Monday, March 18, 2013

GOP Charts Path To Embracing Gay & Lesbian Americans While Fighting Itself

By Brody Levesque | The Republican party wants to be more inclusive, embracing gay and lesbian voters and their issues according to a new report released Monday. In its 97 pages, the report, entitled the "Growth and Opportunity Project," which political pundits inside the Beltway promptly labeled an autopsy of the 2012 elections, pointed out that GOP intransigence on key issues of concern to gay and lesbian voters had alienated the youth vote and young adults causing the party to lose critical races.
"For the GOP to appeal to younger voters, we do not have to agree on every issue, but we do need to make sure young people do not see the Party as totally intolerant of alternative points of view," the report reads. 
"Already, there is a generational difference within the conservative movement about issues involving the treatment and the rights of gays — and for many younger voters, these issues are a gateway into whether the Party is a place they want to be."
The GOP report analyses the problem noting;
"We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people, but devastatingly we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us on every issue." 
The observations made by the report, while not specifically mentioning issues such as same-sex marriage, noted:
"We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate we care about them, too. We must recruit more candidates who come from minority communities," the report states. 
"But it is not just tone that counts. Policy always matters. If our Party is not welcoming and inclusive, young people and increasingly other voters will continue to tune us out," the report continues, adding that disagreement over 20 percent of the issues should not mean the party cannot come together on the other issues."
A shift in the party's stance appears to have affected even the more conservative members as illustrated this past weekend at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, (CPAC) held in suburban Washington D.C.. Buzzfeed reporter Chris Geidner noted that anti-gay Washington lawyer Cleta Mitchell, who had successfully fought to keep the gay Republican political group GOProud barred from participating at CPAC, found herself and the president of the National Organisation for Marriage Brian Brown, speaking to a nearly empty room, which had usually been filled to capacity in previous year's gatherings while an hour later, GOProud executive director Jimmy LaSalvia told a packed standing room only conference room;
"We have tolerated something in our movement for far too long: anti-gay bigotry," LaSalvia said. "Let me be clear, I do not believe that just because someone opposes same-sex marriage that that automatically makes them a homophobe. But there are, however, a few. There are a few in our movement who just don't like gay people. In 2013, that just isn't OK in America anymore."
But minutes after unveiling the report on Monday, the party chairman distanced himself from it, and some conservatives and tea partyers balked.
It all illustrated the GOP's precarious balance as it works to unite battling factions.
"This is not my report," Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus told reporters, describing the contents as simply recommendations by a five-person panel - even though he was the person who had commissioned the self-audit after the party lost a second consecutive presidential election last fall. He made the comments immediately after declaring Monday "Day One" of the party's push to change perceptions the audit uncovered - that the GOP is "narrow minded," ''out of touch" and "stuffy old men."
"The perception that we're the party of the rich unfortunately continues to grow," Priebus said as he released the report, drawn up by panelists with strong ties to "big-tent" Republicans who have long favored more inclusive policies opposed by ideological purists.
Conservative and tea party criticism was immediate, a sign that the prescriptions may end up widening existing divides rather than building new bridges in an evolving GOP.
"The idea that a major political party must accept the practice of homosexuality as normal so as to remain relevant will prove the contrary and lead to disaster," said John Horvat II, a Catholic scholar. And Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, faulted Washington GOP establishment leaders for the November losses, saying they strayed from the conservative message.
"Americans and those in the tea party movement don't need an 'autopsy' report from RNC to know they failed to promote our principles and lost because of it, " she said.
Read the full report here.
Compiled from Staff and Wire Service reports.