People are so easily fooled.
I’ve met many Republicans who’ve told me they don’t agree with the way religious extremists have taken over their party over the past few decades. My stock response of “Well, what are you doing to change that?” has usually been met with a blank stare. Truth is, moderate Republicans (who used to be mainstream Republicans a generation ago) are averse to confrontation. They are willing to offer Tea & Sympathy, but unwilling to rock the boat. One rarely hears a moderate Republican - whether federal, state, or local - challenge their party’s stance on a host of social issues from birth control, to separation of church and state, to LGBT rights. One may cite Ron Paul, but judging by the repugnant newsletters that were published under his name, his recent conversion as the “tolerant” Republican seems insincere at best. One prominent Republican to make such a stand was Massachusetts Governor William Weld, who was roundly booed at the 1996 Republican National Convention when he stated that the government should stay “out of... your bedroom”.
Every election cycle has at least one candidate who wants to bring the joys of the Dark Ages to modern America: 1988 had Pat Robertson, 1992 and 1996 had Pat Buchanan (1996 also had B-1 Bob Dornan), 2000 had Alan Keyes and Gary Bauer. The Democrats are not immune to this phenomenon either. Anyone remember when David Duke ran for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1988? Then there’s Lyndon LaRouche. Fortunately, none of these people ever got the nomination.
The last year certainly showed some extremism from the Party “faithful” (pun intended). Has either party ever seen a nuttier group of candidates than Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, or Rick Perry? By contrast, Romney looked relatively sane even when trying to explain away the Seamus controversy. Then there were their supporters. There’s very little of the “kind and gentle” in the current incarnation of the Republican Party.
Even the two openly gay Republican groups, Log Cabin Republicans and GOProud have not made significant leeway in making their party more tolerant. I’ve met some of these characters, and I can assure you, they are not on the side of the average LGBT working person. They’re largely trust-fund babies with soft hands. I won’t hurl the common invective referring to gay Republicans as Jewish Nazis – that’s offensive to history and the memories of the many – including gay men – who perished in Nazi death camps. But gay Republicans can certainly be compared to “collaborators” – people who may or may not have been Nazis in their hearts, but who went along with the Party for personal gain. They may not have operated the showers in the camps, but they were enablers at best. The same is true for gay Republicans. Nearly every gay Republican I’ve met has been motivated by either greed or the most virulent racism. But their endorsement of Mitt Romney as someone who would be softer on LGBT issues than Rick Santorum or Michele Bachman has given Romney a veneer of acceptability to those who are looking for an excuse to vote for him.
There is no substantial difference between Romney and Santorum on social issues – particularly with regard to LGBT rights. They both favor passage of a Constitutional Amendment that would forbid states from recognizing same-sex marriage and would nullify existing same-sex marriages – including mine. For Romney to support such an amendment limiting marriage to “one man and one woman” is particularly ironic as his own ancestors were polygamists. Romney is as hateful as the worst of them, but he doesn’t stamp shout and scream about it, so some don’t pick up on it. The difference is tonal, but not substantial. Bigotry spoken with a smile and soft tone is still bigotry.