Whither the Whiter GOP?
In a day-after post-mortem, Richard Krauthammer, one of the leading lights of neoconservatism (tight money supply, red-meat social issues for the basest of the base, and an Uncle Sam that flexes his muscles overseas) wrote a post in the National Review that revealed a whistling-past-the-graveyard mindset. Krauthammer trumpeted that whites (meaning non-Latino Anglos) still make up a majority of the voting population in these here United States.
That might work - if the white vote were monolithic.
For starters, take out small percentages for the 75 percent-plus LGBT bloc and Jewish voters who went Democratic pretty much down the ticket. As The New York Times pointed out, LGBT voters alone provided the crucial margin of victory in key battleground states. Despite attempts by the right to paint Barack Obama as anti-Israel, Jews also proved faithful to the party.
Add blocs of union voters and, increasingly, women; millennials, who despise the GOP’s anti-gay drum-beating; and, of course, white liberals, and you’re left with a very small slice of the white vote - specifically, the old, rural and religious fundamentalists.
The Latino Question
The Grand Old Party has never seemed less grand but so old.
The party’s pundits and politicians are engaged in a very public bout of soul searching. Having lost black voters, Republicans are looking to the fastest-growing minority, Latinos. But here they are, still arguing about whether making any conciliatory gesture on immigration reform will help or hurt them.
One side argues that Latinos by nature are conservative on social and economic issues and would gravitate to the party if it would abandon an adamantly anti-immigration stance that began in California (which has since seen its Republican base decimated on a unprecedented scale, even in the Northeast) and has spread to the Southwest and South. Build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, they argue. If that doesn’t work, build a bigger wall.
Leading these 21st-century No-Nothings are talk radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin, who, ever since the election, have put down Latinos as "Santa Claus" voters who only want to suck at the governmental teat. More Latino voters will only give the Democratic Party more and more power and will eventually overwhelm GOP redoubts like Texas and Arizona, they say.
They point to once-reliable GOP states, such as Florida and New Mexico, that appear to have permanently gone over to the dark side.
The most dramatic development of Nov. 6, was that it marked the first time in a national election that LGBT issues were front and center for the electorate. Even better, we came out ahead everywhere we had something at stake.
When Pat Buchanan thundered about a "cultural war" to thunderous applause at the 1992 GOP convention, he was referring to feminism, abortion and especially what he called the "homosexual rights movement."
What Buchanan and the party faithful didn’t realize was that they might end up losing that war.
After years of heartbreaking defeats, we saw victories for same-sex marriage in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Iowa and Washington. Maine residents overturned a previous vote. Minnesota voted against a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Such a law remains on the books there, but signs are good that, given the chance, voters will overturn it if the state Legislature doesn’t do so first. In Iowa, voters reversed themselves:
After previously voting out three state judges who ruled in favor of same-sex marriage in the Hawkeye State, they chose to retain the state’s chief justice and the unrepentant architect of same-sex marriage there.
True to form, the National Organization for Marriage complained that its side was outspent, as though such an important decision merely came down to who had more ads on local TV stations. NOM also maintained that these states are all vivid blue, which is nonsense.
Maryland is the only one that falls into that category. Minnesota has moved between the two parties for years. Until very recently, Maine had two GOP senators and a GOP governor. Dour Down Easterners were known as being among the most rock-ribbed Republicans. Washington and Iowa, while leaning increasingly Democrat in recent years, can hardly be counted as solidly in one camp or the other.
’Social Issues’: Women
Right-leaning media, from Fox News and "The Wall Street Journal" to the policy-oriented magazines "National Review and "Weekly Standard," have been full of furious arguments about what to do about thorny problems of women’s issues, specifically abortion, and of gay rights, exemplified by same-sex marriage. Both are pushed under the umbrella of "social issues."
The ham-handed comments about rape by Senate candidates Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana were only the tip of the iceberg that the GOP struck when it came to women. The party spent (wasted, most now say) most of its convention playing to women.
Instead of countering Obama’s successful painting of the party as hostile to women, however, many pundits and senior party members derided such talk as pandering. The Democrats were the real misogynists, they said, the ones who believe that women care only about access to birth control and easy abortions.
The results may have proved them wrong. Predictably, now that the dust has settled, many party faithful are once again proclaiming the "human rights" of the unborn; the "holocaust" of abortions since the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade; and the ridiculousness of people like Sandra Fluke, the college student whom Limbaugh memorably called a "slut" for advocating health care coverage for birth control in situations where it is needed for disease prevention and medication.
The same trend has prevailed concerning marriage equality. After much chest-beating about how this has become a loser for the party, stalwarts again maintain that allowing two same-sex adults in a committed relationship the same title and rights as heterosexuals will somehow undermine the Republic.
That many of these people (Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, Herman Cain, etc.) are serial adulterers apparently doesn’t faze anyone. They seem equally unmoved by the fact that half of heterosexual marriages end in divorce, or by farces such as Kim Kardashian’s record-breaking 72-hour marriage to Kris Humphries or Britney Spears’ drive-through Vegas marriage.
When faced with the reality that 62 percent of Republicans - not to mention an overwhelming number of Democrats and younger voters -support some legal form of same-sex unions, these same people contend that such Americans have been brainwashed or are simply evil. That’s not exactly a winning strategy.
All the Republican pundits predicted that the president’s support of same-sex marriage and its having been written into the Democratic Party platform would prove to be fatal to his re-election chances. Now that they have been proved wrong, they would rather put their collective heads in the sand (I could say another place) than face reality. Not to mention that the last GOP president, George W. Bush, advocated civil unions, and that his vice president, wife and daughter have all come out for marriage equality.
For a GOP Resurgence
I differ from many LGBT Democrats in that I view with dismay this long slide into oblivion by a party dominated by Tea Party radicals and religious fanatics.
If history has given us anything, it has proved time and again that when one political party has too much power, it becomes grasping and arrogant. One need only look at several Democratic congressmen (New York’s Charles Rangel is as good an example as any; there are certainly others) to see that.
To function, our democracy must have two viable parties. If the Republicans refuse to join us in the 21st century, it will be unfortunate for Democrats and the country. It’s a shame to see the Log Cabin Republicans as moribund. The group’s website has been nonfunctional since the election; it’s still features out-of-date endorsements and self-congratulations on a September fundraiser.
If the Log Cabins have given up the fight, who is left to plead for sanity in the party? Their very name harkens back to the party’s founding, when Republicans stood against slavery and for keeping the nation intact. Their first leader, remember, was Abe Lincoln. It’s disheartening to see the Grand Old Party’s principles devolve into "guns, gays and God."
Steve Weinstein has been a regular correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, the Advocate, the Village Voice and Out. He has been covering the AIDS crisis since the early '80s, when he began his career. He is the author of "The Q Guide to Fire Island" (Alyson, 2007).