When all too many Americans comes out as gay or lesbian, while they may at first continue to adhere to the political philosophy they held before acknowledging his sexuality, after a time socializing with their gay peers, they gradually comes to adopt the political views of those around him.Â Adopting such liberal political views, it seems, has become a rite of passage for the openly-gay American.
I have come to believe that more than anything else, the desire to belong, social conformity, determines the political ideology of a good number of American gays.Â That belief came to mind yesterday when I read posts by two smart conservative bloggers, Tom Maguire and Paul Mirengoff reflecting on Shelby Steele’s Wall Street Journal op-ed, Why the GOP Can’t Win With Minorities. Some of the arguments Steele made on the difficulty Republicans had in reaching out to ethnic minorities could apply to sexual minorities as well.
Unlike many gay activists, including leaders of Log Cabin, I don’t think the Republican Party need develop a gay-specific outreach plan.Â I simply believe the party should abandon policies which discriminate against gay people and otherwise leave us alone to live our lives as we please.Â The GOP should focus instead on unifying conservative principles.Â Indeed, this belief is in line with contemporary American conservatism.Â As Steele puts it:
Still, an appeal targeted just at minorities — reeking as it surely would of identity politics — is anathema to most conservatives. Can’t it be assumed, they would argue, that support of classic principles — individual freedom and equality under the law — constitutes support of minorities?
Eschewing identify politics, however, might not work in an era of group consciousness.Â In coming out and developing a gay identity, all too many of us contend that identity involves a certain political consciousness,Â wherein we demand certain gay-specific policies in exchange for our support.
That consciousness comes from the circumstances of the 1960s which Steele believes “opened a new formula for power in American politics: redemption. If you could at least seem to redeem America of its past sins, you could win enough moral authority to claim real political power.”Â Translated into gay terms, this means, we need state action to redeem America’s “homophobic” past.
As we learn of that past, we start seeing ourselves not just as individuals whose emotional and sexual attraction to our gender, distinguish us from our peers, but as victims of “heterosexist” society.Â Whereas according to Steele, “American minorities of color — especially blacks — are often born into grievance-focused identities,” we are acculturated into a similar identity.Â As just as for racial minorities, “The idea of grievance will seem to define them in some eternal way, and it will link them atavistically to a community of loved ones.”
To those who see themselves as victims, “contemporary American conservatism” offers, “no mechanism to redeem America of its shames.”Â Steele believes that liberalism, by contrast
may stand on decades of failed ideas, but it is failure in the name of American redemption. It remains competitive with — even ascendant over — conservatism because it addresses America’s moral accountability to its past with moral activism.
Lacking such moral activism on gay issues, American conservatism and the one partisan institution ostensibly dedicated to advancing its principles, will not find many adherents among those gays for whom this notion of a community of grievance has become the prevailing ideology.
I fear that the Republican Party may never reach those gays who see their sexual orientation as the defining aspect of their humanity rather than as just one attribute among many.Â As I ponder Steele’s column (and encourage you to read it and do the same), I still have hope for my party. I don’t believe all gay people see themselves that way.Â I do believe we can reach those gay men and lesbians who simply need reassurance that that the GOP is not beholden to those who would marginalize gay people.
To reach out to gays as well as to blacks, Hispanics and other minorities, Republican leaders must remind our fellow Americans that conservative principles work for all people regardless of any distinguishing characteristic which might differentiate us from the social norm.
FROM THE COMMENTS:Â Stephen H. Miller offers:
I agree with Steele about liberals getting a big advantage out of â€œredemptive politics,â€ with Obama the ultimate example, while minorities are taught that their prime identity is that of victim.
But the other issue is that while the GOP is not taking racist positions â€” and liberals are just lying when they say that opposing race-based preferential treatment and other special advantages is equal to racism â€” it is true that the GOP has advocated a federal amendment banning gay marriage, opposes letting gays serve openly in the military, opposes federal recognition of state-sanctioned civil unions and same-sex marriages, and is very publically aligned with religious conservatives who think homosexuality is (a) a sin and/or (b) a curable malady. Gays perceive the GOP as a threat, like the school bully.
Some of us think the socialist Democratic Party is a worse threat to liberty, but that’s a very hard case to make to gays who see Democrats mouthing nice things about us as they solicit our funds.