The Republican Party Platform remains as virulent as ever, if not stronger still, in its opposition to allowing gay or lesbian couples to marry. To give context, I have quoted these sections in full at the end of this piece.
The platform attacks the judiciary and the president for their actions, and affirms the party’s commitment to an amendment to the US Constitution which would define marriage as between a man and a woman, thereby overturning laws in six states which currently allow equal marriage. It also refers to social experimentation, a reference to the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, allowing gay soldiers to serve openly. These sections were effectively written by Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. The most the disappointed Log Cabin Republicans could secure was the line, “We embrace the principle that all Americans should be treated with respect and dignity”, which means little in the context of the previous passage.
Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State and an advisor to Gov. Mitt Romney on immigration, defended these sections by comparing it to government regulation of behaviour like drugs and polygamy.
This is not just a party which is not yet on board, whose leaders are still evolving, where members have different points of view. It is one whose default position is organised opposition at every level to difference of opinion on the question. Gov. Mitt Romney, who in 1994 claimed to better than Ted Kennedy on gay rights, signed the pledge to support such a Federal Marriage Amendment from the National Organization for Marriage
And yet, in New York, New Hampshire and Washington, equal marriage exists in these states because of the support of certain Republican legislators. The party is not absolute either in its position. The Respect for Marriage Act, has one Republican sponsor, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida. And there are two groups of gay members of the Republican Party, the Log Cabin Republicans, founded in 1977, and GOProud, founded in 2009.
The Log Cabins put a much greater emphasis on equality for LGBT people than GOProud do. The former lists “Protecting LGBT families” and “Freedom to Marry”, where GOProud make no direct reference in their headline points in their ‘What We Believe’. The Log Cabins refused to endorse President George H. W. Bush in 1992 or President George W. Bush in 2004. They have yet to make an endorsement this year. They played a part in the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, suing the US in a federal lawsuit.
GOProud could crudely be described as Tea Party response to the Log Cabins. They proven themselves much more likely to emphasise issues other than rights for gay people in their endorsements. In the primary for the California Senate in 2010, they endorsed Carly Fiorina, who had supported Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage in the state, as against Tom Campbell, who had penned a piece calling for a No vote in that ballot, and who was promoted by the libertarian magazine Reason, so no fan of big government. They have already endorsed Mitt Romney.
I think the Republican Party is definitely better for having the Log Cabin Republicans within it. They serve as a touching point for the still small but growing number of prominent Republicans who are speaking out for equality, such as Vice President Dick Cheney, now out former RNC Chair Ken Mehlman, Colin Powell, Bush Solicitor-General Ted Olson, Mayor of San Diego Jerry Sanders. With the new group, Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry, they took out ads leading up to this week’s Republican National Convention, and they are adding to the conversation within the Republican Party. I’m not so sure I could say the same of the GOProud, who effectively send the message that while questions of marriage are worth talking about, taxes will always trump protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people.
Republicans in favour of equality are definitely worth supporting. American Unity was formed earlier this year by a Republican donor with a gay son, and is funding candidates it believes worthy of support.
Because I would like to support the Republican Party (from afar in my case, of course). But I can’t. It is an unreasonable compact to ask someone to make, to support a party that will denigrate their fundamental personal relationships, prey on unfounded concerns, because they will improve people’s financial lives. It is a compact that some rich an well connected gay people can live with; whether equal marriage is five or fifteen years away for them, they don’t suffer or feel the social and economic consequences of so many gay people because of this legal inequality. And I don’t say this even as one who thinks a party’s position on gay rights should be the determining factor in whether to vote for or join a party, or I would not be in Fine Gael.
As with the Democratic Party, the Republican Party is and always has been a coalition. Within the Republican Party, these are crudely characterised as being between the fiscal hawks, religious conservatives and military hawks. What this misses is how the party targets the fears of poorer voters on social issues through a process of misdirection. Where the Republicans stand on gay rights resonates most with me because I’m gay. But there is more that is wrong with them. Take for example their very poor track record on immigration, as seen in recent laws in Arizona and Alabama. Rather than focus on the benefit of immigrants brining diverse skills and ideas to a community, they spin a protectionist story that has not helped these states economically. This year’s platform endorses these measures, a stark contrast from their 1960 platform when Richard Nixon ran for the first time, which for an increase in immigration.
