The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Self-Evasion of the Mind Revisited

Let me start by saying that I’m going to give the Log Cabin Republicans the benefit of the doubt that they choose their party and their candidate based on their political philosophy and not just their positions on LGBT issues. I said as much in a comment on a post at Independent Gay Forum that, to me, didn’t seem to extend the same courtesy to those of us at the other side of the political spectrum.

But obviously, if your vote is determined by gay issues, it’s going to go to Obama/Biden. If you think Obama is better for gays but worse (or even dangerously worse) for the country, than voting for McCain/Palin does not make you a self-loather (though Obama’s LGBT devotees will certainly tar you, endlessly, with that brush).

As I said in my comment, I’ll make a deal with the LCR and gay conservatives: I won’t characterize you guys as self-loathing if you don’t characterize LGBT Democrats and progressives as mindless, one-issue voters. After all, none of the people I know or talked to in Denver are supporting Obama/Biden soley on the basis of their positions on LGBT issues, but because we think that McCain/Palin is worse (or even dangerously worse) for the country on a whole range of issues from the economy to health care and foreign policy. It just happens that one candidate/party is better on LGBT issues than the other

Which brings me, belatedly, to LCR’s endorsement of the McCain/Palin ticket.

At its Big Tent Event hosted at the University Club of St. Paul in connection with the Republican National Convention, the Log Cabin Republicans, an LGBT group, announced its endorsement of Arizona Senator John McCain for president.

The endorsement came after a 10-2 vote of LCR’s national board of directors.

Coming as the GOP adopts a party platform that calls for a federal constitutional amendment barring legal marriage by same-sex couples, and also reaffirms “the incompatibility of homosexuality with military service,” LCR argued that its support for McCain is predicated on his opposition to efforts by President George W. Bush to win congressional approval for a marriage amendment in 2004 and 2006.

“On the most important issue that LGBT Americans faced in the last decade – the federal marriage amendment – Senator John McCain stood with us,” Patrick Sammon, LCR’s president, said in a written release. “Now we stand with him. Senator McCain is an inclusive Republican who is focusing the GOP on unifying core principles that appeal to independent voters.”

Sammon noted that McCain twice voted against the amendment, “gave an impassioned speech on the Senate floor, calling the amendment ‘antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans,” and had “paid a political price for his vote” among evangelical forces in the GOP.

Of course the “core philosophy of Republicans” he was addressing was federalism, not equality.

The press release on the endorsement itself reads in part:

“We have honest disagreements with Sen. McCain on a number of gay rights issues. Log Cabin will continue our conversation with him and other Republican leaders about issues affecting gay and lesbian Americans. We will speak out when there’s disagreement—either during the upcoming campaign or when John McCain is President,” said Sammon.

Sen. McCain has had a long and friendly association with Log Cabin Republicans, dating back to the organization’s opening of a national office in the mid-1990s. “Sen. McCain has always shown a willingness to reach out and engage in dialogue with Log Cabin, while considering all sides of an issue,” said Sammon. “We know that will continue when he is President.”

“Progress in the fight for LGBT equality requires support from both Republicans and Democrats,” said Sammon. “Log Cabin’s endorsement of Sen. McCain will ensure our community has a strong voice making the case for gay rights to John McCain when he is President.”

Fine. They acknowledge their differences with McCain on “a number of gay rights issues,” and make it clear that part of the reason for their endorsement is access in a McCain White House. (The group declined to endorse Bush in 2004, after the meeting of 12 gay Republicans with Bush in 2000 yielded pretty much nothing. A participant in that meeting later told me that his words to Bush were that we — gays, I guess — just wanted to be left alone. Near as I can tell, we didn’t even get that.)

There may be something to that, given that a top McCain advisor paid a visit to LCR during the convention.

In what represents a marked shift from the Republican campaign rhetoric of 2004 – where some George W. Bush advisors stoked anti-gay sentiment in an attempt to drive social conservatives to the polls – Steve Schmidt, senior campaign strategist for the McCain campaign, stopped by a Log Cabin Republican luncheon Thursday to welcome the group to the convention.

