Joyce L. Arnold, Liberally Independent, Queer Talk, equality activist, writer.
The Republican Party platform news of the last few days has yet again confirmed the power of the self-identified Christian / family-traditional values voters. Whatever else, the Family Research Council, American Family Association, etc., are not run by dumb people. Over the last couple of decades, they’ve successfully written much of their agenda into the GOP platform, and more significantly, they’ve successfully turned it into policy and legislation.
There is a difference this time around: poll after poll make it clear that in spite of the platform wins, the “Christian” Republican Party base are losing in public opinion trends. FRC and company are working overtime to reassert their role as a crucial Republican “base.” This group has been catered to by the GOP for several decades now, which, of course, has driven the party further into Right-ness, with the Democratic Party frequently following after.
But the “social issues” agenda (a euphemism for denial of equality, civil rights, justice, etc.) is diminishing in support. Add to that the 2012 focus on the economy and jobs (however poorly both parties are doing with that), and the “Christian” Republican Right faced a challenge. They stepped up. During the last few weeks, with high profile stories – Chick-fil-A, the FRC shooting, and Todd Akin – they quickly grabbed the opportunities to get lots of media time, and they skillfully (again, these are smart people, when it comes to playing political marketing games) used them to garner attention, and segue neatly into the Republican Party platform stories.
In fact, Tony Perkins of FRC explicitly told Buzzfeed:
‘You should read the entire plank on marriage, which I wrote. I feel very happy about it. I feel pretty optimistic about the outcome here.’
There was an effort made by some working on the platform to turn away from the awful language about marriage, as well as about reproductive freedom. Republican opponents of such language are having a hard time finding a silver lining, but they’re working at it. From Log Cabin Republicans:
Platform Debates Reveal Generational Divide Among Fellow Conservatives
While Log Cabin Republicans commend the delegates who proposed inclusion of pro-equality language in the 2012 Republican Party platform, the final document is marred by outdated social conservative ideology.
‘Tony Perkins may be boasting today about having written an antigay marriage plank into the Republican Party platform, but it will be a hollow and short-lived victory,’ said … (LCR) Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper. ‘The obsessive exclusion of gay couples, including military families, from the rights and responsibilities of marriage, combined with bizarre rhetoric about ‘hate campaigns’ and ‘the homosexual rights agenda’ are clear signs of desperation among social conservatives who know that public opinion is rapidly turning in favor of equality. …’
I think Cooper is right about those “signs of desperation,” and about “public opinion … turning in favor of equality.” I’m not so sure about how “short-lived” the platform victories are, but of course, that depends on what you mean by “short.” I also think Cooper is right, however, about the “generational divide.”
Compared to the Democratic Party platform which is explicitly pro-LGBT, the GOP platform is antiquated. That’s not to say the Dems aren’t still cautious, and it’s certainly not to forget that the move to more and more explicit pro-LGBT positions came because LGBT and supportive advocates worked long and hard to get to this point. Remember, Mr. Obama came out in personal support of marriage equality only after, among other things, several Democratic convention chairpersons (last March) backed adding marriage equality to the platform.
The fact is, the GOP’s continued need for, and reliance on, the Right Like Me religious / social issues voting bloc gives the Democrats all kinds of cover (Dems can look radical by comparison), but also opportunity.
What I’d like to see are more Dem Wannabes and Electeds, and voters, stop contrasting their positions with those of the Right on Social Issues Republicans, and stay focused on positions, policies and actual legislative actions that get us closer to equality and fairness. And I mean equality and fairness related not just to LGBT rights, but reproductive rights, health care (we’re far from single payer), immigration, environment and more. And of course, there’s the whole question, or lack of questions, related to perpetual wars. On that one, the Republicans are having a hard time appearing further Right than the Obama administration.
Back to the “my platform is better than your platform” games … the actual impact of those platforms is highly questionable, when it comes to policy and legislative actions. But this is another typical round of another typical presidential political year process. Coming next: The Conventions, or more accurately, The Democratic and Republican Brands Major Marketing Buy.
(Gay Agenda sign via LGBT News FB Wall Photos).