"You ain't seen nothing yet."
That's what I told Tom Roberts on MSNBC when he asked if Log Cabin Republicans would be engaging in more aggressive work in 2013. Ronald Reagan used those words in his address to the nation prior to the 1984 elections, and they could easily be applied to the work Log Cabin Republicans will do--and is already doing--in the months ahead.
What you're seeing right now is the genesis of a new Log Cabin Republicans--stronger, more engaged, and more relevant than ever before.
And this recent righting of Log Cabin Republicans couldn't have happened at a better time. All signs point toward a coming surge of GOP support for a host of gay rights issues--not the least among them civil marriage for gay and lesbian couples. We're poised to ride a massive wave of equality as more and more Republicans understand that embracing civil marriage for gay couples is a winning issue. Even some of the conservative movement's past foes of the freedom to marry have concluded that opposition to marriage equality is not a winning issue for the GOP.
Now I'm no Pollyanna. I know that there is a great deal of work to be done within the Republican party if true equality is to become a reality for all Americans, and this new, bolder Log Cabin Republicans is going to be as much of a watchdog on GOP positions on gay issues as much we are attack-dogs against the destructive policies of tax-and-spend Democrats. You saw the first salvos in this fight last week in the ad we placed in The Hill, emphasizing everything that's right with the GOP--policy on taxes, cutting spending, and health care, in particular--and chiding Republicans for incorporating continued spending of taxpayer dollars in defense of the Defense of Marriage Act into the most recent Congressional Rules.
We also feel that it's important to stand our ground when the rights that we've fought so hard to achieve are thrown in jeopardy. That's why Log Cabin Republicans recently took to major newspapers to challenge Chuck Hagel's nomination for Secretary of Defense. In a move that had us scratching our heads, many gay groups warmly accepted Hagel's nomination, despite having received a whopping 0 from the Human Rights Campaign for his record on gay rights while in office. His politically expedient apology wasn't quite enough to fully assuage our fear that someone who had not long ago objected to the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell on the grounds that "The U.S. Armed Forces aren't some social experiment" might not be the best person to preside over the implementation of that repeal.
The gay left threw back its collective head and howled. How dare we point out a Republican's anti-gay record now that he had been appointed by President Obama. The apples to oranges comparison of how we could endorse Mitt Romney while opposing Hagel reverberated across the internet. But the answer to that overly-simplistic comparison is this: Given the choice between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, we tepidly endorsed Mitt Romney. The endorsement had far more to do with our opposition to President Obama than it did any particular positive feelings about Mitt Romney. Furthermore, yes, Romney has the same terrible record on gay rights that Hagel does--which we loudly challenged. But, as Republicans, we also happen to agree with Romney on a majority of other issues. We have no such broad commonality with Hagel. Furthermore, there was any number of other qualified candidates for Defense Secretary, while in the Presidential election we are all forced into a binary decision.
Log Cabin Republicans exists to help build a more inclusive GOP by helping Republicans stick to the core principles that unite us as a party, and focus on the issues that win at the ballot box: jobs and the economy foremost among them.
We're also here to further amplify the efforts of those Republicans championing equality efforts. We've made incredible strides as a party over the course of the last two years alone. Who would have thought at the start of 2010 that by the end of 2012 we would have repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" with bi-partisan support and gotten three GOP members of Congress to sign on to the Respect for All Marriages Act, which repeals DOMA? You can't count on liberals to make sure Republican support for these issues is part of the story; Log Cabin Republicans is here to make sure it is.
We're just coming off a crushing election cycle where Republicans fell for the bait of a culture war employed by liberals to drive its base to the polls and hold up the socially conservative extremes of the GOP as exemplary of the party as a whole. Republicans, for their part, allowed themselves to be defined by these extremes by failing to distance themselves from those in the party from whom we should all keep our distance. The result? We lost, and we lost big. This is all in stark contrast to the 2010 midterms, when a strategy of putting jobs and the economy front-and-center led to the GOP retaking control of the House and winning over independents en masse.
So where do we go from here? How can we win over allies to our cause given anti-gay positions the party and some of its members have taken in the past? Liberals look at this opportunity and see a problem; Log Cabin Republicans looks at this problem and sees opportunity. It's our job to win new allies, win the debate, and--most importantly--win elections. The media blitz you've seen in recent weeks is just the beginning of an aggressive communications strategy Log Cabin Republicans will be embarking on in the months ahead in order to convey a message of inclusion to the GOP, put tax-and-spend liberal Democrats on watch, and show the nation that when the Republican party sticks to its roots of equality and liberty, we win big.
To paraphrase The Gipper: Log Cabin Republicans' best days lie ahead--you ain't seen nothing yet.
GREGORY T. ANGELO is the Interim Executive Director of Log Cabin Republicans. Visit LogCabin.org for more information.