A New Conservative Agenda
“If you don’t like it, change it or leave. It’s that simple. For me, in politics, I’ve always had that mentality,” the Republican political strategist Margaret Hoover recently said with aplomb.
Hoover is pro-gay and a favored Fox News guest—one of the few unwilling to soft-pedal support for marriage equality. If there will ever be political harmony on whether gay and lesbian couples should have the same marriage rights as other Americans, her influence may be part of the key to consensus.
A great-granddaughter of President Herbert Hoover, the 34-year-old Colorado native and former George W. Bush White House aide worked on the 2004 presidential campaign, one justifiably notorious for its pandering to social conservatives in states with anti–gay marriage amendments on the ballot, all of which passed.
Like Ken Mehlman, the former Republican National Committee chair and the Bush-Cheney campaign manager in ’04, Hoover has since been sought out by gay groups. He has been a key fund-raiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the group that has organized and litigated the Proposition 8 challenge, and she’s an advisory board member for both that organization and GOProud. Unlike Mehlman, however, Hoover is straight. And she hasn’t tempered her on-record anger when it comes to the gay marriage-as-political-football issue. “The people Republicans represent are not haters—that’s what was so unbelievable about ’04,” Hoover says. “You had this social conservative strategy in terms of trying to get the vote out in states with [marriage amendments]. But the top issues for conservatives were national security and the economy, not gay marriage.”
Hoover’s cable news appearances—she’s a regular on The O’Reilly Factor, for starters — demonstrate her fluency on LGBT issues and a lack of the restraint that can tongue-tie leading gay and lesbian advocates, particularly on shows like Bill O’Reilly’s. And her work transcends the 24-hour news cycle. Most notably, she has the ear of Paul E. Singer, a legendary Republican donor who helped bankroll much of the New York marriage equality campaign this spring.
Hoover’s brand of advocacy work could give Democrats pause. However laudatory liberals are of bipartisan support where it occurs—the coterie of GOP senators who voted in December for “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal, for instance—Dems are not about to budge in their conviction that they, and they alone, are the real advocates for progress in LGBT rights, even if the sitting president’s lack of support for marriage equality seems primarily driven by political calculation.
And Hoover isn’t having any of it. “What we do is important,” she says. “GOProud has put the heat on conservative leaders who are uncomfortable with gays being part of the conservative movement — a service I view as invaluable.” Of groups like the Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America, she says, “They don’t represent us. They’re just ideologues in their own right.”
Note: Ms. Hoover was misquoted by the author in the first quote of the final paragraph. Her comments on the role of GOProud have been updated from a previous version published Tuesday.