INSTEAD OF catering to the radical right and dividing America, the president and the GOP should pursue a hopeful agenda that unites Republicans around unifying issues like cutting taxes, strengthening homeland security and winning the war on terror.
The president should return to the strategy that got him elected four years ago. Log Cabin Republicans, the nation's largest organization of Republicans who support fairness for gay and lesbian Americans, endorsed Bush in 2000. He appealed not only to social conservatives, but also prochoice Republicans, independents, and gay and lesbian conservatives. This mainstream message helped Republicans take back the White House. Exit polls show that 1 million gay men and lesbians voted for Bush, including 45,000 in Florida. The successful 2000 strategy and early days of the administration positioned the president on the correct side of a debate about how to provide fairness to gays . The party emphasized unifying GOP values such as limited government, lower taxes, individual responsibility, and a strong national defense, while avoiding divisive culture war issues.The second half of the Bush administration and Karl Rove's 2004 reelection strategy have taken a different path. The campaign has been obsessed with two failures: George H.W. Bush's unsuccessful 1992 campaign and the belief that four million evangelicals didn't vote in 2000. As a result, this campaign has pursued a far-right strategy. This is widening the gender gap, eroding support among gays and lesbians, and weakening support among younger voters. The backlash from this extreme agenda will be felt with full force in the years ahead.
The public is smarter than Rove thinks. The GOP won't be able to change its image by using a tolerant facade to paper over intolerance. Voters recognize a flip flop or a whitewash whether it comes from John Kerry or Bush. Having primetime convention speakers such as Giuliani, Pataki, Schwarzenegger and McCain won't convince American voters this is a big tent party. Putting lipstick on a pig doesn't fool anybody -- it's still a pig. The 2004 Republican platform calls not only for a Constitutional amendment that imposes a federal definition of marriage on all 50 states, it goes even further by opposing civil unions, domestic partnerships, and indeed any benefits or protections for gay and lesbian families. The platform's language makes clear the radical right's true motives. They want to marginalize part of the American family.
The incongruity between the Party's platform and its list of primetime speakers symbolizes a wider battle in the GOP. Our Party can't pretend to be unified the way the Democrats were in Boston. The GOP is on the verge of a dramatic and fierce battle for the party's heart and soul.
For this election, there are clear signs that the radical right controls the Republican agenda. Aside from the anti-gay platform, pro-choice Republicans also seem to be left out of the ever shrinking tent. While Log Cabin takes no position on abortion, we recognize that in order to win, the GOP must have support from millions of prochoice Americans. Furthermore, members of the Bush controlled platform committee rejected a plank saying that Republicans of good faith may disagree on issues dealing with abortion and gay and lesbian issues. This obviously sensible plank was left out of the platform in favor of watered down welcoming language.Also, the President and the radical right are on record against the most basic laws that would grant fairness for gays . This in spite of polls showing huge majorities of Americans supporting federal hate crimes legislation, an employment non-discrimination law and repeal of the military's policy that prevents gays and lesbians from openly serving our nation. Bush won the 2000 election with votes from gays and lesbians, their families, and socially inclusive Americans. Unless he changes his strategy and becomes a uniter, there's good reason to question whether these voters will support him in November.
Patrick Guerriero is executive director of Log Cabin Republicans.