A report that donors are working behind the scenes to soften the Republican Partyʼs ardent opposition to same-sex marriage and make the party more friendly toward gay rights in general also hints at the uphill climb they face in their goal to remake the Republican Party.
Very few national level Republicans have expressed anything more than tepid support for the gay community, with Ohio Sen. Bob Portman a notable exception. Of course, Portman announced his change in position this March after his son came out of the closet in February 2011.
Portman said when he announced his support for marriage equality that he wanted his gay son to have the same chance to marry the person he loved that he and his other son and daughter have. The senator also said he consulted with former Vice President, whose daughter Mary is a lesbian and said Cheney told him to “follow [his] heart.”
“I have come to believe that if two people are prepared to make a lifetime commitment to love and care for each other in good times and in bad,” Portman wrote in The Columbus Dispatch, “the government shouldn’t deny them the opportunity to get married.”
The sense of compassion and empathy Portman showed for his son, and subsequently for other people in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and questioning community is one that has generally been sorely lacking among Republicans on the national level, and some local candidates, including Virginia Republican candidate for lieutenant governor E.W. Jackson have shown themselves to be just as bigoted.
That lack of empathy has not been limited merely to gay rights issues. Republicans have continued their assault on food stamps, even though former Agriculture Secretary said in 2011 that every dollar of spending for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – the official name for the program commonly known as food stamps – put $1.84 back into the economy by people who use them to buy food for their families or themselves.
The Washington Post also cited the effect of food stamps on a local economy when it examined the boom-and-bust cycle that affected Woonsocket, R.I. and encapsulated how important the program is to millions of people and local economies, especially in the still remnant wake of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
“Three years into an economic recovery, this is the lasting scar of collapse: a federal program that began as a last resort for a few million hungry people has grown into an economic lifeline for entire towns,” reporter Eli Saslow wrote.
The problem with the moderate and liberal members of the Republican party is the intense pressure they face when the right wing condemns them. Jonah Goldbergʼs comments in his column in rightwingnews.com were particularly unhelpful.
“I never had much respect for your political acumen before, but you’re a sucker,” he wrote. He also referred to the prototypical socially liberal, fiscal conservative he addressed in the column as a “feckless, gormless clod” and the column didnʼt get very much better for someone looking for anything that wasnʼt a condescending collection of spleen-venting insults.
To make matters worse, the socially conservative wing of the party continues to apply pressure to oppose marriage equality, threatening to leave the Republican Party if its members donʼt cowtow to that demand.
The goal of introducing moderation into the Republican party, or making todayʼs Republican Party more likely to heed the lessons Allvoices anchor Lars Knutsen suggests Otto von Bismarck could teach them is a noble one. However, the condemnations and insults do nothing to inspire unity or get to the heart of the problems the party continues to face.