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Rick Santorum and the Anti-Anti-Gay Attitudes of Most Americans

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 7:47 pm - November 14, 2006.
Filed under: 2006 Elections,Gay Marriage,Gay Politics

When I read two years ago that outgoing Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum had compared homosexuality to bestiality, I knew that he would not win reelection. It’s not that I thought the people of Pennsylvania were particularly pro-gay, but figured than they, like most Americans, are anti-anti-gay.

Most Americans would rather that their politicians didn’t talk too much about gay issues, well, that it, outside certain urban areas where citizens want their elected officials to promote pro-gay policies and outside certain rural areas, where they want them to stand up against gays. But, by and large, I don’t think a politician’s stand on gay issues influenced many voters in the general election. To be sure, the pro-gay stands of some Republicans may have helped sway a few urban voters otherwise not inclined to vote for the GOP but, on the whole, people were concerned with other issues.

That said, when a politician makes statements as extreme as Santorum’s, people began to wonder about his quality of character, why he would so seek to demonize a large number of his fellow citizens.

Many on the left assume that when a politician supports defining marriage as it has long been defined, he is taking an anti-gay stand. To be sure, some who support such stands are anti-gay, but most, some of whom favor civil unions for same-sex couple, believe that marriage is an institution which brings together two individuals of different genders.

Outside the radical fringes of the gay movement, most Americans recognize that opposition to gay marriage does not necessarily mean animus against gays. But, statements like Santorum’s do rub them the wrong way.

The lesson for Republicans in Santorum’s defeat is that expression of anti-gay sentiments will not help advance a candidate’s cause. Most Americans, while opposing gay marriage, don’t harbor much, if any, animosity against gay people. But, on the whole, they do seem to seem to have an antipathy to politicians who readily express anti-gay bias.

No wonder Rick Santorum never polled higher than the low 40s. And secured a far smaller percentage of the vote last week than he had in his two previous statewide elections, elections held before he had compared homosexuality to bestiality.

DeLay’s 1994 Election as House GOP Whip: Harbinger of GOP’s 2006 Defeat

If there was one event which would serve as a harbinger of the Republican Congress’ retreat from its Reaganite principles and defeat in last week’s election, it was the 1994 election for majority whip. After the Republicans won the a majority in the House for the first time in forty years, Pennsylvania’s Robert S. Walker, then-incoming House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s best friend, “was initially favored to win the contest.” But, Tom DeLay, having raised money for many of the newly elected Republicans that year, won 52 votes out of the 73 GOP freshmen in the 104th Congress.

And while DeLay was an effective whip, he was less interested in advancing conservative ideas than was Walker. Five years before his election as Whip, he “managed the campaign” of then-Minority Leader Robert Michel’s choice for party whip, Edward Madigan against Newt Gingrich. That is, he supported the status quo against “the forces of change.”

By contrast, Walker was, with Gingrich, one of the founding members of the Conservative Opportunity Society (COS), a group of House Republicans committed to building on the ideas of Ronald Reagan to build a Republican majority. While committed to the principles which animated the party, the COS was often at odds with the House GOP leadership.

Perhaps had Walker won that election, he might have helped the GOP stand true to the principles he had long promoted. Instead, Tom DeLay sought to retain Republican power by the means the Democrats has used when they were in the majority, building alliances with lobbyists and using earmarks to set-aside pork for the districts of the various representatives. So brazen had DeLay been in pursuit of this agenda that he even set up a web site for his K Street Project, a program which demanded that “lobbying firms seeking access hire loyal Republicans.

Whereas Gingrich and Walker built a Republican majority by appealing to the conservative ideas which had been — and still are* — gaining increasing favor with the American people, DeLay sought to maintain that majority by traditional political means. But, losing sight of principle and relying on “traditional political means” made corruption all the easier. And corruption had a significant impact in last week’s GOP loss. As Karl Rove put it in an interview with Time‘s Mike Allen:

The profile of corruption in the exit polls was bigger than I’d expected. . . . Abramoff, lobbying, Foley and Haggard [the disgraced evangelical leader] added to the general distaste that people have for all things Washington, and it just reached critical mass.

(Via OpinionJournal Political Diary (available by subscription).) Too focused on maintaining their power, House Republicans became cozy with the establishment they had been elected to confront.

And Democrats won this year largely by running against that establishment.