What Gay-Friendly Republicans?

Homos Get the Glad Hand, Phobes Get the Power

Despite this dissing, the Republicans can tempt gay voters with an implicit promise: If you prove useful, we won't roll back your civil rights. Yet, by lending support to a party dominated by the religious right, gay voters help to assure that such a rollback will take place. It may not happen in Congress, but it will certainly occur in the courts. The next time a state passes a law voiding gay civil rights, it might not be overturned. But Bush will go on shaking hands with queer compadres.

Most gay voters know the difference between a smile and progress. That's why they are the third most loyal Democratic constituency, after blacks and Jews. Seventy-five percent of them voted for Al Gore in 2000. Still, Bush got about a million gay votes, and the Republicans hope to top this number by quietly courting gays in crucial states like Florida (where the GOP recently ran an openly gay candidate for the statehouse). The outing of Florida Republican Mark Foley, a candidate for the U.S. Senate, makes the party of Santorum seem even more simpatico.

Gays comprise 9 percent of voters in large cities. You'd think the Democrats would fight to retain this potent base. But there are signals of a new discretion on their part. Though Democrats have spoken out against Bush's anti-gay nominees, their protest has yet to reach the filibuster level. Then there's Hillary Clinton, who lay back on Santorum and has refused to say whether she would support General Clark's promotion. Her caution echoes a recent piece in the Democratic Leadership Council publication Blueprint arguing that the party must rectify its failure to attract swing voters, "especially middle-class white men." Read straight middle-class white men.

How ironic it would be if the Democrats make Bush look gay-friendly even as he carries out a backlash against gay rights. Stranger things have happened in American politics. In fact, they happen all the time.

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