Please re tweet or email this article to your friends and family, or email your thoughts to GOProud directly.
If you are a reporter or blogger, feel free to republish this article as is, or make it your own.
NO COPYRIGHTS RESERVED HERE!
Today, I'm hoping to convince the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community to take a moment and imagine a New World Order, spearheaded by the those of us who don't fit into the traditional liberal Democrat voting demographic, and even by a few of us who currently do. While it is difficult to ignore or underestimate the progress towards full gay Equality the Democratic Party has brought us so far, (such as greater protections against hate crimes, and the repeal of DADT), there is yet more to be gained for our community--MUCH more!
As a lifelong socially liberal and fiscally conservative Democrat, I'm the first to admit my skepticism when it comes to gay people who claim to identify more with a conservative political agenda than a liberal one. In my mind, surely there must be some secret, closed-door boot-licking involved in order for a gay person to fit into conservative circles in this country. Certainly, the only reason the right would be interested in bringing gays into the fold is for sheer political expedience (not to mention the greater disposable income most gays have compared to our straight counterparts, which the Republican Party must be thirsty for).....right?
Well, honestly before last week I certainly thought so. But thanks to a very well considered and thought-provoking article by Liz Mair, GOProud's new addition to their Advisory Board, I realize that I (and many traditionally Democratic voting gays) may be missing a larger opportunity to secure more political power for the gay community than any of us ever imagined would be possible in our lifetimes.
Specifically, I encourage all of us to imagine a New World Order where both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party finally begin COMPETING for the gay vote, instead of just assuming it will go to Democrats. Far too many times, we have seen Democratic candidates pander to the gay community with all sorts of promises, only to fall short on delivering on those promises with the typical response of "well that's not a legislative priority right now." Certainly during the first year of President Obama's Administration, the 111th Congress did not view DADT nor marriage equality as high priorities, though they did finally get DADT repealed during his second year. With the economy in disarray, it seemed to me that indeed the economy was far more important than the repeal of DADT or DOMA or the passage of ENDA. Although like many gays, I was then disappointed to see much less legislative work being focused on the economy, in favor of it being shifted towards working on health care reform which has left a bad taste in all Americans' mouths and even less money in our wallets.
I said at the time that the Democrats were only focusing on health care in order to divert media attention away from the economy that had left so many Americans witnessing their retirement accounts shrink, their stock values plummet, their homes being foreclosed on, their jobs lost, and huge government bail outs for AIG and Wall Street under President Bush, and then the automotive industry under President Obama. Two years later, it appears I was right, and not only has Congress given us a health care bill that forces Americans to make unconstitutional free market investments even against our will, we are still experiencing more than 9% unemployment, even though the stock market does seem to be regaining its footing.
We cannot deny the 111th Congress got a lot of work done, but all Americans (even the President of the United States) has questioned if it resulted in policies that actually benefit the American people. While the repeal of DADT is undeniably a giant leap forward for Equality for the gay community, I think it would be foolhardy to believe that it was solely the work of one Democratic President that made it happen for us. If we are to truly give credit where credit is due, I think we can all agree that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is the man we owe our deepest gratitude to, and since he has served under both Republican and Democratic Presidents, we can hardly chalk it up to being a solely Democratic-led issue. Going further, the military chiefs and yea, even the very soldiers we will soon serve with, are the ones who helped repeal DADT, by affirming the dedicated and hard working gay service men and women already serving with them. If you ask me, I'd tell you that THEY are the true heroes in ensuring the repeal of DADT, and not the Democratic Party.
EDITED 02/09/2011 to add: Trusted radio host, Michelangelo Signorile examines the DADT repeal even more forensically in this article in the Advocate Magazine, and provides a valuable breakdown of events leading up to the its eventual repeal. (A MUST READ). END OF EDIT.
While many Democrats are happy to take the credit for DADT's repeal, and most gays believe they deserve it, I just caution against giving the wrong folks credit in this case. And as an aside, let us not forget that when Bill Clinton was campaigning for President, he vowed to make it legal for gays to serve openly in the military, only to back down and settle on a "compromise" that has since proven less than desirable for gays, the military or the country, to the point that it was eventually repealed.
