for whom reparative therapy works, most people saw this as offensive towards gay people. And it was to that attitude that Log Cabin responded:
“Ann Coulter is not a serious part of the conservative movement – her positions are a throwback and do more harm than anything else,” said R. Clarke Cooper, Executive Director of Log Cabin Republicans. “Her remarks endorsing the widely outdated and profoundly harmful idea of ‘reparative therapy,’ alleging that one can ‘pray the gay away,’ are not only demeaning to gays and lesbians, but are offensive to all people of faith. God in his infinite wisdom created us the way we are and pundits and politicians cannot change that. While her position on this matter is off base, it is exacerbated by her claim that the armed forces should bring back ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ a failed policy which impedes military readiness. Servicemembers who put their lives on the line deserve respect, not such clownish behavior. Ann Coulter may be tired of gay and lesbian Americans speaking out, but Americans, gay and straight, are tired of her overwrought and offensive behavior. Frankly, Coulter’s act has gotten stale. It’s time to change the channel.”
GOProud, on the other hand, rewarded Coulter. Evidently she had said what they wanted to have said. In fact, she delighted the tiny group so much that they invited her to join their “advisory board”.
Today, GOProud, the only national organization of gay conservatives and their allies, announced that Ann Coulter was joining the organization’s Advisory Council as Honorary Chair. Coulter’s official title will be “Gay Icon.” “Ann Coulter is a brilliant and fearless leader of the conservative movement, we are honored to have her as part of GOProud’s leadership,” said Christopher Barron, Chairman of GOProud’s Board. “Ann helped put our organization on the map. Politics is full of the meek, the compromising and the apologists – Ann, like GOProud, is the exact opposite of all of those things. We need more Ann Coulters.”
And in this, they may have gone too far. Their silly slap at gay people – calling Coulter a “Gay Icon” – comes off less as clever and in-your-face and instead feels desperate and pathetic. Even anti-gay social conservatives know when self-deprecation crosses over into self-loathing.
They might have once earned the respect of other Republicans, even socially conservative Republicans, by just not talking about “that gay stuff” and supporting the Party on other issue. But no one loves the guy who hates himself and if you declare your inferiority, no one is going to disagree.
Once the community shrugs and feels more pity than anger towards GOProud, they will no longer be interesting to Coulter. Their far-right friends have no use for a homosexual who is just ignored by the ‘homosexual activist elite’, and Fox News isn’t going to have them on when the novelty wares off.
But, hey, at least unlike every other gay person of any political persuasion that doesn’t harbor internal shame over being gay, they can hold up their head and say that they are not the Gay Left. And that’s something.
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