February 01, 2008
Posted by: Kevin
With the exit of Rudy Giuliani, who by any reasonable account was the biggest gay rights supporter to ever have a decent shot at the GOP nomination for president, a lot of air has come out of the balloon for gay Republicans this cycle. What comes next is still a very open question.
Some things are very clear. The vast majority of gay Republicans I know were either declared or undeclared Giuliani supporters, many of them registered on his delegate slates to the GOP convention. That was logical. He was a Republican worth fighting for in the gay community for many years. I backed his mayoral campaigns in 1993 and 1997, and I was lucky enough to speak with him a few times during my time on staff at Log Cabin Republicans. At an event after the 1997 election, I saw him get booed at a high school in Queens because he had proposed an expansive domestic partnership law for same-sex couples after the election. He didn't blink, and he lectured the hecklers about respect for people who are different, and why it made not only New York a great city, but America a great country. I marched with him down Fifth Avenue on many a Gay Pride Day. I never dreamed he'd run for president. And just from the level of vitriol and attacks the partisan New York gay Democratic hacks stirred up from the moment he announced (if you understand New York City politics at all), you can be sure Rudy was indeed a stand-out Republican on our issues.
Right off, as the campaign got serious, he started hedging on some important things. It was very disappointing. And it wasn't excusable. Had his primary election strategy succeeded (i.e. had John McCain vanished early), he would have had to answer to the gay community, not the least of whom his many, many gay supporters, for his equivocations. I was betting that he would come clean and be with us forthrightly before November. But that's in the what-if category now.
The other sure thing is that Mitt Romney must be stopped. He is, embodied in one man, everything that is reprehensible and destructive inside the Republican Party of which I am a member. Romney's lies and flip-flops on gay issues run the gamut so widely that he literally should be in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most heinous backtracking on more gay issues than any other politician in history. But it goes beyond our community. Mitt Romney has shown that he is not only incompetent as a potential commander-in-chief (see his laughable answers in the last debate), but he is willing to say or do anything to get ahead politically, and the combination of the two at this moment in time could lead to the worst imaginable consequences for the world. Romney in the White House is just a dangerous, frightening concept to imagine.
Mike Huckabee is already a footnote in the race, and given the fact that he depended on a lot of rabidly anti-gay supporters to even peak his head out in this election it would be ridiculous to think we could count on him to be rational on gay issues. His last minute, pre-Mega Tuesday fumbling to sound tolerant in San Francisco is more a sign of him being lost on the road to oblivion than anything else.
And then there is John McCain. He's a man I also supported very strongly in 2000 before he was knocked out of the race. I also got to talk to him on occasion in my old career, and the balls he showed to Karl Rove, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell alone in the 2000 campaign will always make me proud to call him a friend. The fact that many on the anti-gay right have said they hate him so much they'd vote for Hillary instead of him, frankly, is because his contempt for their politics is real. But it isn't 2000 anymore. And McCain is not with us on a lot of issues, even if he's with us gay Republicans on the fight against a common enemy. In the end, the enemy-of-my-enemy adage just doesn't cut it anymore. It's not good for HRC's boot-licking of the Democratic Party, or to let the Clinton Borg hack-o-rama off the hook for their uselessness. So it can't be the reason for voting for McCain for president in November either. He's going to have to do more.
It's only February, yes. But stay tuned. If you haven't noticed, gay Republicans don't fit neatly into any box, despite the relentless trashing that we get from a few trolling gay lefties on the internet. We're also not represented by a wide measure by friends of mine like Bruce Carroll, founder of GayPatriot, who despite my strong affection for him as a longtime friend, sometimes scares me with the intensity of his devotion to leaders who are unmistakably and unabashedly unreachable on whether gays should have any equality under the law now or ever.
The 2008 election has the chance of being a real party-bender of major proportions, depending on who emerges from the ashes of the primaries. With the gays, too. I'm not close to deciding who'd I'd want in November myself. But if the gay blogosphere is any indicator, don't be surprised if a surprising number of other gay Republicans decide to make history and get behind a man who (I must confess) has inspired many of us more profoundly than we expected, and has us all considering our options more widely than we'd ever considered before.
And I'm not talking about Mike Bloomberg.