However, we do have the Democrats to thank for improving hate crimes legislation for gay people, but also for those of other nationalities, ethnicities, religions, and gender identities, so it can hardly be considered a strictly Democratic piece of legislation designed only to protect the gay community. It, like many of the proposals GOProud includes in its legislative agenda, applies to ALL Americans, and not just a select few.
Does this mean I've suddenly become a conservative or Republican? Hardly. Although the words "liberal" and "conservative" can be quite vague when it comes to politics. One can be socially liberal and fiscally conservative and so neither term would accurately describe someone like myself. One can be religiously conservative and still not accurately describe a group like GOProud, just as CPAC can be socially conservative and still not accurately describe a group like GOProud. GOProud is however, FISCALLY conservative, and in my view, THAT is the best kind of conservative out there, whether they are gay or straight, or Democrat or Republican.
But what if the gay community had both Democrats AND Republicans vying for our vote, where even Republicans began developing platforms specifically designed to appeal to our votes? Imagine a country where Democrats could no longer assume the gay community will vote for them, and (since neither could the Republican Party), social conservatives began to stop with the homophobic rants in the public discourse which come from assuming we're not going to vote for them? What if Democrats could no longer half-ass their way to getting legislation passed that actually benefits the gay community (so long as it doesn't cost them politically) as in the case of the original DADT legislation? What if Republicans could no longer afford to *not* advance an agenda that included legislative proposals that targeted and benefited the gay community? What if Democrats could no longer get a pass by telling gays to "just wait a little longer" on marriage equality or the repeal of DOMA or the implementation of ENDA while they just sat on those issues in order to get our votes come the next election? What if Democrats had another vision competing for the gay vote?
Impossible you say?
Honestly, up until about a month ago I would agree, but with the inclusion of GOProud in CPAC for the second year in a row, it seems to me they have made enough headway demonstrating to Republicans that they are "conservative enough" for CPAC that they are going to be keeping their place at the conservative table secured. And now that they have, I think it's important that gays take a closer look at what they are offering us, like tax equity for domestic partners regarding health insurance.
Going further, let's imagine now that GOProud is able to move forward an agenda that becomes adopted by the greater Republican Party at large, that doesn't include gay marriage and maybe not even ENDA, and yet still gives them the power to destroy the political tool of homophobia so many Republicans now use to pander to their conservative constituents (especially the religious right)?
But what would such a policy agenda look like, and how would it appeal to the broader gay community? I look forward to some of those answers emerging during the conversation I hope this article will start amongst gay voters. I also hope they will be explored in increasing detail as GOProud continues to hone its message to the gay community at large regarding the specifics of their political agenda. But some of these questions we can answer on our own, and at least imagine a reality where GOProud supports improved health care legislation (which all gays need), lower and fairer taxes (which all gays need), and more limits on the growth of the Federal Government (which all gays need). Some may ask, "well if that's all they're offering gays, then why is GOProud even trying to consider itself a gay group?" I've asked the same question myself, and the conclusion I continue to return to is that they consider gay Americans as Americans first...and honestly, so do I.
Some have asked, "does GOProud support gay marriage?" Their publicly stated position is that they support states' rights on the question of marriage. Some gays feel like this isn't making GOProud a "gay enough" group to support, and perhaps so. But that doesn't mean it doesn't make them SMART (and who ever accused gays of being stupid?) As we all witness the marriage issue now churning through the court system, I think we can all look down the road and see that eventually the US Supreme Court will be deciding the issue, just as they did for revoking state sodomy laws, and state prohibitions on interracial marriage. If that's the case, why should GOProud waste any energy on the matter--especially in an environment that has made it clear they are not budging on the issue? We have to pick our fights in life, and so does GOProud. I don't personally think that an issue that isn't going to be decided by Conservatives anyway, is one that a conservative group like GOProud should waste their time, energy and resources on.
Some have asked, "does GOProud support ENDA?" This is one of those questions that GOProud will have to answer. I honestly don't know. It could be they haven't taken a position, or that they are developing a position based on where ENDA is heading legislatively. I can't speak for them on that point, but I can say that it would seem to me that just as most discrimination based questions go to the courts, then ENDA too will most likely end up at the US Supreme Court at some point, and if so, again, why should GOProud waste time and energy on it? But again, they'll have to speak to that directly.
