May 16, 2003
MORE ON GAYS....Is gay rights a good topic for Democrats? Turn it around: is it a bad topic for Republicans? You bet.
Here are three articles on the subject. First, the conservative Washington Times reports that the Christian right is furious not just at the possibility of the Republican party reaching out to gays, but at its mere failure to defend Rick Santorum loudly enough:
urged party leaders not to put President Bush's re-election at risk in
2004 by shrinking from the cultural wars now," said Gary Bauer, a Reagan
White House domestic policy adviser, who attended last week's meeting
with Mr. Racicot.
Social conservatives at the meeting also criticized the "tepid
response" by the RNC to attacks on Sen. Rick Santorum after the
Pennsylvania Republican was interviewed about a Supreme Court case
involving a Texas sodomy law. Mr. Racicot "insisted that they had been
stout in their defense of [Mr. Santorum], yet they did not issue any
statement defending Santorum," Mr. Weyrich said.
Second, here is the Economist, a neutral observer, on the same topic:
are still three good reasons to think that the barking from the right
may not be entirely toothless. To begin with, social conservatives are
not as pragmatic as the deal-doing business conservatives are. They are
absolutists, who are willing to go to the stake for certain issues.
Second, social conservatives are now buried deeper inside the
Republican establishment than ever before....Anyone who doubts the clout
of these Christian conservatives within the party should study the fate
of last year's bankruptcy-reform legislation, which the business wing
of the party wanted. Social conservatives destroyed the bill because it
included a provision designed to crack down on anti-abortion protesters.
A third reason for Mr Bush to worry about social conservatives is
that they do have an alternative to voting Republican: they can stay at
home. Karl Rove points out that some 4m Christian conservatives who
voted in 1994 failed to vote in 2000.
And finally, here is Andrew Sullivan:
is no question which way the middle of this country is moving. None
whatsoever. Santorum, Delay, Robertson, Bauer, Connor, and the rest,
represent an increasingly isolated, bitter and angry constituency that
is fast losing the argument. The question for the GOP is whether it
wants to reach out to a growing and increasingly accepted community, or
whether it wants to tie its fate to a group that is out of step with
basic standards of American tolerance, equality and compassion.
This is a great wedge issue, folks, and it doesn't have to be about gay marriage.
How about federal protection for being fired due to sexual
orientation? That has overwhelming support among the electorate but
would be almost impossible for Bush to support. How about Social
Security survivor benefits for gay partners? That's supported by
two-thirds of the electorate, which means virtually all independents and
moderates. How about loudly defending Thomas McLaughlin and daring President Bush to do the same? (Oh, and here's the lastest on that.)
Karl Rove wants anything but this to become an issue, and that
by itself should be reason enough for Democrats to press it hard. So
far, Bush has been able to avoid saying anything about gays that makes
him look like a bigot, so our goal should be to make him do just that by
forcing him to take a direct stand on a simple, substantive issue. If
we can, he either loses about 5-10% of the moderate electorate who are
appalled by his opposition, or he loses 5-10% of the far right who are
appalled by his support.
What more can you ask for?
Posted by Kevin Drum at May 16, 2003 11:52 AM
How many D's would be turned off by the issue, too? RoveCo could just
as easily put the question to the D candidates and make them pick a
Good question. Probably some, but I'll bet there's a whole lot more on the GOP side. It's a net win for Democrats.
But here's how it's going to be framed-
Dem: I support equal protection under the law for gays- SS survivor
benefits and protection from discrimination in the workplace.
Bush/Rove: So then you support gay marriage?
Dem- Yes, marriage or some equivalent (energize religious right and lose moderates who disagree)
Dem- No, I'm not willing to go that far (face attacks from the left and from the press about waffling)
Any issue can be played to make either side uncomfortable. I think
option 1 is the right one, morally, but electorally the Dem loses the
advantage you mention. I don't know about the electoral effect of
option 2- would activists on the left take half a loaf, and how much
power do they have anyway?
Some activists would, some wouldn't (or so has been the experience in
VT with civil unions). All they can do is vote Green or GOP, or stay
home, or not give money, I guess... There would probably be a mix of
reactions, but I think it would be a net gain for the Dems.
1. Putting the question squarely will require the Dems to make the
issue a priority, which makes it easy for Bush to look moderate by
comparison. This was the trap Republicans sometimes fell in with
Clinton: the minority party has to scream so loud to get a social issue
on the agenda at all, people start questioning their emphasis.
2. If Bush is worried about social conservatives, he has multiple
aces in the hole to get them to the polls. One, on the gay rights
question, is court decisions: the Supreme Court is likely to topple
Bowers v. Hardwick and (as Stanley Kurtz loves to argue) a Massachusetts
court could impose gay marriage. Nothing gets the cultural Right
moving like being handed irreversable defeats in the courts. Another is
abortion, which is enormously more important to social conservatives
(who really didn't exist as a voting bloc until January 1973) than any
gay rights issue. A third is judicial confirmations, which shapes up as
the big battle of the coming months.
Honestly, outside of Manhattan, San Francisco, and a couple of other
metro areas, I just can't imagine the give a damn meter pegs very high
on this. Poll numbers on "support" are virtually meaningless. It might
be that 2/3 "support" domestic partner benefits for homosexuals (a
strange position, frankly, unless you also support it for heterosexual
paramours), but it's quite another to leap to the conclusion that they
are going to vote based on that issue.
