Op-ed: The Impossibility of Standing With the GOP
I am a knee-jerk conservative — I can't help it, I was raised that way. This means that for the rest of my life, when I hear things on the news I will first filter them through the eyes of my Reagan-worshipping parents. Throughout my teens I rebelled against this and drew the hammer and sickle on everything I could find in response. Throughout my 20s I rebelled by reading the most liberal diatribes I could find and voting for the most liberal politicians America had to offer, which isn't saying much (we have no true Marxists in America — if we did, I would have found them.) Throughout my 30s I tried to stop running away from this fact and look it in the eye, take a deep breath, and stop being reactionary, and that's where I am today.
The same is true, essentially, about my being gay. I went through the same stages: rebellion, denial, and, finally, a measured acceptance. This means that in the few short years since I have been in the public eye as a gay writer and sometimes activist I have tried my best to stay above the fray. I try not to take sides politically, and to work with people from both parties — I count as friends people in both the Log Cabin Republicans and the Stonewall Democrats.
Yet Ta-Nehisi Coates sharply points out that it is not the outlier that defines a crowd but the silent majority within it. Until now, I haven’t allowed the antigay outliers in Republican politics to bother me much — the men like Rick Perry and Rick Santorum who are so over-the-top antigay that they become a parody of themselves. Eventually, however, the fun and games have to end. A party, in this case the Republican Party, must stand up and loudly declare in a unified, across-the-board way that their antigay rhetoric and actions do not reflect the consensus of the party.
There are years, even decades, perhaps, during which you might forgive a party or a group for tolerating the outliers in their midst, and then, finally, there is a point where it simply becomes too much, when the outliers are suddenly the voice of the party and the supposedly nice, well-mannered people in the middle aren't standing up.
When this happens, the outliers are no longer outliers.
I don't know what it is exactly about this shutdown nonsense, but something hit me this weekend when I saw the likes of Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz storming a memorial that Ted Cruz and his party closed, demanding that the other party reopen it, in a bizarre defiance of reality, and calling the police who tried to maintain order “brownshirts.” Something hit me when I saw a man in this same group waving a Confederate flag in front of a black man's house, a house that just so happens to be the house where the President of the Vaguely United States happens to reside. Something hit me last weekend when the Values Voter Summit was held in D.C. and virtually every single bigwig of the GOP was there. From the podium you heard thinly disguised and not-at-all-disguised homophobia and Christians saying they are losing their religious liberty because their countrymen are suddenly asking them to treat LGBT people equally. Something about all this made me literally nauseous. It made the hammer and sickle I used to draw as a teenager seem so childish, so small, in response.
What's happening to the modern-day Republican Party is simply too big for caricature. It is too big to laugh about or make light of.
When the majority of Americans in every single poll in 2013 support marriage equality and the GOP still signs up for the Values Voter Summit. you sense that the Republicans are never going to truly open their doors to gay people. Maybe they'll nudge it open just a crack and let a gay politician here, a gay staffer there, squeak through, but they won't support them in building a family, in adopting a child, in protecting themselves from violence on the street. If a party cannot stand behind gay people when it's easy to stand behind gay people, it will never truly stand behind gay people — when a party cannot stand up with the majority, the outliers are truly in charge.
I have seen the antigay outliers in the GOP — I grew up with these people. I have seen what they have to offer us as they praise Putin and what's going on in Russia. I know exactly what these outliers want for us queer folk here in America. I grew up hearing them talk about concentration camps for people with AIDS and deportation and imprisonment; I grew up hearing the constant bullying and harassment from the pulpit and the lectern and the easy chair.
As the outliers take over what was indisputably, in the days of Lincoln, a truly grand old party, I cannot stand by their side — there is too much evidence that the inmates are running the asylum.
RANDY ROBERT POTTS, grandson of televangelist Oral Roberts, has worked with young people as a teacher, social worker, and in the juvenile justice program. He is responsible for The Gay Agenda, a performance art piece designed for conservative America and profiled in Details magazine. His current performance project, “Solidarity,” calling for support of LGBT people in Eastern Europe and Russia, will be performed October 18 in Dallas, Texas. Randy can be found on Facebook and Twitter @randyrpotts.