The Republican Convention was odd. Despite an aggressive GOP congressional voting record aimed at overturning Roe v. Wade and the anti-gay Family Research Council-written party platform, Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign whitewashed “social issues” at the GOP Convention in Tampa, Fla. (Aug. 28-30), making coded, fleeting references to abortion and gay rights sound innocuous.
The Romney convention featured a slew of women and elected minority GOP rising stars to speak beyond the homogenous sea of white delegates to the undecided voters needed to defeat President Obama’s re-election. The TV message: there is no “war on women”—that’s just a divisive Democratic distraction. The racist-riddled references to the welfare “takers versus makers” was tamped down for TV, too. Yet in the room, Romney’s pledge to help the poor and protect the safety net was met with silence. And earlier two white delegates were removed after throwing peanuts at a black female CNN camera operator, reportedly saying, “This is how we feed animals.”
Conservative movement pioneer Richard A. Viguerie gave Romney his blessing. "Governor Romney's choice of Congressman Ryan and his readiness to move to the right to run as a conservative has energized the grassroots conservatives who are the Republican Party. Without their work in the precincts knocking on doors, telephoning and doing all the other little things necessary to make a campaign go, no Republican can win,” Viguerie wrote in a press release Aug. 31. “There will be a clear conservative contrast and choice between the Romney-Ryan ticket and Obama and the liberal Democrats.”
Indeed. “No other party in U.S. history has done such a 180,” wrote liberal columnist Harold Meyerson in the Washington Post Aug. 27. “Founded as the party of the anti-slavery North and committed to deep governmental involvement in spurring the economy (land-grant colleges, the Homestead Act, the transcontinental railway), today’s GOP is the negation of Abraham Lincoln’s Republicans. It is almost entirely white—92 percent, compared with just 58 percent of Democrats. It is disproportionately Southern—49 percent of Republicans live in the South versus 39 percent of Democrats.”
But while Romney needs that white male Southern base, the campaign also needs women and independents to win. And with youth and the majority of Americans trending more toward the freedom to marry, the Romney-Ryan campaign will no doubt encounter conflict when their grassroots call for the campaign to vigorously support the anti-gay marriage initiatives in four states this November.
“There are tectonic shifts happening just beneath the surface within the Republican Party on marriage that are starting to percolate up to the national dialogue,” said conservative commentator Margaret Hoover of the Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry. “Our group can help people see that supporting marriage for same-sex couples is absolutely consistent with the party’s legacy of individual freedom and limited government. It is a profoundly conservative value.”
“The presence of a successful, widely attended event in support of the freedom to marry at the 2012 Republican National Convention is a watershed moment for the cause of marriage equality,” said R. Clarke Cooper, LCR’s Executive Director. “Today’s event included GOP delegates, elected officials and committed grassroots Republicans all united around the core idea that freedom means freedom for everyone.”
And therein lies the rub. Unlike 2004, when Karl Rove pushed anti-gay marriage initiatives in 11 states to get out the anti-gay evangelical vote—this year that internal conflict over core conservative principles will make marriage matter in a different way. Additionally, in 2004, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry hid any signs of gay support at his convention—but this year there are almost 540 LGBT participants at the Democratic Convention in Charlotte, N.C., including 486 delegates and 23 alternates with a party platform that supports full marriage rights. This year there is also tremendous momentum to win marriage at the ballot in key battleground states, including Maine, Minnesota, Washington and Maryland.
“There’s tremendous momentum now for the freedom to marry,” Freedom to Marry Founder Evan Wolfson told Frontiers. “The last barrier left is to show that we can win at the ballot in an up or down vote by the majority on the rights of a minority. We’ve come closer and closer to being able to do that, and Freedom to Marry’s top goal for the remainder of 2012 is to win one or more of the ballot measures and overcome that final barrier, take away that last talking point. And that will powerfully say to the [Supreme] Court and to other decision-makers next year—whether in Congress or more state legislatures to come—that the momentum is really in the direction of the freedom to marry, and they need to be on the right side of history and the right side of politics.”
On Oct. 13, Freedom to Marry is holding a National Engagement Party with house parties in several cities to raise money for their Win More States fund. The L.A. event, however, is scheduled for the late afternoon of Oct. 7 in Hancock Park (For more information, contact the National Engagement Party Program Coordinator Laura Booth at (315) 207-3984 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)