Posted by: Chris
Wasn't it Mike Huckabee who advocated quarantining people with AIDS and keeping gays out of the military because homosexuality presents a "dangerous threat to public health"? That Huckabee was certainly not on display campaigning in San Francisco this week, according to the New York Sun.
At a news conference, Mr. Huckabee said he opposed discrimination against gays in the workplace. "I don't think people should be hired or fired on that basis. There are people who have worked in the governor's office for me who were gay, and it was never an issue," he said.
However, when asked whether he would support a federal law to ban discrimination against homosexuals, the former Arkansas governor equivocated. "I'd have to study that to find out, are there instances where people are being fired for that express reason? If there is, then that would have to be, certainly, examined," he said.
That's better than John McCain, who has said that opposes discrimination against gays is "un-American" and yet also opposes any civil rights laws that would actually protect against it. Mitt Romney favored workplace discrimination laws in the past but it's unlikely he does now, after being born again as an anti-gay evangelical.
The Sun story otherwise documents how most gay Republicans, who favored gay rights moderate Rudy Giuliani, are now expected to flock to McCain. That's likely, but McCain is deserving only if measured by the low bar set by George Bush, since the only practical difference is McCain's federalism-based opposition to a federal marriage amendment.
While it's safe to say that almost no disillusioned gay Giuliani backers are giving Hillary Clinton a second look, I've heard more than a few gay Republians say that Barack Obama, rather than McCain, was their likely second choice.
January 30, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Edwards' departure obviously clarifies the Democratic race, though it's anybody's guess whether it will benefit Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. The North Carolina senator ran on the ideological left of the field, a contrast from his Senate voting record and his 2004 persona. If his supporters are similarly inclined, then Obama may benefit because voters perceive him (probably correctly) as more liberal than Clinton -- especially on the Iraq War.
Obama will obviously also benefit by consolidating the "anybody but Hillary" folks. As much as I have grown to dislike Hillary in this campaign, I do not count myself among that crowd. If Obama had dropped out, I would have probably swung Hillary's way -- because Edwards' "journey" on gay rights and other issues struck me as only slightly more genuine that Mitt Romney's trip the contrary direction, and Edwards' proximity to trial lawyers and trade unions is anathema to me.
On the Republican side, Giuliani's non-starter of a campaign was a huge disappointment to many social moderates in the party. The only bright side is that few analysts are blaming his failure on his left-leaning social views, although those and his messey personal life no doubt were to blame in part for why he never caught fire in Iowa or New Hampshire and ended up bailing on both.
His departure from the campaign puts gay-friendly moderates in a bind. Mike Huckabee is obviously a non-starter, except for those who believe that nominating the least electable candidate is the best political strategy. My own view is that he's only staying at this point because he knows that many of his evangelical backers would likely flock to Romney, whom Huckabee clearly disdains. There's also plenty of speculation that Huckabee is bucking to be McCain's running mate, although I find that unlikely, even though it might help the ticket with evangelicals and in the South.
John McCain is portrayed as the remaining moderate in the race, and the label fits well on issues like finance reform, immigration, torture, tax cuts -- where he can be a GOP maverick. His famous willingness to "reach across the aisle" has never extended to social issues, even though it doesn't appear he cares particularly much about them. Despite his "agents of intolerance" broadside against the religious right in 2000, McCain has consistently opposed even basic, bipartisan gay rights legislation like employment non-discrimination and hate crimes protection.
McCain has opposed on federalism grounds a federal marriage amendment, something both Romney and Huckabee support. But the president doesn't get a vote on constitutional amendments, and the whole idea will be in political nowheresville after the Democrats solidify their control of Congress in November.
Romney presents something of an enigma. He was targeted by Log Cabin (on non-gay issues) because of the way he reinvented himself on a whole host of social issues to adapt to a more conservative GOP primary electorate. It's a fair question to ask which Romney is closer to his actual core, the moderate Massachusetts governor or the conservative presidential candidate. After all, when John Kerry tacked to the right in 2004, few believed his newfound views were truly his own; why shouldn't we wonder the same about Romney?
