Tuesday, August 31, 2004

When Matter Meets Anti-Matter 

It is a big-ass tent indeed that can successfully contain both the Log Cabin Republicans and the minions of Randall Terry; should the two constituencies intermingle, even for the briefest of instants, spontaneous combustion would occur. David Corn is in New York for the Republican Convention, and had the good fortune to speak with both groups -- though not, we hasten to add, in the same room at the same time:
As hundreds of thousands of progressives marched past an empty Madison Square Garden on Sunday, a hundred or so counter-protesters screamed at them: "Kerry loves communists, Kerry loves terrorists." And they held up signs decrying abortion. Leading this brigade was Randall Terry, the longtime abortion foe famous for having led the so-called Operation Rescue years ago (and for being tossed out of his church for infidelity). An unabashed Christian fundamentalist who used to advocate stoning as punishment for unruly children, Terry once tried to deliver a fetus in a jar to Bill Clinton. He ran for Congress in upstate New York in the mid-1990s as a Republican and lost. In recent years, he has devoted much time to battling gay marriage and gay rights. Not long ago, his adopted son came out of the closet and denounced Terry. (Terry's adopted daughter also blasted him publicly.)

As Terry's troops tussled with the marchers, Terry spared me a few minutes. He noted that Bush has been "disappointing" for doing little to criminalize abortion. "If he gets to appoint a Supreme Court justice, he better not make his dad's mistake. His dad gave us [Justice David] Souter." Souter, of course, has supported abortion rights. Why do you think it is, I asked Terry, that people who tend to oppose abortion rights support the war in Iraq? '"There's an ethical connection," he replied. "Either you believe in fixed principles of justice or you are swayed by the emotional arguments of the moment. Truth and justice are eternal. Saddam Hussein needed to be killed" . . . .

The president's embrace of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage has presented queer Republicans with a challenge. How do you support a fellow who would deny your most basic aspirations? On this warmest of hot-button issues, Bush has sided with the Terryish fundamentalist wing over the cosmopolitans of the Log Cabin. But the Republicans in this restaurant want to be part of the GOP action. "I'm very upset with the president," Scott Schmitt, the communications director of the California Log Cabins told me. "How he approached the gay marriage amendment was very divisive. It was not in the spirit of how he campaigned in 2000. It was very offensive to the gay community." Well, Bush in 2000 did welcome the support of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson in 2000, and used the religious right to squash Senator John McCain's presidential effort. But history aside, it did seem that Schmitt was being unduly generous to Bush by complaining about < i> how Bush has supported the gay marriage amendment rather than Bush's support for the anti-gay measure.

More importantly, Schmitt, like others in the room, was quick to point out that neither John Kerry nor John Edwards have endorsed gay marriage. This is the lifeline for gay Republicans. Since there's no difference between the parties on this contentious issue, they argue, why shouldn't we stick with the party that represents our views on tax cuts, the war in Iraq and other matters? "As far as gays and marriage are concerned, you're screwed either way," said Carla Halbrook, a national board member of the group and a self-professed heterosexual. "The country is not ready for gay marriage. So I'm going to vote for a president that keeps me safe" . . . .

[E]ach wing cannot be right in its prediction. Yet that does not matter at the moment. The fundamentalist can hope (and pray) for an end to abortion rights and gay rights. The liberal Republicans can patiently await a social reformation. In the meantime, the GOP's tent holds for yet another election cycle, and Bush benefits.

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