“I just wanted to take a second to come by and pay my respect and the campaign’s respect to your organization and to your group,” said Schmidt, who many view as the new architect of the Republican Party. “Your organization is an important one in the fabric of our party.”

In his brief remarks, Schmidt weaved in a personal anecdote about his lesbian sister and her relationship to him, his wife, and his children. “On a personal level, my sister and her partner are an important part of my life and our children’s life,” he said. “I admire your group and your organization and I encourage you to keep fighting for what you believe in because the day is going to come.”

For what it’s worth, here’s the video.

I have to admit, it’s a conundrum I can’t quite figure out. I call it the Cheney conundrum, by which someone supports a party or politician whose policies discriminate agains their loved ones.

Granted, it may be based in an earnestly embraced political philosophy, but it happens to be located squarely in the middle of the intersection of the personal and political for those who have LGBT friends and family — whom they love very much and would never want to see discriminated against in any way — yet support or remain loyal to a a political party or candidate that actively advocates for discrimination against their loved ones.

Dick Cheney danced around it in 2004, and then refused to address it in 2007. And I suspect that Schmidt is in a similar position, given his work to support a candidate who is against any kind of partnership recognition, against partnership immigration rights, against any repeal of DOMA, and for state constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage in states like Arizona, California, and Florida.

As a loving brother, I’m sure he’d do anything he could personally protect his sister and her partner from or defend them against discrimination — as the Cheney’s no doubt would do for Mary and her family — but that doesn’t do the rest of us who don’t have politically connected relatives much in the way of options, without legal recognition of our relationships.

Which leads me to this statement from Schmidt.

“I admire your group and your organization and I encourage you to keep fighting for what you believe in because the day is going to come.”

It will. I believe that. I have to. But when it does, will it be because of or in spite of Schmidt and his candidate or his party? (I am willing to concede that it may be due in part to LCR if it succeeds in its mission of changing their party, and if the delegate data on marriage is right, they’ve made some headway. The delegates are one thing, however, and the base is entirely another. If there is a way to get to equality by supporting a candidate and/or a party that actively opposes it, to placate or satisfy a base that demands that, I don’t know what it is.

I’m reminded of something I posted about earlier, a concept a picked up from a professor in college called “self-evasion of the mind.”

It was some time before I recognized “self evasion of the mind” as the act of contorting the mind so as not to have to see or acknowledge what is obvious to anyone who simply looks. What better term to describe the position into which the Log Cabin Republicans have twisted themselves in an attempt to reconcile identity with ideology. It’s certainly debatable whether America is any safer under Bush since 9/11, as well as whether Bush can keep the country any safer than Kerry. But what gay Republicans seem to have consciously chosen not to see is the very real difference between Bush and Kerry on gay rights.

It seems we have, or LCR has, come full circle to end up in almost exactly the same place, supporting a candidate equally bad on LGBT issues as the one they declined to endorse in 2004. How that jibes with “the day is going to come” or gets us close to that day is a complete mystery to me.

On the other hand, if my goal is to get across the street, I suppose I could start out walking in the opposite direction and get there eventually, provided the earth is still round. But the trip will be a lot harder, and unnecessarily so.


  1. For those who need a primer on McCain, LCR and gay issues:

  2. What I have problem with McCain is, his campaign keeps painting him as a “maverick”. But time and time again, we seem him doing double talk and bending his positions to align himself with (and appease) the republican hard liners.

    His campaign’s insistence to sticking to generalities: cut taxes, “win” the war, more experience, economic growth, etc. These generic positions could be claimed by anyone without any understanding of the cause and effects of the problems we’re facing, or understanding of *HOW* it could be done. The lack of details says to me, that his administration would be run by the republican political machinery and the republican political agenda (the same one under GWB) rather than the “maverick” himself. As a result, unfortunately, McCain feels like, more of the same.

    Of course, the Gay issue doesn’t help, either.

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