The newly conservative Romney as a nominee would at least present voters a clearer choice between the parties than McCain would. My dream matchup, actually, would be Romney against Obama, since the former's mean-spirited, take-no-prisoners negative campaigning is the perfect contrast to Obama's "new politics." There's a reason why Obama soared when the Clintons went harshly negative, and I believe those tactics would backfire especially with independents even more explosively on Romney.
January 22, 2008
Posted by: Kevin
This morning, there is a palpable sense of panic across all the world's financial markets. It can't be ignored by anyone. Certainly, if you're an investor, a homeowner or you own a business, it's likely you're already hurting. But from a purely political sense, is the economic crisis good or bad for gay issues in this election season? Does it factor in at all?
Strangely enough, at first glance seems that economic downturns have been good for gays in recent election campaigns, while booming economic times have been largely bad.
It's conventional wisdom that when people are worried about their jobs or their pocketbooks, they don't really want to hear about homosexuals, abortions or the ACLU. Blaming gays or abortionists for the loss of one's job just doesn't wash, but someone who comes across as the one who cares the most about your job loss will get room to be nice to other people, even the gays. In boom times, when the average voter is content and fairly disinterested in voting, both sides tend to throw cultural bombs to turn out their bases in a zero-sum game. That's when the pitchforks tend to come out for us.
The 1992 presidential campaign was seminal for gay rights as a national campaign issue, at least where gays were at once condemned and courted. The U.S. economy was lurching into a recession as the primaries began that year, which launched the populist campaign of Pat Buchanan through his crushing defeat of incumbent President George H.W. Bush in New Hampshire. Polling showed that Buchanan's harsh, angry economic message pitched to those most harmed by the economic downturn helped fuel his victory there, and built a national sense of resentment against Bush. However, when that message expanded into lurid far right cultural attacks on gays, 'feminists', immigrants and pro-choice voters, it ran out of steam with the general public. The momentum of Buchanan's insurgency culminated at the horrendously anti-gay 1992 Republican National Convention, which the GOP never recovered from.
As the economy worsened, Bill Clinton and Ross Perot seized the middle ground and captured the public's concern with economic visions for change. Clinton ultimately connected with the middle on their economic fears ("it's the economy, stupid"), which gave him room to make an unprecedented play for gays, making a list of promises unheard of by a leading presidential candidate in history. By all accounts, Clinton won that election on the basis of earning the trust of a nation worried about its wallet. The gays, in political terms, won along with him.
From March 2000 to October 2002, the dot-com crash shook the world economy. It didn't have the same impact on average Americans the way the '92 recession did (or the current mortgage meltdown has), but it hit dynamic tech sectors very hard and raised fears about the long-term solvency of Social Security as the baby boom generation began to age. There was a budget surplus and plenty of room for the nation to maneuver. In the end, both sides were faced with making the argument as to who was better at making those maneuvers against the looming end to good economic times.
It boiled down to "who do you trust?" and "who is the better leader?", factors that see-sawed all year between the two. And it devolved into a war over the favor of independent voters. This meant both Al Gore and George W. Bush had to blur and bland-out anything that independents would view as "sharp edges."
Gore boldly chose conservative (then-) Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman as his running mate. Bush, the "compassionate conservative", took hits nationally for going too far to the right in South Carolina in his struggle to eliminate insurgent Senator John McCain; weeks later, Bush met with gay Republicans and said he was "a better person" for it. Both parties had openly gay speakers at their conventions in prime time (Elizabeth Birch for the Democrats, Congressman Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) for the GOP). Meanwhile, an anti-gay third-party campaign by a diminished Pat Buchanan fell completely flat.
Critics will argue that neither the 1992 or 2000 elections resulted in a sea-change of positive federal legislation for gay Americans. In fact, the Clinton presidency brought openly gay appointments, the first White House gay liaison (who was straight), pride day proclamations and favorable speeches, but it also brought "don't ask, don't tell" and the Defense of Marriage Act. Bush's presidency brought the first (two) openly gay national AIDS directors at the White House, a historic global program to fight HIV/AIDS, the first federal anti-gay hate crimes prosecution case (which was later dropped for lack of evidence), as well as its own smaller list of gay appointees. But Bush's presidency also launched the Federal Marriage Amendment to the top of the agenda, creating a cataclysmic split with gay Republicans and setting off an ugly campaign of "outing" closeted gays that (so far has) ended the political careers of two Members of Congress and soon a U.S. Senator. Both presidents also lost majorities in Congress they enjoyed early in their terms.
