Lessons Learned

BY Michelangelo Signorile

May 16 2011 3:00 AM ET

 In the end, CPAC chair Alberto Cardenas indicated GOProud likely won’t be invited back, bowing to conservative groups like the Family Research Council, which, along with other groups, boycotted CPAC.

“They used that platform to be quite aggressive,” Cardenas told conservative publication Human Events of GOProud. “The ideal GOProud participation would have been, ‘You know what, guys? This is an inclusive society. We’re as interested in these fiscal issues as you are. Fill your website with fiscal issues that you’re for and be a mainstream discusser of issues. We just happen to have a different lifestyle.’ ” In other words, sit down, shut up, and don’t challenge homophobia.

And that’s what GOProud’s drama tells us about the endurance of the Christian right: It still wields a great deal of power in the GOP (witness how abortion became front and center in the budget battle), even as mainstream America is well beyond its issues.

The media claimed that the Tea Party was something new, focused on fiscal issues, not social ones, and had supplanted the religious right. But in fact, what we’ve come to learn is that it is often the same old crowd, and many of the Tea Party activists are also moral crusaders. That was borne out in the campaigns by two of the most prominent Tea Party Senate candidates in 2010, Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell.

GOProud is useful to the GOP insofar as it provides the cover of being “tolerant” of gays at a time when a majority of Americans now support marriage equality, and as younger voters support full equality in huge numbers. But Cardenas’s statement shows the limit of that tolerance. Those who control the GOP don’t want to see open gays in the party at all — even if they’re only supporting “fiscal” reforms.

That makes LGBT rights a wedge issue for Democrats to now wield against Republicans instead of the other way around, as it had been for so long. When President Obama decided not to defend DOMA, it was good for the LGBT movement but also great politics for him, something we all hope he and Democratic leaders have realized. It put the GOP on the defensive, as John Boehner showed no passion in defending DOMA — and knows most Americans don’t support DOMA — but had no choice because of that antigay base, which GOProud’s wild ride underscores is still very much in charge. ✤









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