The Republicans could have been a party that would make a strong moral and efficacious argument for the market and individual liberty. There are elected representatives and activists who do hold firm to these values. There are many with a view miles apart. But perhaps worse are those who assume a veil of prejudice because it is politically convenient.
Not that there is no hope with the Republican Party. On the question of equality for gay people, it does take a long view. Former Congressman Jim Kolbe, who was outed as gay while in office, believes that this is the last time the Republican platform will take these anti-gay positions. He could be right. If either Maine or Washington vote in favour of equal marriage at the polls in November, they will become the first state to do so by popular vote. That will change things, making it clear that there are votes to be lost. Perhaps a candidate like Gov. Mitch Daniels could take a stance similar to that of Barack Obama in 2008, when he stated that he was against same-sex marriage, but would vote No to Proposition 8 in California. But it’s a lot to expect.
Rick Santorum did better last night than polling expected, winning the primaries in both Alabama and Mississippi. In only one of eight polls on Nate Silver’s blog was Santorum ahead in Alabama. Between them, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich were expected to win these, where a sweep for one candidate or a split between them. Although Gingrich has had a poor campaign, his political base since 1979 has been in nearby Georgia, which he won on Tuesday, 6 March.
In the end, the results were:
Alabama: Santorum 35%, Gingrich 29%, Romney 29%, Paul 5%
Mississippi: Santorum 33%, Gingrich 31%, Romney 30%, Paul 4%
Now the tally between the states stand at 15–9–2 to Romney–Santorum–Gingrich. Romney has neither a convincing enough lead nor the momentum to to force the others out, so will muddle on.
Had Gingrich dropped out two weeks ago, we could have been looking at a 14–10–1 split instead; this assumes that most Gingrich voters would have voted for Santorum in Ohio, which Romney won by less than 1%, and in Georgia.
We’re looking at a similar situation now. The next state up is Illinois, this coming Tuesday, and the latest polling shows Romney 35%, Santorum 31%, Gingrich 12% and Ron Paul 7%. New Gingrich is talking more about stopping Mitt Romney and less about becoming the next president of the United States. But he still intends to carry on to the Republican National Convention Tampa, Florida on 27–30 August.
If Gingrich did pull out, and Illinois Republicans voted for Santorum, Romney would be seriously damaged. Still more likely to be the nominee, but less likely than he is right now. It would be a one-on-one race between Santorum and Romney (with Paul picking up votes that would probably not otherwise go to either in the primaries). But with Gingrich’s sense of self-worth, seeing votes come in for his name as a candidate for president probably means more to Newt than damaging Romney’s chances. As it is, he serves simply as a spoiler for Romney.
States that support a candidate in one nomination cycle tend to support them again four years later, especially if the candidate is in a stronger position the second time around. On this alone, Mitt Romney should be expected to be more likely than not to win in Michigan (where his father was governor), Nevada, Wyoming, Maine, Massachusetts (his home state), Montana, Utah, Minnesota, Colorado, North Dakota and Alaska. I may have missed a particular reason he won’t win a particular one of these again (while Huntsman would probably win in Utah if it were an early primary, it’s unlikely to factor in at all, scheduled for June).
With this and current polling trends in mind, Mitt Romney should fare quite well in the primary and caucuses before Super Tuesday on 6 March:
- 3 January – Iowa: Romney polling ahead
- 10 January – New Hampshire: Romney polling ahead
- 21 January – South Carolina: Gingrich polling ahead
- 31 January – Florida: Romney marginally ahead in latest poll; predicting him rather than Gingrich, polling second, assuming Gingrich loses steam after poor IA and NH finishes
- 4 February – Nevada: Romney, based on 2008
- 7 February – Colorado: Romney, based on 2008
- 7 February – Minnesota: Romney, based on 2008; even if it is Bachmann’s home state, she’s faring very poorly
- 11 February – Maine: Romney, based on 2008
- 28 February – Michigan: Romney, based on 2008
- 28 February – Arizona: no lead
- 3 March – Washington: no lead
This is unscientific, so if you have better clues on any of these, let me know. And I don’t mean to suggest either that he would lock out any contenders before 6 March, even if he wins all these, as he could win them only marginally, with rivals taking plenty of delegates from these contests too. And there are ten contests on Super Tuesday that could change things a lot. But if he wins both Iowa and New Hampshire, he will be the first Republican since Ronald Reagan in 1980 to do so. Not a bad start at all so.
