After reading my post last week on Ken Blackwell’s victory in the Ohio Republican gubernatorial primary, a reader from Texas wrote in with one of the best questions I have received since I started blogging. Noting that he couldn’t vote for candidates who suck up “to the hard line anti-gay right,” he asked:
if you still resided in your home state [Ohio], knowing what you know about Blackwell, would you vote for him and/or would you encourage others to support him as well? Why or why not would you take this position?
It is this question which, I believe gets to the heart of the real gay Republican dilemma. What do we do when our party nominates a candidate, with whom we fundamentally agree on matters of principle, makes anti-gay statements? It’s one thing to disagree with a candidate on one or two matters of policy, especially given the diverse array of issues with which our elected officials have to deal. It’s another to support one who badmouthes us.
We can’t agree with a candidate on everything. That’s one reason I came around to supporting the president even after he announced his support for the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA). As I said to Bay Windows reporter Ethan Jacobs just after the 2004 election, “The whole point is that gay conservatives have a variety of issues, and on most of them we think Bush would be better than Kerry.”
Importantly, although the president supported an amendment that I oppose, he did not attack gays as had some of its proponents. Not only that. Article V of the Constitution leaves the excutive out of the amendment process. While the president could use the bully pulpit of his office to promote the amendment, he couldn’t vote to enact it. (Still, I would have preferred that he opposed it — or at least remained silent.)
That rationale doesn’t exactly apply to the Blackwell situation. Unlike the president, as one reader noted Blackwell is invovled with the Ohio Restoration Project, an evangelical group which defines gay unions as “deviant,” and who has himself made a number of unfortunate comments about gays. And while Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn has made similar comments, he has distinguished himself in promoting federal programs to fight AIDS.
Aware of his leadership on AIDS issues, I could vote for Coburn, particularly given his efforts to stop federal pork-barrel spending, but could I vote for Ken Blackwel? That’s the real dilemma. He’s good on so many issues, yet, unlike Coburn, does not appear to have taken any stance which would “redeem” him for gay citizens.
When I replied to my reader, I wrote “the short answer is I don’t know” how I’d vote this fall if I lived in Ohio. I would have to find out more about Blackwell’s Democratic oppoent, Congressman Ted Strickland. If he is as moderate as he appears, I could see myself voting Libertarian in the fall. But, if he were a liberal, planning spending increases and tax hikes (which could hurt Ohio’s fragile economy), I might have to pinch my nose and vote for Blackwell.
It’s not an easy issue. I would rather not vote for a candidate who routinely badmouths gay people. At the same time, I would love to see a Republican elected who would stand up for Reaganite principles, providing for public safety, promoting fiscal discipline and reducing regulation and so encouraging entrepreneurship. Ken Blackwell is committed to those goals.
This reader raised a very important issue which all serious gay Republicans need to consider. I think Log Cabin would improve its standing among conservatives if it promoted discussion of this topic. Perhaps a panel at their next gathering, a panel that would include at least one gay Republican who would support an otherwise principled conservative who had repeatedly made anti-gay remarks. A panel that would consist entirely of Republicans.
In 1996, much as I mistrusted Bill Clinton, I knew that, in the unlikely event that my party nominatd Pat Buchanan, I would have voted for the Democratic incumbent — and not just because of Buchanan’s anti-gay attitudes. Another gay conservative friend said that not only would he have voted for Clinton in those circumstances, he would have given money to his campaign and put a bumper sticker on his car. In 1991 in Lousiana, I would have voted for the crook on the Democratic line (Edwin Edwards) over the Klansman on the Republican (David Duke). There are some people so extreme and so hateful that I would definitely vote for their Democratic opponents.
Distasteful as some of his comments on gays are, Ken Blackwell is neither a Pat Buchanan nor a David Duke. Unlike them, on most issues, he is a Reagan Republican. But, because of those remarks about gays, I would have a great deal of difficulty voting for him. At these stage of the game, I’m not sure how I’d vote if I still lived in Ohio, but I would certainly pay attention to the policies his opponent was proposing. And to the merits of the Libertarian candidate.
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com