So what does that leave for GOProud to take to conservatives and the Republican Party for gays? The answer to that question is simple: Policies that they take to conservatives and the Republican Party for ALL Americans, but that also make a point of *not* excluding gays.
While that answer may seem simplistic, again, I encourage each of us to take a look down the road past gay marriage, past DADT, and past ENDA....what's left for the gay community to fight for once those hurdles are crossed? A better question is what does the Democratic Party have to offer gays at that point? I think both parties are going to have to soon begin seriously tackling lower taxes (including married gays), strong family-friendly legislation (that includes gay parents and partners), education for our children (including those adopted by gays), funding retirement benefits for the elderly (including elderly gays and their surviving spouse), and maintaining our strong national defense (which can only be strengthened by the inclusion of gays under the DADT repeal) and yes, a health care policy that actually makes sense for ALL Americans (including gays, many of whom deal with HIV and AIDS treatments and medications).
These will be the same policies that the Republican Party at some point after DOMA and ENDA are settled will have to begin focusing on even for gays as well. The advantage we have as a gay community at this very moment in regards to GOProud's participation in CPAC though, is the head start they are giving us in regards to ensuring the Republican Party understand two things;
1. that there is an opportunity after DOMA and ENDA to attract gay voters with less "gay specific" legislative initiatives which gays just happen to support simply because they are good for ALL Americans, and,
2. that if they want to lead this country, they are going to need the gay vote to win, which means getting it back from the Democrats by earning it, starting THIS WEEK at CPAC.
And what do the Democrats need to learn by GOProud's attendance at CPAC? Frankly, I believe that if they hope to maintain the gay vote, they are either going to have to get on the stick and get moving on repealing DOMA and ENDA legislatively, or stand to lose the loyalty of the gay community that they have all but forsaken by sitting on their hands for the last 2 years when they had every opportunity to fully deliver on them with a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress and the Presidency.
I think most gays agree that it was disappointing to see the Democrats squander their most recent 2 year opportunity to move on the gay issues they have been promising to get working on for us since 1993, and even earlier. The 111th Congress with its Democratic majority has squandered valuable time and energy on a health care bill that most Americans are displeased with. And Democrats by and large appear to be hoping to continue to string along the gay community with DOMA and ENDA during the next Presidential cycle. After all, if they get to working TOO fast on those issues, they'll be resolved and then they'll have to deliver on "non gay" issues that will still attract gay voters if they want to continue to get our votes. The lesson I believe (at least the smart) Democrats will learn is that they'll no longer be able to take gays and our votes for granted. They, like the Republican Party, will have to begin actually EARNING our votes by coming up with better ideas and legislative policy agendas than the competition.
The way I see it, regardless of gay Americans' first impressions of GOProud today, it's important for gays to at least consider the vision being described herein that dares imagine the first time in American history gays are being given a choice, and in America, choice ALWAYS equals POWER. GOProud is in a position to now begin bringing considerable political pressure to bear on both conservative and liberal Democrats to either FINALLY deliver on the promises they have made to the gay community for the past 20+ years, or be prepared to forfeit to the Republican Party the largest voting block shift in American history since Reconstruction.
At the same time, they will now have considerable power to continue to rid the Republican Party of its homophobia (which has already begun with the boycott of a few socially focused conservative groups declining to attend CPAC) and begin wielding a positive force for change within Republican circles. I believe that if they play their cards right, and the gay community gets behind their effort, Republicans will take note, and GOProud will for the first time deliver to the gay community the power necessary for us to begin dictating to BOTH parties what our legislative agenda should look like if they want our votes, instead of just taking the "dictation" (pun fully intended) that the Democratic Party has thus far read off for us.
I don't know about you, but as a gay man, I just got a little drunk from our new found power that GOProud is in a position to give us....and I'm a Democrat....
....(at least right now).
Brian Anthony Bowen
Member of the Worldwide Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community
Music Producer, "The Gemini Enterprise: Stellar Trance"
Blogger, "The Gemini Gayzette"
Author of upcoming new book, "The Bed Keeper: A Biblical Case FOR Gay Marriage"