Edit: But Romney is only marginally ahead in the Iowa polls. If Rick Santorum or Ron Paul win, I’d still see most of the above panning out the same, except with Romney in a weaker position against Gingrich in Florida.
Were I a resident of Iowa, I would caucus tomorrow for Jon Huntsman (and I could do so without having been a long-term registered Republican). I would like to able to have a genuine choice for between the two main party candidates in November’s election, and Huntsman is the only Republican who I can now envisage myself supporting. Even if I were to support President Barack Obama for re-election, I think he would be better served by debating Huntsman than any of the other candidates. Such a debate would be the one most likely to be fought on issues of substance.
Jon Huntsman served as ambassador to Singapore from 1992 to 1993, worked in business till he was appointed Deputy United States Trade Representative in 2001 by President Bush, and in this role helped bring the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the People’s Republic of China into the WTO. He served as governor of Utah from 2005 to 2009, and as Ambassador to China from 2009 to 2011, appointed by President Obama. Through these positions, he has an understanding of international relations, and the role the US plays, already more developed than most presidential candidates, in this season or in past years. He showed patriotism by accepting an ambassadorial position under this current Democratic administration, when it would have been better for his prospects in the Republican primaries to have continued as governor.
Though very much the most moderate of the Republican candidates, he is a fiscal hawk. In 2008, the Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank, ranked Huntsman in fifth place among governors on fiscal policy, on level with Republicans Rick Perry of Texas and Jim Gibbons of Nevada. His economic and taxation policy is focused on reducing corporate welfare and other tax expenditures. Yet in August, he was the only one of the Republican candidates to approve of the deal between the president and the House on the debt ceiling, calling it “a positive step toward cutting our nation’s crippling debt.”
In 1976, Ronald Reagan challenged President Gerald Ford for the Republican Party nomination, winning 23 states to Ford’s 27. Then in 1980, Reagan was the nominee.
In 1980, George H. W. Bush won 6 states, with Ronald Reagan winning the remaining 44. Bush was selected as Reagan’s Vice President, and after Reagan’s two terms was the nominee in 1988.
In 1988, Bob Dole won 5 states and Pat Robertson won 4 states, with Vice President Bush winning the remaining 41 states. Bush was elected president, contesting again in 1992. In 1996, Bob Dole was the nominee.
The pattern doesn’t hold between 1996 and 2000. Bob Dole win 44 states, Bat Buchanan won 4, and Steve Forbes won 2, whereas George W. Bush was the nominee in 2000.
In 2000, John McCain won 7 states to Bush’s 43. Bush was elected president, contesting again in 2004. Then in 2008, McCain was the nominee.
In 2008, Mitt Romney won 11 states, Mike Huckabee won 7, with McCain winning the remaining 31. Now Romney looks the most likely to win this year’s nomination, though it is by no means secure for him.
I recently picked up a copy of Barry Goldwater’s 1960 classic, The Conscience of a Conservative, at the Trinity Book Sale. A short text, it succinctly outlines his small government stance. On basic principles, I would have a fair amount in common with his viewpoint, though I would start the conversation with the question of individual liberty. On constitutional questions, for example, I do believe that there is scope for changing interpretations of an original text, in line with agreed principles.
Corporations, unions and politics
I found his section on unions interesting from a contemporary perspective, in his criticism of their involvement in politics.
In order to achieve the widest possible distribution of political power, financial contributions to political campaigns should be made by individuals and individuals alone. I see no reason for labor unions – or corporations – to participate in politics. Both were created for economic purposes and their activities should be restricted accordingly.
Interesting that an old conservative icon took for granted the case against participation by corporations, half a century before the United States Supreme Court ruled the contrary stance this year in the Citizens United v. FEC case.
Freedom of association
I think there was a certain inconsistency in Goldwater’s stance on freedom of association. He argues for right-to-work laws which forbid contracts that make union membership a condition of employment. But he also voted against the Civil Rights Act on the grounds that anti-discrimination laws in employment impeded on freedom of association. I don’t doubt Goldwater’s personal integrity on the matter of race, but on grounds should an employer be allowed to require their employees to be white but not be allowed to require them to be union members. Milton Friedman took a more consistent stance in his 1962 work Capitalism and Freedom, opposing both right-to-work laws and anti-discrimination laws. Not, of course, that consistency in such matters is always a virtue.