So what might the current economic crisis do for gays? Follow the jump for more…
January 04, 2008
Posted by: Chris
An article by Duncan Osborne in New York's Gay City News takes issue with the media's depiction of former Mayor Rudy Giuliani as "moderate" or "pro gay rights." The article is packed with interesting detail, although unfortunately all of it is colored by Osborne's obvious bias and unwillingness to quote pro-Giuliani sources. (Query why any media outlet in the age of FOX News still thinks "unfair and unbalanced" is the best way to inform.)
Whether Giuliani is "moderate or pro gay rights" is in the eye of the beholder, of course, which is all the more reason to ask a diversity of beholders. But diversity of views rarely makes it on the list of valued diversities of the left. Surely everyone would agree that his gay rights record has to be put in some sort of context to be judged fairly. Compare him on gay rights with other Republicans seriously contending for president, now or ever, and he's better than all of them by a mile. Compare him with the candidates for president from both parties, now or ever, and he's in the center-left of the pack.
Osborne's point is that Giuliani was not well-loved by the gays who knew him best, living in New York, but that's hardly the measure for whether a candidate for national office is "moderate or pro gay rights." As mayor, Giuliani signed domestic partner legislation and backed hate crime and non-discrimination bills. (His views on transgender-inclusion aren't known -- drag appearances nonwithstanding.) He spoke out against "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and in favor of civil unions.
Like every Democrat save Dennis Kucinich, Giuliani opposes gay marriage, but unlike George Bush, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, he opposes a federal marriage amendment.
That overall record positions Giuliani somewhere to the left of Bill Clinton, to name just one example, who signed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the Defense of Marriage Act into law and counseled John Kerry four years ago to come out in favor of federal and state constitutional amendments banning gay marriage.
Since Giuliani launched his presidential bid, he has tacked somewhat to the right, warning against mucking with military policy "during a time of war" -- albeit a bit of a reversal since the war on terror is never-ending -- and fell out of love with civil unions when they were adopted in neighboring Connecticut. Apparently seeing civil unions up close made them too close to marriage for the man who got himself kicked out of Gracie Mansion by Wife No. 2 for a very public affair with the woman who would become Wife No. 3.
Of course we all know now that Giuliani actually moved in with a gay couple during those marital lows, showing a degree of personal comfort with gays unmatched among any serious White House hopeful ever except perhaps Hillary Clinton, who has always been surrounded by lesbian and gay staffers and friends.
Osborne offers up a laundry list of complaints by gays during Giuliani's two terms, and it's a list worth reading. But there are also pro-gay nuggets, like regularly participating in Gay Pride parades, hosting Gay Pride celebrations in Gracie Mansion and approving $1.5 million in city funding for the LGBT Community Center. (If Bill Clinton or Al Gore ever marched in a Gay Pride parade, I don't remember it.)
Ultimately, despite the complaints, there's nothing in Osborne's report to erase the reality that, as a Republican or as a presidential candidate or just as a politician in the U.S. of A., Rudy Giuliani is "moderate or pro gay rights," historically speaking.
June 27, 2007
Posted by: Chris
More information today on where the presidential candidates stand on gay, trans and HIV issues, as the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force issued its "first comprehensive analysis" of the 2008 race.
In past elections, the Task Force has put out fair, useful and thorough analysis without the tendency to skew things for one candidate or another, like we saw from the pro-Hillary questionnaire last month by HRC. But on a nuts-and-bolts level, the Task Force report released today is surprisingly weak. The information is inconsistent, not well-documented, and even sloppy in places. Not only did the report fail to deliver any bombshells (like HRC's), the Task Force serves up what we already know while managing to leave out a surprisingly large amount.
HRC received well-deserved praise from this blog for forcing the Democratic candidates to move beyond general rhetoric about "equal rights" for gay couples. As a result, the Dems are now on record supporting repeal of half or all of the Defense of Marriage Act, and — even more importantly as a practical matter — full federal recognition of gay couples in civil unions, domestic partnerships and other committed relationships.
