Saturday, October 21, 2006

Gay Republicans?

Or, Why Gays Should Hold Their Noses and Vote Republican Anyway

Far be it from me to suggest that gay men and women differ so little in their political views that it makes sense to talk about a specifically “gay” political ideology.

Yet gays do seem to have some common political objectives, mostly having to do with the right to be left alone.

Unfortunately, the desire of gays to live their lives without being discriminated against in employment and to be able to form close personal and sexual relationships in the same manner and with the same legal protections as heterosexuals, outrages the Christian fundamentalists in our midst, causing them to express their hostility to gays politically by supporting Republican politicians who mouth anti-gay slogans at election time, but who, at other times and places, employ gays, have gay friends, and may even engage in homosexual activity themselves, as “closet homosexuals.”

As seen in the recent Foley scandal, some gays seek to “out” closeted gays, arguing that honesty is better than hypocrisy.

I argue that gays do have a common politics, and it is a very old political viewpoint–-the French have a wonderful phrase for it: laissez-faire capitalism.

What the phrase basically means is that the purpose of law should be to secure the rights of the individual against those exercising through law disproportionate economic and political power. It means, simply, “Leave us alone!”

What gives those exercising greater power the right to do so? What gives government the right to deny to gay couples, what is offered to heterosexual couples upon payment of a small legal fee?

Any group in society secures its power to abridge the rights of others by getting laws enacted that are generally justified at the time of their enactment by appeals to “the public interest” or to some similar political abstraction that can be twisted and turned to serve whatever political goals the group has in mind.

At present the varied political interests that make up the American electorate are broadly arrayed into “conservatives” and “liberals”. We also have two major political parties: the dominant party, the Republicans, consist of a very broad coalition of interests, and the Democrats, the party “in the wilderness”, seems far less broad, apparently consisting of Neanderthal Leftists, such as those whose views are best represented by The Nation magazine, and other self-styled “progressive” groups each of which seems to have a favored hobby-horse to ride.

What until fairly recently distinguished the two parties was the willingness of the Republicans to champion “limited government.” Ronald Reagan welcomed the Christian Right into his crusade to “get the government off the backs of the American people”, but he never let the Christians rule the roost. While his administration was not particularly helpful to gays with the explosion of HIV-related deaths in the 1980’s, indifference and incomprehension are not the same as hatred and the desire to do injury.

Even today, as the Foley scandal highlights Republican attitudes towards gays, what emerges is more an attitude of opportunism–the desire to play the “gay card” in order to motivate homophobic Christians to vote for Republican candidates–than any outright hatred or desire to inflict injury upon gays.

As much as homophobic Christians might wish to harm gays, the most significant anti-gay legislation since the election of Bill Clinton to the Presidency in 1992 has been the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law by Clinton. The other significant bit of law to harm gay people was the Clinton military policy of “Don’t Ask–-Don’t Tell”. Justified in the name of making it possible for gays to serve honorably in the military, the policy has become a shameful blot upon the military by a civilian government that seeks to keep its anti-gay credentials well burnished for election-day politics, despite the positive harm the policy does to our military–-depriving it of skilled and expensively trained personnel by cashiering gay soldiers and officers–-and to gay self-esteem, by treating gays as second-class citizens, unworthy and unneeded in the defense of the country against foreign enemies.

Any hope that the long-suffering American people might be done with “Big Brother” type government was dashed in the 1988 election of the first Bush Presidency. Reagan rose politically with the first conservative revolution, the taking over of the Republican Party in 1964 with the nomination of Barry Goldwater. “Goldwater Republicans” considered themselves “movement conservatives” and typically believed in a very libertarian-oriented society where government, particularly the federal government, would have its many functions substantially reduced or eliminated.

Why democratic government tends to expand in its functions despite the best efforts of people like Goldwater or Reagan to restrain it, is a conversation for another time. But there is a lesson for gays to heed.

Gays need to look to the history of a party and not just its current crop of politicians to see where specific gay interests are more likely to find political defense.

Are not gays interested in a prosperous economy where their hard work and intelligence are rewarded? Do not gays enjoy keeping most of their earnings for their own use and disposal rather than have increasingly larger portions of their earned income siphoned off to support tax breaks, subsidies, and special legislation for Big Business, otherwise known as Crony Capitalism?

Do not gays have an interest in protecting our borders against illegal immigrants? Are we not interested in preventing further attacks on our cities from Islamo-Fascists? Do we not enjoy tax cuts? Are not our economic interests enhanced by laws that reduce government intervention into the economy?

I don’t like to quote statistics, but isn’t it true that gays have more disposable income than non-gays?

Gays don’t seem to fit the profile generally used to describe the left-wing “nut-cases” that control the Democratic Party at present, for the simple reason that gays want respect and freedom to be left alone. They don’t want what the Democratic Party normally promises: more subsidies, more taxes, more regulation, more intrusion of the Nanny State into every aspect of their lives.

The Republican Party today is up for grabs. George Bush is not a movement conservative. I believe gays should not leave the Party but reclaim it by holding it up to its professed libertarian origins. What will become clear, if the proper arguments are made, is that homophobic Christians in the Party express beliefs difficult to square with limited-government rhetoric. And while there may be more homophobes than gays in the GOP, clearly gays can have a significant impact intellectually by making the arguments that Republicans really can’t ignore.

To some extent, I must confess, either party has some libertarian origins gays could draw upon; but which image is more likely to be gay? A ward of the state, or a businessman? A ward of the state, or a creative artist? A ward of the state, or a leatherman seeking to find his bliss in consensual erotic adventures?

The Republican Party, whether the current crop of politicians understands this or not, is the “natural” home for gays and lesbians. Our nemesis is not the Party, but the homophobes within it who would replace politicians with priests.

Tom Anderson
October 2006

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