Republicans since Goldwater
I do admire Goldwater, and I wonder how the Republican Party would have fared had he been elected President. When he won the 1964 nomination, his two issues were small government and the Cold War. He was always going to face a difficult fight that year, against President Lyndon B. Johnson just over a year after the assassination of President Kennedy. But it was after Goldwater’s overwhelming electoral college defeat that Republican candidates such as Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan determined to capture the votes of those termed the silent majority, by becoming a party of increasingly fundamentalist religious viewpoints.
Such was the alteration in what was seen as most fundamental to the Republican Party that Goldwater, who had been considered on the right relative to the supporters of Nelson Rockefeller, was very much on the liberal wing. He opposed the adoption of anti-abortion as a policy stance, and in the 1990s, called for the removal of restrictions on gay soldiers serving openly in the military, saying that “Everyone knows that gays have served honorably in the military since at least the time of Julius Caesar” and encouraged gay activism. In response to the evangelical preacher Jerry Falwell’s concerns about the appointment about Sandra Day O’Connor, Goldwater said that “Every good Christian should kick Jerry Falwell up the ass”.
He publicly dissociated himself from the right of the party, “Do not associate my name with anything you do. You are extremists, and you’ve hurt the Republican party much more than the Democrats have.”
A recent National Journal article by Jonathan Rauch, considering the leverage of the populist Tea Party movement, opens by writing “The history of the modern Republican Party in one sentence: Barry Goldwater and Nelson Rockefeller got into an argument and George Wallace won.” Mickey Edwards, Republican Congressman 1977–93 and a former chair of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), said that he wouldn’t attend this year, given that he could no longer identify with those now calling themselves conservative, and that he wouldn’t feel welcome, because they wouldn’t think Goldwater was a conservative. I would even wonder if Barry Goldwater would pass the purity tests to get through a Republican primary today. A few years ago in a debate in the Hist on genetically-modified food, Prof. David McConnell, President of the Society and professor of genetics, said, “I would like to support the Green Party, but I can’t”. Such is as I feel about the modern-day Republican Party. Except for California Senate primary candidate, Tom Campbell.
I read Andrew Sullivan‘s blog regularly enough and enjoy it. But oftentimes he can jump to conclusions with data that lies with his general thesis. Yesterday he published two contradictory polls, without picking up or commenting on this incongruity.
In a post favouring the end of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, whereby gays and lesbians cannot serve openly in the military (a policy that should be repealed, as it needlessly leads to qualified soldiers being dismissed), he cited a Gallup Poll that showed that 58% of Republican voters favoured the end of this policy.
Then in a separate post on the worrying views of Republican voters, he cited a Daily Kos Poll showing a range of outrageous views. He drew attention to the statistic that only 8% supported allowing openly gay teachers in public schools, given that Republican icon Ronald Reagan opposed the Briggs Initiative in 1978 that would have instituted such a ban in California’s public schools.
Side-by-side, these two statistics seem strange. Following through on the links shows that the Daily Kos Poll does give a statistic on gays in the military, claiming that 59% of Republicans do not think gays should serve openly.
Had these appeared on separate days, it might be understandable, but to show both polls without wondering whether Gallup, founded in 1935 and well renowned for its methodology and predictive power, might not be a more reliable indicator of political viewpoints, seems a little strange.
People such as myself whose political views are moderate or liberal on issues of social and personal freedom while seeing the merits of capitalism see the large voice unions have within the Democratic Party and the considerable left-wing support there and like to imagine that there are still some chance that the more liberal forces within the Republican Party that would bring it back to its old ways of being very much the party of freedom, which Michael Steele likes to pretend it still is. I might hope that the lack of a lasting success after President George W. Bush’s presidency could convince them against such a focus on social conservatism. Ultimately, I’d like to imagine them to be a party where Arnold Vinick could be a leading figure and a possible presidential candidate.
The campaign for the special election to New York’s 23rd Congressional District, scheduled after Republican John McHugh resigned to become Secretary of the Navy is another blow to this illusion. The local Republican Party chose State Assembly member Dierdre Scozzafava, who favours marriage equality and the right to abortion, while the Democrats chose Bill Owens, who believes that New York’s current law on civil unions for gay couples are adequate. This is one issue where it would have been beneficial to have a Republican on-side, both as an influence within the Republicans, and so to put pressure on the Democrats who would feel less that they could rely on gay voters.
