Log Cabin Leader on Presidential Race: Hope & Change for GOP
Several years ago, conservative gay pundit Bruce Bawer argued in a book aptly titled "A Place at the Table" that the "soft-left" (my term, not his) politics that dominates in gay political circles have effectively locked LGBT Americans out of the public forum. As the group arguing from the inside of the GOP for gay inclusion, the Log Cabin Republicans have often come in for criticism from the "gay establishment."
But R. Clarke Cooper, the current head of the Washington, D.C.-based group, doesn’t let such pro forma ostracism bother him too much. "I like to remind some groups that I won’t mention, you can’t do it without us. We’re a two-party system," he said he in a recent interview with EDGE.
In the wide-ranging interview, Cooper looked over the landscape of GOP candidates for the presidential nomination. He definitely sees the glass as half-full. Log Cabin doesn’t endorse a candidate prior to the GOP convention, to be held this year in Tampa, Fla. After the convention, the group has the option not to endorse the party’s candidate, although such a step would be highly unusual (and would undoubtedly result in loss of clout within the party echelon).
Even so, Cooper doesn’t hesitate to point that there are two tiers of candidates, roughly equivalent to those who have gay delegates and those who don’t. Even though the candidates themselves are much less responsible for delegates, which are generally chosen by statwide campaign committees, it’s a pretty good indication.
That’s apparent when you look at the candidates who do -- and don’t -- have any gay delegates:
Candidates with gay delegates
• Mitt Romney
• John Huntsman
• Newt Gingrich
• Ron Paul
Candidates with no gay delegates
• Rick Santorum
• Michelle Bachmann
• Rick Perry
• Herman Cain
Such a disconnect points to what’s at stake in this campaign season. When I brought up Pat Buchanan’s now-infamous "Culture War" speech at the 1992 GOP convention, in which he told the party that gays, along with other groups, had effectively created a "fifth column" to undermine traditional values.
"There’s a huge difference between 1992 and 2012 -- thank God!" Cooper said. "Rick Santorum shows the worst behavior. But that is not the trend within the party. He is bucking the trend. College Republicans and the Young Republicans are either ’agnostic’ or don’t care, or they’re supportive of gay issues."
The three candidates who placed on the top in New Hampshire didn’t sign the obnoxious Iowa "family pledge" put forward by right-wing evangelical leaders. And it’s worth noting that of the candidates at the bottom of the list above, there are only two standing.
Of the two, Rick Perry shot himself in the foot big-time with his now-notorious ad, in which he lamented that gays can serve openly in the military and the obligatory nod to the mythical "war on Christians." The ad, which quickly became known as "Brokeback" because of the setting and the costume, went on to become the most "disliked" video in the history of YouTube.
"There was a huge fight in his campaign about running that ad," Cooper says. "Plus, it was very naïve to think a niche ad like that wouldn’t go viral in these days of the proliferation of mass media." Later, Cooper found out that a number of staff "found his behavior boorish" -- proof of the old adage that success has many parents but failure is an orphan.