When Right vs. Left Becomes Right vs. Wrong

I wrote this piece for The Advocate earlier this week. I decided to re-post it here as my last post here for a while. I am going to do some work on this website over the next couple of months, so I am not going to generate any more content here until I unveil my new design some time this summer.

When Right vs. Left Becomes Right vs. Wrong

The recent backlash and boycotts sparked after gay New York businessmen Ian Reisner and Mati Weiderpass hosted a meet-and-greet for presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz reminded me of 2008, when Manhunt’s Jonathan Crutchley was condemned for contributing to Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign. I thought to myself, Times change.

I thought the boycotts and backlash against Crutchley in 2008 were extreme and wrong, based on the standards and norms of that time. Today, we are living in a different time. Today, Ted Cruz’s views, which are more extreme than McCain’s ever were, are so far outside the mainstream that they are simply considered unacceptable to most Americans.

Sen. Cruz has mapped out the most antigay extreme path to the GOP nomination possible. He sent that message by announcing his candidacy at the late Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, and he has been beating the antigay drum on the campaign trail ever since. He’s doing that because there is still a large portion of the GOP primary electorate who hold the extreme views of the past.

I spent most of my career as an openly gay conservative Republican working in the trenches of the culture wars. Before I left the GOP last year, I worked to help conservatives to evolve culturally, specifically on attitudes and issues affecting LGBT Americans. I spent more than a decade engaging in dialogue with conservatives in an effort to help them. I always tried to keep the mood of the country in perspective when advocating for engagement and coalition with antigay politicians. Now, in 2015, we are way past the tipping point of public opinion in favor of equal treatment for gay Americans.

The bottom line is that Cruz and the Republican Party have failed to evolve. Cultural evolution has always played a role in American politics. Slavery, women’s suffrage, civil rights, the sexual revolution, women’s lib, and other cultural movements have all had an impact on policy and politics. Societal standards and norms change over time. When it comes to cultural issues in politics, it’s likely that today’s deeply held belief will become tomorrow’s untenable position. Eventually, right versus left becomes right versus wrong in voters’ minds. That doesn’t happen with every issue, but it’s important to recognize it when it does. We’ve seen it over and over again — political movements that fail to evolve will ultimately be left in the past. Remember the Dixiecrats? 

Views about homosexuality and the specific issue of civil marriage for gay couples have moved farther and faster than views on any other cultural issue in memory. What was once considered merely differences of opinion have evolved into a matter of right and wrong in modern America. Those who hold on to the unacceptable views of the past are being rendered toxic, just like racists and others with narrow-minded views from the past. That’s the reality of where we are today. Political movements and politicians must recognize the cultural realities of the times.

Antigay politicians and activists got a dose of that new modern reality last month in Indiana when corporate America and the public rose up against a new law that legalized discrimination in public accommodation if the discrimination is religion-based. Republican presidential candidates, including Cruz, weighed in support of that legalized discrimination. America sent the message that they are wrong.

For years, the antigay folks have inflicted political consequences on the few Republican supporters of LGBT equality. I don’t think that there is anything wrong, now that modern cultural standards and norms have rendered antigay opinions unacceptable, with making sure that antigay politicians and their supporters experience political, public relations, and economic consequences for their extreme views. That’s the free market at work, which the Republicans proclaim to love.

It will be interesting to see if other corporate CEOs and Wall Street tycoons experience those consequences for their support of the presidential candidates who forcefully defended the Indiana law and take other extreme positions. I guess we’ll know when the campaign finance reports come out at the end of this quarter. I wonder how many of those corporate leaders thought about the potential impact on their businesses when they were writing their checks to candidates who hold such extreme views. I bet they consider it from now on.