In the old days, gay voters could easily be Democrats or Republicans because both parties were anti-gay with neither offering a refuge from hate.
Now, with marriage equality and other rights having been achieved largely because of elected Democrats’ response to gay activism, choices for gay voters have changed significantly. Because we have been given a place at one table but not at the other, registering and voting Democrat seems like a no-brainer if we are to sustain our newly won equality in the face of ongoing threats from Republican candidates.
Therefore, it always surprises me when gay acquaintances unmask themselves to me as Republicans, arguing that gay rights are but a single issue that should not automatically drive the gay voter into the Democratic camp. Republican-leaning gays need to be subjected to a strong microscope.
Does their argument make sense? Can a self-respecting gay person vote Republican in 2016?
What matters most to a gay person may be made apparent by his or her political leaning. If maximizing your wealth trumps your desire for marital bliss, you may convince yourself that casting a Republican vote may help you skirt taxes.
If your religious convictions make you prize the right to life for the unborn over the reproductive rights of women, you may convince yourself that casting a Republican vote will make your God smile and mark you down for a larger house in heaven.
If you suspect that electing Democrats means inflating governmental regulation, and that electing Republicans means protecting your right to shoot anything in your backyard, you may convince yourself that voting Republican will ensure some sort of woodsy mobility unknown to most Americans since before the Civil War.
If white faces speaking English give you comfort no matter what words they utter, while swarthy faces speaking other languages make you distressed rather than curious to learn, you may convince yourself that voting Republican will Anglicize the nation and end the constant discomfort of diversity. You see? I know the arguments.
It is easy to put on blinders that allow us to see only what concerns us most while blocking inconvenient issues that disturb our sleep to a lesser degree. Keep your blinders on long enough and they become embedded in your temples. Your willingness to accept mistreatment because of your sexuality morphs from character flaw to ornament, from weakness to trophy, and finally from countenanced to boldly proclaimed.
Even if you are inclined to vote Republican because you lack the genetic inscription that makes other gays protest oppression, you might want to re-evaluate the future of your investment in the Grand Old Party.
The fact that the entire country watches the clown car of Republican presidential candidates with a zest traditionally reserved for professional wrestling ought to embarrass you. The fact that those self-seeking candidates are rarely if ever described as wise or inspired ought to concern you. The most shocking revelation made during the Republican debates was not anything those candidates said, but the fact that there were no true, heroic and trustworthy leaders on those stages. No brilliant Republicans – and I still believe they are not entirely extinct –stepped forward, leaving the game to ambulance-chasers. In other words, the smart folks have found the exits and are using them.
In conversation with gay Republicans, this is usually the point at which they get defensive by throwing the specter of the Democratic presidential candidates in my face. I acknowledge their flaws. My calm response is usually to suggest that we try to construct our ideal candidate, and then pick an existing one who most closely matches our desires and needs. Here is an A-Z description of a dream candidate. The items are phrased to emphasize issues of interest to many of my gay friends.
Obviously, they are not constructed objectively. My aim is to show that even if you are not a “one-issue gay,” it’s almost impossible to justify voting Republican. Put a “D” next to each element that more likely describes a current Democrat presidential candidate and an “R” next to the items that more likely describe a Republican presidential candidate.
a) A strong military commander, keeping us safe from terrorism;
b) A fiscal conservative unafraid to rebuild the IRS, establishing an equitable system of taxation;
c) A smaller-government advocate;
d) A robust advocate for efficient universal health care;
e) A bold logician ending the already-lost war on drugs with its codependent prison overcrowding and lopsided policing;
f) A spiritual leader who believes in the complete separation of church and state, and who will tax religions as they deserve;
g) A supporter of the court system’s function in protecting the rights of the few against the prejudices of the many;
h) Someone sex-positive with no desire to police the sex enjoyed by consenting adults;
i) A worker appreciating the need for workplace protections;
j) A savvy diplomat who will gain the respect of foreign powers;
k) A supporter of the idea that unemployed persons can work on monumental public works projects that will be enjoyed for centuries;
l) An advocate for public funding for the arts;
m) A free-thinker with a strong disdain for censorship of any kind
n) A friend of foreigners who is unafraid to welcome refugees seeking solace in our freedom through citizenship;
o) An advocate for increased funding for HIV/AIDS research;
p) An environmentalist protecting our domestic food sources from unbridled genetic modification and our clean air and water from pollution;
q) An urban and rural visionary who will direct federal funds into projects that have real merit rather than pay back political allies on the local level;
r) An independent leader who would trim pork by remaining beholden to no special interest group;
s) A tackler of the national obesity epidemic which is costing us billions in related medical expenditures and coverage;
t) An advocate for funding for renewable non-polluting sources of energy;
u) A teacher who will insist that public education form wise citizens rather then be a daycare system nurturing the unruly;
v) A social worker who will improve a flawed food stamp program by providing only healthy nutrition for the hungry;
w) A housing specialist convinced that public housing ought to be transitory rather than multi-generational;
x) A funding-advocate for the technologies of high-speed public transportation that will someday allow us to go coast-to-coast in a matter of minutes, eliminating our reliance on gruesome airplane travel or crawling highway traffic;
y) A quality-of-life advocate for the elderly, the fastest growing segment of our population;
z) An advocate for a person’s right to die when that personal choice is the best ending to a good life.
My own results are 18 “D”s vs. 7 “R”s. This means that I am personally exempt from the accusation that I will vote for a Democrat just because of my desire for gay rights.
The construction and phrasing of this exercise is bound to infuriate many. It’s biased, slanted and tilted. Let me know which part you find most annoying or perhaps accurate. Even an irritating dialogue is better than letting our collective gay Floridian psyche go to sleep when our votes are most needed.