Just over two months ago, I noted how Log Cabin’s reaction to the Massachusetts’ legislature’s decision to block a referendum on gay marriage echoed those of the other gay groups. Log Cabin seems so eager to be liked by the national gay groups that I have dubbed them Sally Field Republicans.
Last week, with the president announcing the retirement of Karl Rove, we saw this once again. Log Cabin’s leadership criticized this Republican political strategist’s record in terms nearly identical to those of the leaders of left-wing gay organizations.
Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Joe Solmonese told the Washington Blade:
Karl Rove perfected the political strategy of distort and divide and too often the lives of gay Americans were used as fodder for that strategy. . . . . Rove earned his legacy as a hero of the anti-equality, anti-gay right wing, and will forever be remembered for that.
Echoing Solmonese’s remarks, Log Cabin president Patrick Sammon said:
It’s disappointing and unfortunate that Karl Rove pursued the strategy he did in 2004. . . . He went down that course and divided the country and it was a mistake, and I think history will judge him harshly because of it.
While the latter’s rhetoric wasn’t nearly as mean-spirited as those of the HRC chief, his reaction was nearly identical.
It seems sometimes that the leaders of gay organizations, just like their counterparts in the Democratic party and liberal punditry, blame all manner of ills on Rove (when they’re not blaming them on his soon-to-be former boss). Were it not for his diabolical machinations, they claim, the marriage initiatives would not have appeared on state ballots in 2004.
Yet, while there is some evidence that Rove was not averse to using the initiatives (once on state ballots) to drive evangelical turnout (even if that doesn’t seem to have increased the president’s margin in 2004), there is no evidence he was responsible for putting these pernicious proposals on state ballots.
It’s absurd to blame Rove for using this issue to divide the country. It was not Rove who created the division, but those who would use the courts to decide an issue without giving the people a say in the matter.
Those who pin the blame on Rove for spearheading these initiatives ignore the reality of the grass-roots efforts to put them on state ballots — and the margins by which they passed, even Oregon and Michigan, margins which, in 2004, exceeded the president’s own margin of victory in every state where they appeared on the ballot.
No, Rove did not use gay marriage to divide the country. The issue was already dividing the country. To be sure, we can (and should) criticize him for exploiting that division. And fault the president and other leading politicians for failing to promote a strategy to heal the divisions, addressing both the need to recognize same-sex unions as well as the concerns of the opponents of gay marriage.
AndI fault Log Cabin for not understanding why the very issue of gay marriage divides the country and for repeating the left-wing mantras about Karl Rove, exaggerating his role in the issue as if it were his primary focus in the 2004 campaign. (I just don’t think that Rove spent too much time on the gay marriage issue, except to acknowledge that it was one issue which fired up evangelicals who tend to turn out in large numbers for the GOP.)
It says something about Log Cabin that they would buy into these mantras about one of the most successful Republican strategists of the past twenty years. As if they don’t appreciate his efforts to help build the GOP.
While the results of the 2006 election indicate that Rove, in Michael Barone’s words, “failed to create the enduring Republican majority he hoped for,” he was not entirely responsible. Congressional Republicans became complacent in 2005 and 2006 and largely abandoned the small government principles which helped them gain the majority in 1994 and secure it in subsequent elections. Karl Rove played a key part in helping the GOP hold its majority in the first elections of this century.
Let us hope that even while faulting Rove for his (limited) involvement in the passage of the marriage initiatives in 2004 Log Cabin’s leaders will at least acknowledge, as does Barone, his accomplishments. For his strategy did deliver Republican majorities against a hostile media and an energized Democratic base.
Republicans should be grateful to Rove for helping us keep our majorities for as long as we did. But, I wonder if we we can blame that savvy strategist for their failure to use that electoral success to govern like conservatives.
– B. Daniel Blatt (GayPatriotWest@aol.com)