The the Conservative Party of New York, normally a minor player in New York politics, nominated Doug Hoffman. Hoffman had sought the nomination for the Republicans, but had trailed at all of the nominating party meetings. He received the support of the Club for Growth, the same pressure group that forced Sen. Arlen Specter out of the Pennsylvanian Republican Party earlier this year, leading to the Democrats reaching their 60-seat supermajority in the Senate.
Hoffman also received the support of many leading Republican politicians, including Sarah Palin, current governor of Minnesota Tim Pawlenty and former candidate for the 2008 presidential nomination former Sen. Fred Thompson, and the most partisan of media figures like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck.
As polls showed that this formerly safe GOP seat would be lost to either the Democrats or the Conservatives, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, President Clinton’s chief political sparring partner (and on whom Jeff Haffley is loosely based), appealed for party unity, endorsing Scozzafava as the official Republican candidate, calling for a respect for the claimed tradition of local independence.
This was ultimately to no avail, as tonight Dede Scozzafava announced the suspension of her campaign. If Doug Hoffman is elected, he will be taken in by the Republican House Caucus.
If this tells us anything about the grassroots within the Republican Party and who their current leaders are willing to support in future, which it might not, President Obama should have little trouble when the time comes for his reelection campaign. Considering his approval rate in the current economic circumstances, despite the justified criticism of his leadership at times, he appears to be still convincing the public that he is doing what seems best. Those remaining within the Republican Party seem committed to ideological purity and compliance a wholesale endorsement of their party platform by party candidates wherever possible.
It’s difficult to see where this will lead them, how many presidential cycles will it take for them to nominate a candidate with a wider appeal than this. And how long will they hold the remaining moderates such as Sen. Olympia Snowe, who would be very unlikely to leave, but has publicly expressed her disappointment that the party has failed to recognize the mistakes of recent years and risks becoming very much a minority party.
For my part, had I a vote in NY-23, I would go ahead and waste my vote and cast it for Scozzafava.
I’m following up here on a story I initially posted on Facebook. Last week I posted a video which Glen Beck showed on Fox News of Anita Dunn, President Obama’s Communications Director, his Toby Ziegler, in which she quoted Mother Teresa and Mao Tse-Tung, calling them her favourite philosophers.
Ms Dunn has responded, saying that she got the quote from Lee Atwater, a Republican strategist in the 1980s.
Her response is not good enough. In the discussion following my Facebook posting, someone commented that people often quote historical figures, such as Caesar or Oliver Cromwell. Yes, Joan Burton, Labour Spokesperson on Finance, did quote Cromwell addressing the government a few months ago, saying “In the name of God, go!” But from that simple statement, no one claim that Cromwell was one of her favourite political thinkers. Ms Dunn does use that expression.
Her statement, presumably written after she quickly searched for any reference of Republicans and Mao, also makes reference to the fact that President Bush recommended a book on Mao to Karl Rove. Whatever about quoting someone, reading a book a biography does not make one an enthusiast. Indeed, if it was Mao: The Untold Story by Jung Chang, it might have been where Glenn Beck got his figure of 70 million deaths attributed to Mao.
Further, Lee Atwater, whom she quotes was party for one of the most insidious electoral strategies of twentieth-century American politics, the Southern strategy of the Republican Party, the effort to secure the votes of racists whose votes had previously been sought by the Democrats. Mr Atwater was an advisor to Sen. Storm Thurmond, a Democrat who left the party to run on a segregationist ticket in the 1948 presidential election, winning four states. Sen. Thurmond became a Republican in 1964, in what was to become the most shameful period in that party’s history.
Over the weekend, I also had occasion to listen to an episode of D.J. Grothe’s excellent podcast, Point of Inquiry. In it, Jeff Sharlett discussed his new book, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. The Family is a religious political group which preaches biblical capitalism and celebrates power, even to the extent that despite claiming to be a conservative group, they praised the methods of dictators such as Mao. Sen. Thurmond was himself a member of The Family. Ms Dunn says, “The Mao quote is one I picked up from the late Republican strategist Lee Atwater from something I read in the late 1980s, so I hope I don’t get my progressive friends mad at me”. They would clearly be justified in being so.
I don’t mean to praise the methods of Fox News, or to cast general aspersions on President Obama’s administration. My point here is that it is no defence on Ms Dunn’s part to point to some of the most despicable campaigners who also thought that we should “Fight our own fight” as Mao did, and she should be held to account her statement. She is either incredibly naïve and misguided, or truly has no problem praising the ideals of one of the worst tyrants in recorded history.