[Please note that I rewrote a couple paragraphs of this post to correct some misunderstandings which arose because of errors in the initial draft. I apologize for not having better edited that draft.]
Political courage, I believe, is when an elected official does something where he risks losing as much (if not more) support as he gains by that action. To that end, my governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, showed a lot of guts last Thursday when he spoke to Log Cabin. Perhaps my criticism of Log Cabin’s spin on the event may cause some to think I do not recognize the event’s significance. But, I do. I agree with Bruce that the governor’s appearance before a gay group is “big news.”
It is, as far as I can tell, the Governor’s only fundraising appearance this year on behalf of an organization other than his own campaign. That’s says a lot about the man that he would choose to lend the power of his presence to help a gay group.
It also was an act of political courage. The Governor risked alienating that small percentage of social conservatives who vote Republican, but don’t want to back a candidate who appears before gay groups and signs pro-gay legislation. Not only has the Governor signed a number of pro-gay bills, but he has also made clear his support for the state’s landmark domestic partnership program. This was not the first time he has risked the wrath of certain social conservatives.
Given the Govenor’s positive actions on gay issues, some social conservatives are considering not voting for him this fall — or pulling the lever for a third-party candidate. In a close election (the latest polls show the gubernatorial contest in the Golden State to be next and neck), the loss of these votes (upon which Republicans normally can count) could prove decisive.
Indeed, some social conservatives contacted the Governor in an attempt to persuade him to “cancel his appearance” at the Log Cabin fundraiser, with Randy Thomasson, president of the lobbying group Campaign for Children and Families, faulting the governor for promoting “transsexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality.” Thus, in standing up for gays, Governor Schwarzenegger alienated social conservatives, part of the GOP base.
Contrast Governor Schwarzenegger’s actions to the crass political calculation of Bill Clinton. In 1993, after gay voters contributed to his campaign — and helped elect him president, Clinton broke a campaign promise and did not repeal the ban on gays in the military (which he could have accomplished in 1993 with the stroke of a pen).
Three years later, after having secured the endorsement of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), President Clinton, in the dead of the night, signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). It took no courage for Clinton to sign the bill — and appeal to socially conservtive indpendents because he knew that gay voters wouldn’t abandon him. Ineed, even after he signed the bill, HRC refused to rescind its endorsement of that opportunistic Democrat.
As gay leaders express hostility toward Governor Schwarzeneggger (largely, they say, because of his veto of the gay marriage bill), they show (yet again) that they hold Republicans to a higher standard than they do Democrats. Bill Clinton’s infractions were more severe, yet he continued to enjoy the support of gay activists, including HRC’s endorsement, after having broken his campaign promise to repeal the ban on gays in the military — and signing DOMA.
Even if Republicans have accomplished as much as had Arnold Schwarzenegger, gay activists will hold them in contempt for the slightest deviation from their party line. The governor may have vetoed the gay marriage bill, but he signed a number of other pro-gay pieces of legislation — when there was a political price (for him) to pay by signing them.
It’s too bad gay activists prefer an opportunistic Arkansas Democrat to a courageous California Republican. I guess for them that (D) after a candidate’s name means far more than his accomplishments.
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com