I could see Bush supporting federal protection for homosexuals just
to appeal to moderates. He's made a few concessions to the middle before
and I'm sure he'd do it again. I think a much, much better issue would
be hate crimes laws that include homosexuals. Bush is firmly on record
as being opposed to that. Remember during the 2000 debates when Bush
took credit for Texas's hate crime law? It turns out that there was
already a hate crimes law on the books from Ann Richard's tenure. When
Bush became governor, the state senate passed an improved hate crimes
law that included protections for homosexuals. He vetoed the bill, which
the Senate then overturned. It became law without his signature.
Speaking of hate crimes laws and homosexuals, did you guys read the article about Canada's hate crimes legislation. Apparently under the current proposal, the Bible could be classified as "hate literature" due to its anti-gay passages.
I noted elsewhere that I firmly believe (perhaps just through naive
optimism) that the latest hardball tactics by the GOP represent a mix of
hubris and desperation by the hard-right members.
The more realistic of them realize they're current party is doomed,
as the country slowly moves left. The other part, of course, has
absolutely no doubts about the rightness of their cause.
Put that together, and you have a large chunk of the Republican
party jamming divisive and unpopular bills though as hard as they can,
as well as pulling out all the stops to ensure Republicans have every
advantage in the next decade.
They're going to have to change radically in the next decade or two.
Given the absolutism of much of the religious right, I think it's far
more likely the GOP will simply move to adopt the values of the
conservative Democrats (and conservative Democrats switching parties as
well) while the radical right crystallizes into a fringe party.
Those "Franco-Republicans" are the future of the GOP. I'm willing
to bet the more savvy of the GOP operatives know it, and are trying to
get as much done as possible while they still can.
This has been talked about a bunch on various blogs, and when I first
started thinking about it, I thought that it wasn't a good issue. Now,
I'm re-thinking it.
It seems to me if the issue was pressed, I don’t think Bush would be crazy enough to pull a Buchannon.
He would, instead, make one of his now famous middle-of-the-road
statement-non-statements. You know, one of those ‘What people do is none
of my business’ sort of things. The conservative right HATES this. Read
the latest FRC editorial about the GOP’s Gay problem. It’s like
Jack Nicholson in ‘A Few Good Men’. The conservative Right hates keeping
quiet. They want Bush to denounce gays and have nothing to do with
them. When he doesn’t, they get mad. Now, certainly they won’t go vote
Democratic, but they might stay home.
As for the left, I certainly don’t think you’re going to find too
many people talking about gay marriage. Civil Unions, maybe, but I don’t
think this will turn off the moderates or independents. Yes, the gay
issue bit Clinton early on, but I think the country has become much more
okay with the topic then they were 10 years ago.
"It might be that 2/3 "support" domestic partner benefits for
homosexuals (a strange position, frankly, unless you also support it for
It's only a strange position of gays were allowed the option of
marriage to get those benefits. Since they aren't, this position is a
compromise one that lets most people feel comfortable since it addresses
probably the most egregious and popularly felt injustice about the
current situation, without going all the way to allowing gay marriage.
Probably some, but I'll bet there's a whole lot more on the GOP side. It's a net win for Democrats.
Are you sure 'bout that?
It's not like the rank and file donks were exactly livid when Clinton
signed DOMA. IIRC, other than the HRC & various other groups, there
wasn't much rumbling from the party who'd 'win' this issue (as they
voted en masse for DOMA, at that).
I think that sodomy laws are the best way to attack this. "I don't
think Mary Cheney should be sent to jail; do you Mr. Bush?" Make people
understand how extreme the Santorum issue really is.
Speaking of hate crimes laws and homosexuals, did you guys read
the article about Canada's hate crimes legislation. Apparently under the
current proposal, the Bible could be classified as "hate literature"
due to its anti-gay passages.
I seriously doubt that. But using the Bible to incite hatred of homosexuals might be actionable under the proposed law.
Honestly, outside of Manhattan, San Francisco, and a couple of
other metro areas, I just can't imagine the give a damn meter pegs very
high on this.
It'd be a winner of an issue in Wisconsin, at least in Milwaukee,
Madison and the other urban centers. It would cost the Dems almost
nothing they don't already have here. Of course, Wisconsin has long had
non-discrimination on this topic inscribed in the state constitution.
Frankly, it isn't just San Francisco, New York and a "couple" of urban areas.
OTOH: Being in a party with a bunch of stone cold racists doesn't
seem to bother the urban and urbane GOP, either. So I'm not sure it
moves too many votes unless you can actually get Bush or Rove to start
talking like a cracker on equal treatment.
raising issues like SS survivor benefits will be a loser for Dems,
because the GOP would frame the issue in terms of a 'slippery slope' to
I really don't see this as a good issue for the Democrats,
unfortunately. I wish they had some guts, because I think that they
would win some votes just for looking strong...on anything.
Bush would say..."It is for the people of South Carolina to decide who
can get married, or sodomize each other"...you know, the state's rights
And I think it is a winner for the Repubs, part of their cultural wedge
program - since Republicans have no natural constituency, except the
rich minority. How else can you sell a poor white southerner on the
Santorum knew exactly what he was doing. The Democrats can be the party
of terrorists, Saddam Hussein, gays and blacks. And everyone between
California and NY knows what to do.
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