Former GOP Activist: I’m Done With the Party of Bigots
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/Jason Osborne
I’ve been a Republican activist all my life. As a volunteer and professional staffer, I held positions in party organizations and campaigns since high school. I was the ultimate partisan team player, even forming GOProud, an organization for gay conservatives and their allies. But I no longer recognize the party I grew up supporting, and I recently announced that I have changed my voter registration to “no party.”
I left the Republican party because it no longer represents my principles and values. I am a limited government conservative, yet Republicans today like big government, as long as they are in charge of it. I also don’t tolerate bigotry of any kind, and today’s party does. While most Republicans I’ve known over the years aren’t bigots, they tolerate and kowtow to the few who are. The wrong voices have dominated policy debates.
During the 2012 election campaign, I came to the conclusion that the Republican party is incapable of ever winning another national election, because the tolerance of anti-gay activist and other forms of bigotry in the party prevent too many voters from even considering voting for even the Republican candidate.
The organization I founded, GOProud, was the de facto “Gays for Mitt Romney” in the 2012 election. During that campaign, I saw that Romney was held captive and paralyzed with fear of retribution from anti-gay and other forces of intolerance in the GOP.
He couldn’t even do real outreach in the gay community and those who support gay rights for concern that he would be talking to “unapproved” groups. I am truly convinced that even if he wanted to reach out to the 47 percent of Americans who support gay marriage, he couldn’t have. The forces of intolerance wouldn’t have let him.
My first indication of this happened during the primary campaign when I made a small financial contribution to his campaign. Even though everyone else at the fundraising event I attended had their contribution correctly reported to the Federal Elections Commission, my occupation and employer was mysteriously listed as “requested.” I immediately knew that Romney didn’t want anyone to notice that the head of the gay organization was supporting his campaign.
After he secured the nomination, Romney wouldn’t stand up for my friend Richard Grenell when he was under fire from the anti-gay folks. Grenell had been hired as Romney’s foreign policy spokesman, but the intolerant wing of the GOP objected because he is openly gay. Romney failed to back his spokesman and Grenell felt compelled to leave his job with the campaign.
There were many more examples of Romney rejecting opportunities to stand up to the bigots and demonstrate some basic level inclusion. Many of them occurred at the GOP convention in Tampa, Florida.
Romney’s convention deliberately featured diverse speakers representing nearly every single major demographic group, except two — Muslims and gays. Those are two of the groups that are still OK to exclude (if not demonize) among Republicans, and Romney didn’t want anyone to know that he might actually know any of them by putting them on his convention stage.
At that convention, he couldn’t even bring himself to send a surrogate speaker to GOProud’s event to thank the 900 attendees for their support. Honestly, the list of examples could go on an on. By the end of the campaign, I had come to the realization that if Mitt Romney didn’t have the backbone to stand up to the forces of intolerance in the Republican party, then he didn’t have the backbone to be president of the United States.
Despite being the most outspoken and high profile gay supporter of Romney, I ended up deciding in the voting booth to vote for Gary Johnson, the former Republican Governor of New Mexico, who ran as the Libertarian candidate. That was the first time in my life I didn’t vote for the Republican candidate for president, but my conscience was clear.
After Romney’s sound defeat, the Republican National Committee conducted an “autopsy” to determine why the GOP couldn’t defeat President Obama. I was very hopeful that they would take a long hard look at the problems preventing the party from winning national elections, and take the drastic measures necessary to reverse its inevitable demise.
Recent events have demonstrated that nothing has changed since the “autopsy.” To give a sampling: the fact that Ken Cuccinelli was acceptable to the party as the nominee for Virginia governor when Ken thinks that gay people are“self-destructive” and “soulless.” Or two weeks ago, a member of the RNC from Michigan posted on Facebook that he didn’t know what any Muslim had ever done to make a positive contribution to America. I’m not kidding.
Republicans have lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. There is nothing that leads me to believe that the GOP’s leadership is willing to take the necessary actions in order to win a national election again. While there are many good up and coming Republican politicians, the ongiong bigotry in the GOP will prevent most Americans from even considering voting for them.
The truth is that many in the Republican party, and most of the leadership, are culturally out of touch with life in America in 2014. Bad messaging and policy proposals can be changed, but cultural problems take generations to repair. The cultural disconnect among Republican leaders is so severe that I just don’t think that the party can be saved.
So now I embark on a different path with the New Majority in America — the majority not represented by either major party, to seek innovative solutions to our problems to ultimately make our country better.