I'm hearing it regularly now, a sentiment with which I sympathize, not only from gay Republicans, but from straight Republicans who long since have begun rethinking their affiliation with the Republican Party. . From a die-hard Republican married woman living in Carmel, Christian, ex-Army officer, well educated: "I'm so tired of these people, I'd vote for Hilary!" From a married professional business woman who has worked in Republican administrations: "It's hard for a woman to be Republican these days; I've been independent." From a Republican campaign manager, quietly: "Sometimes I find it hard to identify with what this party does." From a young Republican staffer: "My friends have given up on this Party."
And finally, from many glbt business professionals who were once Republican: "I think the Republican Party just needs to go down to massive, across the board defeat. Only then will the Party learn."
The Problem is, it's not true. The right wing has not learned from such defeats in the past. To the contrary, voting Democrat across the board, as satisfying an emotional urge as it may be, often will send exactly the wrong message. For Indiana to progress, moderate Republicans must receive support and success, especially in instances when their assuming or holding office empowers moderates and progressives.
WHAT CONSERVATIVES WILL ARGUE IN GENERAL REPUBLICAN DEFEAT
If all Republicans suffer defeat this year, the social conservatives will argue that it was the Party straying from its idealogical roots. They will argue that the Party failed nationally to deliver such things as prayer in schools and a national amendment to ban gay marriage. They will argue that Bush through such obscure acts as enforcing his own comprehensive nondiscrimination policy and appointing open gays lost support by betraying conservative ideals. They will argue that it was the Republican Party's tolerance of gay staffers and closeted gays in Washington that produced defeat through the Foley Scandal. (They will allow social conservatives to take no responsibility for Delay's corruption, for a breakdown in fiscal discipline, for disaster in Iraq, and for inept policy on North Korea, all of which related to their political approach to governance.)
And in Indiana they will point to a few aspects of Democratic conservatism, such as Pat Bauer's pledge to put the amendment to the vote, and conservative southern Indiana Democrats supporting the amendment, as evidence that it was a conservative message that acheived victory. (And they will blame programs such as Toll Roads and Daylight savings time, programs which (in the first case) have been embraced by Democratic governors and (in the second case) had been pursued by former Democratic administrations. )
GIVING THE REPUBLICAN PARTY THE MESSAGE OF PROGRESS
If the Republican Party experiences general, across-the-board, defeat, the message will strengthen the social conservative argument, not weaken it. There are several races where the success of a moderate Republican would in no way empower social conservative control. Moderate Republican success in these races, contrasting with what appears to be a looming general defeat of the Republican Party, would send the unambiguous message the glbt community and its allies want the Republican Party to hear.
(This message crossposted to First Republicans Forum.)