The Task Force, on the other hand, glosses over all of that, offering up a check-mark or a red "X" for "supports civil unions/DP." Since the Task Force didn't give a separate line-item for DOMA, immigration rights or federal benefits for civil unions, we're left with a mishmash of info.
The Task Force deserves its own big red "X" on the issue of fairness to the candidates. You get a taste that "the fix was in" from the press release accompanying the report, in which E.D. Matt Foreman essentially concludes: Democrats good, Republicans bad:
The differences between the Democratic and Republican fields of candidates on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues are shockingly stark and profoundly depressing. Over time, the majority of Americans have moved to support basic fairness for LGBT Americans, including nondiscrimination and hate crimes laws, repeal of 'Don't Ask Don't Tell,' and protections for our families. Sadly, the Republican field has gone in the opposite direction, still clearly pandering to the venom of the so-called 'religious right.'
Looking at the Task Force scorecard (above), you'd think he was right, given all the green check-marks on the Democratic side and all those red "X's" on the Republican half. But when you dig a little deeper, you find one Republican candidate — who just so happens to be the leading contender — didn't get a fair shake.
On the eight issues highlighted by the Task Force, Rudy Giuliani gets check-marks for two, question marks with asterisks for two, question marks for two, and red checks for two. Here's how it breaks down:
- The two green check-marks are for opposing a federal marriage amendment (as do John McCain and Ron Paul) and supporting civil unions. So far, so good.
- The two question marks with asterisks are on employment discrimination and hate crime laws. Rudy is on record supporting the inclusion of gays in both, but he doesn't get a green check because he hasn't said if he would protect transgender people, too.
- The two question marks are on gays in the military, where Giuliani supports lifting the ban but not during a time of war (or GOP primary, one ventures); as well as for gay adoption, although I can't imagine him opposing.
- Rudy gets a red "X" for opposing same-sex marriage, just like every serious contender on the Democratic side, and for (of all things) not supporting HIV/AIDS funding. The only evidence for that red "X" is a 2001 article from the New York Blade, when I was the paper's executive editor, in which an AIDS activist criticizes Mayor Giuliani for cutting prevention funds for communities of color. Color me underwhelmed.
So strip away the questionable characterizations, and what do you get? Giuliani really deserves a red "X" on marriage only, and deserves check-marks (though some with asterisks) on all the rest, including (I'm betting) on adoption.
Does that make Giuliani as good on gay issues as the leading Dems, who all score similarly? Hardly. His support is tepid in some areas and, as the HRC questionnaire demonstrates, the Democrats have committed to specific areas of progress that are central to treating gays (and gay relationships) equally. What's more, Giuliani's record on (dis)respecting civil liberties should give great pause to many gay Republicans who've been waiting for a "little l" libertarian to capture the party's imagination.
Nonetheless, we should call Foreman out for his doomsday rhetoric about the Republican Party. While it's certainly true that the "religious right" influence is exaggerated in the GOP primary, and the party has a very long way to go before it's competitive on gay rights, the glass isn't all empty. For the first time ever, the Republican frontrunner has a decent gay rights record; one by the way that compares favorably to that of Bill Clinton.
May 12, 2007
Posted by: Chris
It's very refreshing to see Rudy Giuliani finally coming clean on his less-than-conservative views on hot-button social issues. In a speech on Friday at Houston Baptist College, Giuliani made his case for a new GOP that focuses more on fighting terrorism and growing the economy, and less on fighting each other on guns, God and gays — my words not his. From a report in the New York Times:
In a forceful summation of the substantive and political case for his candidacy, the former mayor of New York acknowledged that his views on social issues were out of line with those of many Republican primary voters.
But he argued that there were even greater matters at stake in the election, starting with which party would better protect the nation from terrorism. Mr. Giuliani suggested that his record in New York, which included leading the city after the attacks of Sept. 11 and overseeing a decline in violent crime during his eight years in office, made him the most electable of the Republican candidates, no matter his stand on social issues like abortion.
“If we don’t find a way of uniting around broad principles that will appeal to a large segment of this country, if we can’t figure that out, we are going to lose this election,” he said.
The excerpt that ran alongside the Times report only dealt with Rudy's views on abortion, about which he takes a principled stand of personal moral opposition to the procedure but respect for those who disagree and a belief that government should let each woman decide.
