Will gays and lesbians turn Republican out of frustration with Obama?
Oh, please. I get that Obama hasn't done nearly enough for gay rights, and I've been deeply critical of him for not doing enough and for not being progressive enough (specifically on DADT and same-sex marriage), but there isn't about to be a mass migration of gays to the Republican Party just because a couple of somewhat high-profile Republicans, McCainiac Steve Schmidt and Bushie Ken Mehlman, the latter recently uncloseted, along with the independent-minded and barely Republican Meghan McCain, are publicly defending same-sex marriage, or because other Republicans with little profile at all are either softening their views on gay rights or daring to come out against their party's long-standing opposition not just to gay rights but to homosexuality generally.
At HuffPo, Sam Stein quotes an anonymous "prominent Democratic consultant" as saying that Obama should feel "uncomfortable" with all these Republicans to the left of him on gay rights. But what are we really talking about here? Schmidt, Mehlman, and McCain aren't exactly the movers and shakers of the GOP, nor do they really have that much public profile. McCain has greater media presence than the other two, but she doesn't have much influence, if any, on the party. "We get the bad rap as Republicans being against gay marriage," she told Fox News recently. "[Obama] isn't doing anything for the gay community." Republicans deserve the rap. This is a party, after all, that proposes putting a ban on same-sex marriage in the Constitution and that has a theocratic-oriented base that is deeply anti-gay, a party that from top to bottom espouses bigotry and that is moving further and further to the right. And while Obama hasn't done enough, it's just not true that he hasn't done anything. Earlier this year, for example, he banned visitation discrimination against gays and lesbians at any hospital that receives Medicare or Medicaid funding.
As Stein notes, "LBGT voters are not, of course, monolithic," and, while I am not gay myself, I certainly think it's fair to say that on most issues a significant majority of gays and lesbians are much closer to Obama and the Democrats than to the Republicans. Will frustration with Obama drive some of them to the GOP? Well, sure, but some heteros are turning away from Obama, too. What of it?
It seems to me that the anonymous consultant is fearmongering and that very few people are paying attention to what Schmidt, Mehlman, and a tiny minority of Republicans are up to. In contrast, the Republican position on gay rights, including same-sex marriage, is pretty clear, and there's no indication it's going to change anytime soon.
If some gays or lesbians prefer to back a party that hates them and that seeks to treat them like non- or unequal citizens, or as some hell-bound domestic enemy, well, that's their problem (and ours, to the extent that Democrats lose votes), but I suspect that most of them would rather register their displeasure and disappointment with the party that actually has a history of fighting for their rights, and seek to change that party's policy positions, than do that. With the Democrats, after all, in a party that respects difference and diversity, they can make a difference and actually secure equal rights. With the Republicans, ruled by a far-right fringe that has become the party's new mainstream, all they'll find is fear and loathing, welcomed by a few but detested by the rest. Is the choice not clear?