Monday, April 02, 2012

Turn the Wheel Thelma!

It seems to me like someone riding in the car we call the Republican Party, grabbed the wheel and swung it so far to the right it has careened off the road of mainstream American politics. 

Consider this.  Back in the days of my childhood, a guy named Barry Goldwater was the Republican nominee for President.  He ran against Lyndon Johnson and a lot of people felt he was far too radical and right-wing for the country.  He lost the election in an avalanche for Johnson.  Barry Goldwater favored a woman’s right to an abortion.  Later a Texan named George Bush helped author the Family Planning Act of 1970. 

Today, we have Republican candidates not only calling for an end to abortion, but denigrating the idea of birth control completely.  Rick Santorum has stated publicly that he feels states have the right to ban contraception.  Meanwhile, a Republican governor in Virginia backed the now infamous “trans vaginal ultrasound” bill that forces an invasive procedure some women compare to medical rape.

My concentration on women’s issues in regard to the GOP is intended to give a graphic example of how far right the Republican Party has veered.  When it comes to LGBT issues, it’s much worse.  Both Romney and Santorum favor a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to “one man one woman”, though Romney does favor certain civil rights for LGBT couples, Santorum compares gay marriage to bestiality. 

State GOP platforms make clear just what a conservative government would have in store for LGBT people.  Take the infamous Texas 2010 GOP Platform and these chilling words.

We believe that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society, contributes to the breakdown of the family unit, and leads to the spread of dangerous, communicable diseases. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable “alternative” lifestyle in our public education and policy, nor should “family” be redefined to include homosexual “couples.” We are opposed to any granting of special legal entitlements, refuse to recognize, or grant special privileges including, but not limited to: marriage between persons of the same sex (regardless of state of origin), custody of children by homosexuals, homosexual partner insurance or retirement benefits. We oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values.

The bigger question is what happened to the Republican Party?  Well, my suspicion is that back during the Regan Revolution, the GOP made a deal.   They saw the nascent “family values” movement within the fundamentalist church as an opportunity for an alliance.  The “Moral Majority”, Jerry Falwell’s group was disillusioned with Jimmy Carter’s policies and seemed like a perfect fit to gain support in the conservative South.
This came on the heels of Anita Bryant’s “Save Our Children” publicity and soon the GOP actively sought the involvement of the Far-Right Evangelical movement with notable success.  Regan even appointed one of the Moral Majority officers to the Department of Education in 1980.

The point of all this is that the GOP actively sought and entangled themselves with the religious right and now a good deal of Republican policy is being written by those same far-right factions.  The deals they made back in the 1970’s and 80’s are coming due.

Though the Moral Majority and Save Our Children are long gone but their influence is still around and they are the folks who are actively making policy and platform decisions.  They are decidedly homophobic and as such they are continuing to steer the GOP away from any position that supports LGBT rights. 

As we see the primaries grind on, the struggle for control of the car may play out like the finale to Thelma and Louise with the GOP flying over a cliff and never recovering control of what was once a Grand Old Party. 

No comments: