Op-ed: Santorum’s Exit is Good for Gays – and Republicans
 

BY Advocate Contributors

April 12 2012 4:00 AM ET

Unsurprisingly most
lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, including Log Cabin
Republicans, are glad to see Senator Rick Santorum exit the race for the White
House. What may surprise some people is that most straight Republicans are also
breathing a sigh of relief while some Democrats are mourning his loss.

Mainstream
Republicans have no appetite for Rick Santorum’s unique brand of divisive
social issue politics. Exit polls clearly showed that his success in the
primaries had little to do with his outlandish statements about contraception
or LGBT families, but rather rested on his ability to connect with the economic
concerns of working class voters. In a primary season that has resembled a
battle of attrition, Rick Santorum ultimately benefited from being the last in
a long line of “Romney alternatives,” which says more about Mitt Romney’s
challenges than it does Santorum’s strength.

In Republican
circles, Santorum’s stark moralizing and fixation on social issues like
marriage, pornography and birth control were perceived as signs that he lacked
the focus and discipline necessary to lead the GOP through an election that
conservatives fervently want to see fought on economic issues. Our nation is
facing serious challenges, and the last thing Republicans want is a nominee
whose rhetoric provides constant fodder for the Colbert Report. With Santorum’s departure from the primary
field, Republicans can see the light at the end of the tunnel – and that has
some Democrats scared.

Despite their
frequent condemnations of his campaign, many liberal activists loved having
Rick Santorum around. Blogger Mike Rogers went so far as to set aside his
infamous hatred of Republicans long enough to actually encourage gays to vote
for Santorum during primaries in the hopes that he would secure the nomination
and trigger a landslide victory for Democrats in November. He was the perfect
boogie man to scare female, younger, LGBT and independent-minded voters (and
donors) into line behind an anemic Obama presidency.

An election where
Santorum was carrying the Republican banner and attempting to remake the party
in his own image could have been effectively used to tar the entire GOP as
retrograde on social issues, undermining reelection efforts of pro-equality
Republicans in Congress like Reps. Nan Hayworth of New York and Judy Biggert in
Illinois, or even the champion of DOMA repeal, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in
Florida.

The empty threat of
a Rick Santorum presidency – and now the equally unrealistic specter of a
Santorum vice presidency – is a cheap and easy way for liberals to depress
interest in the GOP without having to expend political capital or resources.
Log Cabin Republicans are issuing a clarion call to our community. It is time
to stop fretting about the boogie man in the closet, and start looking at the
reality of the 2012 elections in the light of day.

 

R. CLARKE COOPER is executive director for the Log Cabin
Republicans.
 

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