September 08, 2008
Log Cabin's McCain mistake revisited
Posted by: Chris
Just as I expected, Kevin has made by far the strongest argument I've seen anywhere in favor of the Log Cabin endorsement of McCain-Palin. His general point is that the decision was necessary for Log Cabin to retain any influence within the Republican Party, and to preserve access in a McCain White House.
Fair enough. I certainly understand that motivation and guessed as much before they announced the endorsement. Also, I will defer to Kevin's far superior knowledge about the control (or lack thereof) that GOP presidential nominees have over the platform process.
Still, before I respond to Kevin's argument, a word about motives. Kevin says he "can only speculate as to why [I've] been on such a tear" about the Log Cabin endorsement, although he believes I was motivated by "truly want[ing] more progress in the GOP" because I know he knows "as absolute fact that [I don't] want Log Cabin to fail."
Of course he's right on both counts -- I believei that I recognize more than most gay non-Republicans how critical support from the GOP will be to hastening our full equality under the law. I regularly defend Log Cabin in part because I know how critical they will be to bringing the GOP around. In fact, that's precisely why I went on "such a tear": because I see Log Cabin mishandling what should be an enormous opportunity, not just to its own detriment but to the movement's as a whole.
Kevin agrees with me that Log Cabin needs to raise the bar each election cycle, and yet he somehow misses that in reality LCR set the bar in roughly the same place as 2004 and only infinitesimally higher than way back in 2000.
Eight years ago, Kevin reminds us, "Karl Rove did meet with Rich Tafel face-to-face at the 2000 GOP convention, and came to an agreement on a number of items in return for an endorsement, [but] he never -- EVER -- would have given a speech before our organization that convention week." Kevin doesn't let us in on what "items" Rove agreed to, and we've got no indication what "items" McCain's camp signed off on -- so comparison there is rather difficult.
The only visible difference we can see between eight years ago and now is the brief public appearance made by two McCain campaign officials at Log Cabin meetings during the convention, as well as the official credentials LCR received in St. Paul. Do those differences really amount to raising the bar -- commensurate with the growth in support for gay rights in general, and among Republicans in particular? It certainly doesn't to me.
Kevin portrays these mini-advances as achievements made in spite of the non-endorsement four years ago, bu I would argue that's got the politics backwards. The LCR refusal in 2004 served notice that an endorsement this time around was no sure thing, and the McCain camp had to worry about a repeat, along with a series of press appearances that to distract from wooing moderates and independents.
Most disappointing for me, however, was Kevin's failure in almost 1,800 words to say anything at all about how McCain in reality failed to chin even the meager bar that he says Log Cabin set for presidential candidates this cycle: opposition to a federal marriage amendment.
To make their case, Log Cabin and Kevin are still reaching back before this campaign season to a time when McCain fervently opposed an amendment as "antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans." That's ancient history, as they know far too well. A fair and objective assessment is that McCain is at best "conditionally opposed" or, I would argue, "conditionally in favor" of amending the nation's founding document to ban states from marrying same-sex couples.
As I've written until blue in the fingertips, McCain has been backing away from his opposition to a federal amendment throughout this campaign season, just as he backed away from condemning the Pat Robertsons of the party as "agents of intolerance." McCain's slow-motion flip-flop climaxed last month in pledge to support a federal marriage amendment if even one judge rules the notorious Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.
My issue with the Log Cabin endorsement isn't just the way it papers over what is supposed to be its line in the sand. I think those inside the Log Cabin bubble -- and those who spent years there -- underestimate their own potential to influence the party and the debate. Kevin would measure LCR's political power by the size of membership rolls orby the number of gay Republican voters.
They're forgetting the percentage of committed party activists -- like Republican delegates -- and GOP-leaning who are sympathetic to gay rights. Not to mention those who see scapegoating the gays as a sign of Republican intolerance and judgmentalism, however they feel about gay rights itself.
If Log Cabin were to play it's P.R. cards more effectively, it could play a major role in defining whether Republican candidates -- at whatever level -- are perceived as hard core conservatives or those of the "compassionate" variety.
That's why I think Kevin is off base in imagining Log Cabin would have been "declared finished" if it had "endorsed McCain by press release and gone home" to fight Proposition 8 in California. To the contrary, if Log Cabin had withheld its endorsement and done the media rounds to explain why, the media would have eaten it up -- just look at the press the hardcore Hillaryites got. The message would be clear thata candidate like McCain will pay a serious price for opposing every form of gay rights protection ever proposed, and backing away even from opposition to a federal amendment.
Instead, I'm afraid, the take-away message for GOP politicians and operatives is the one I took last week: opposing our equality doesn't really matter, even if like McCain the record is grossly out of touch with Republicans generally, so long as they say a few placating words.
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