The speech earned Giuliani a standing ovation, which may show he's the "Straight Talk Express" candidate in this year's GOP race: respected for sticking with his views, even if it means sticking it to the religious right. He was certainly more tactful than the original straight talker, John McCain, who in 2000 famously called Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson "agents of intolerance."
That choice phrasing cost McCain the South Carolina primary and a shot at the nomination, and the Arizona senator has since bent over so backward to win the right back that he has alienated those who respected him before. Still, Giuliani did not pull punches like he could have in his speech on Friday, and in provocative fashion suggested moral equivalence between those on both sides of the abortion debate:
[I]n a country like ours, where people of good faith, people who are equally decent, equally moral and equally religious, when they come to different conclusions about this, about something so very very personal, I believe you have to respect their viewpoint. You give them a level of choice here. Because I think ultimately even if you disagree, you have to respect the fact that their conscience is as strong as yours is about this, and they’re the ones that are most affected by it. So therefore I would grant women the right to make that choice.
From everything I know about conservative Christians — and I know quite a lot — that was not the way to play it. He would have been much better off saying those who choose abortion are commiting serious moral error, but the government should not decide that question for them.
On gay issues, at least from the Times report, Giuliani was not as depthful, saying "he remained firmly committed to the idea that marriage should be between a man and woman, but that he was equally committed to protecting the rights of gay men and lesbians," in particular "domestic partnerships."
That doesn't exactly represent Giuliani talking straight. In the past, he has said he favors "civil unions," which as enacted in Vermont, Connecticut and New Jersey (and soon to be New Hampshire) include all the rights and benefits of marriage except the name. "Domestic partnerships" presumably include more limited rights, but in reality run the gamut from health insurance benefits and hospital visitation, to something very close to civil unions themselves as adopted in D.C., California and Oregon.
In a story a couple of weeks ago, the New York Sun nailed Giuliani on the semi-flip-flop:
On a February 2004 edition of Fox News's "The O'Reilly Factor," Mr. Giuliani told Bill O'Reilly, when asked if he supported gay marriage, "I'm in favor of … civil unions." …
Asked by Mr. O'Reilly in the interview how he would respond to gay Americans who said being denied access to the institution of marriage violated their rights, Mr. Giuliani said: "That's why you have civil partnerships. So now you have a civil partnership, domestic partnership, civil union, whatever you want to call it, and that takes care of the imbalance, the discrimination, which we shouldn't have."
But in a statement the Giuliani campaign issued to the Sun, the candidate backed off of civil unions as too close to marriage:
"Mayor Giuliani believes marriage is between one man and one woman. Domestic partnerships are the appropriate way to ensure that people are treated fairly," the Giuliani campaign said in a written response to a question from the Sun. "In this specific case the law states same sex civil unions are the equivalent of marriage and recognizes same sex unions from outside states. This goes too far and Mayor Giuliani does not support it."
Of course any attempt to cast Giuliani, who dumped his second wife in a press conference in the midst of an adulterous affair, as a defender of traditional marriage is downright laughable. But if he sticks to support for non-discrimination, hate crimes and domestic partnerships, Giuliani will be by far the most gay friendly of any major league GOP presidential contender.
Giuliani's somewhat straight talk on abortion and gay rights stands in marked contrast to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who has abandoned his pro-choice, somewhat pro-gay past in a rush to pander to conservative Christians. Now Romney is portraying a GOP with no room for those who are only conservative on terrorism and taxes, but not social issues. From a report in yesterday's New York Times:
In Iowa, Mr. Romney introduced to audiences the metaphor of a three-legged stool, reflecting what he described as core conservative Republican principles: “strong military, strong economy, strong families.”
“In my view, you’ve got to talk about all three for the Republican stool to stand,” he said. “Two won’t hold it up.”
If the Republican contest for the White House shapes of as a choice between Rudy's big tent and Romney's three-legged stool, then the Log Cabin Republicans are right to put their early vocal support behind the former mayor of New York. A nomination victory for Giuliani legitimizes social moderates on abortion and gay rights for the first time as mainstream Republicans, which could make it as important and defining for the party as Barry Goldwater in 1964 and Ronald Reagan in 1980 — albeit in the opposite direction.