There was an anti-abortion rally in Washington, D.C. last week that drew about 25,000 people who stood in extremely cold weather to hear the organizer, James Dodson of Focus on the Family, rail against Roe v. Wade and abortion rights. Initially, I thought, wow, 25,000? That sounds like a lot, but after a little research, I discovered such rallies in the past brought hundreds of thousands. In fact, this ‘little’ rally turned into an embarrassment. Placards and signs remained in stacks and some of the schedules speakers didn’t even show up.
Of course, organizers blamed the lack of turn-out on the fickleness of Washington’s weather, which I really thought was amusing. It’s these same right-wing religious folks who blamed Hurricane Sandy on gay people–it was God’s retribution for extending them equal rights. Yet, sub-freezing temperatures and bad weather this week in D.C. was not God’s retribution against the intolerance, prejudice, regressive thinking and, I’ll just say it, ignorance of these people who are trying to limit personal freedoms in the name of God. No, it was the geography of Washington, D.C. Many of these right-wing religious groups have grabbed onto the coat-tails of the Tea Party movement, but they had previously found favor in the Bush Administration and thus made in-roads into the Republican Party. You know who they are when they open their mouths to speak and you hear things like ‘legitimate rape’ or calling gay people ‘pedophiles, sodomites and perverts.’ You know who they are when you hear a woman can’t get pregnant from rape unless she enjoyed it, or that Obama is the anti-Christ, or at least paving the way for the anti-Christ.
These people seriously hurt the Republican Party and threaten to make the GOP irrelevant. If mainstream Republicans can’t cut these ‘dominionists’ and other religious zealots from their ranks, they are risking their future. The GOP must cease and desist with their social agenda that appears to the world as a war on women, gay people and racial/ethnic minorities.
For example, in looking at the polling data on abortion, there is very little change in public attitude and opinion between 1975 and today. In 1975 75% of people thought abortion should be legal and available in some circumstances. Last year’s Gallup results showed 78% approved of abortion at least in some circumstances, so the numbers are trending upward and against more conservative positions. Yet, the GOP is still being forced by its members to push for the repeal of Roe v. Wade and the re-criminalization of abortion.
When it comes to gay rights, it’s clear that our judicial system supports individual liberty and equal protection under the law for homosexuals. Laws against same-sex marriages in various states may ultimately be ruled unconstitutional given that a federal court ruled Utah’s ban on marriage equality was unconstitutional. The state is appealing, so there is a stay on performing same-sex marriages, but I don’t hold much hope that the state of Utah will win the appeal. The Defense of Marriage Act was gutted by the Supreme Court last June and the remaining portion of it is under legal attack. I don’t think there’s any stopping the forward progress on gay rights. Congress just passed a new law making it illegal to fire someone for being gay. A few states that still have bans on same-sex marriage are moving to recognize all legal marriages from other states, including same-sex couples. Public opinion has gone through a tectonic shift in regards to gay people over the last decade and I don’t think religious zealotry and bigotry will be able to counter the change. In spite of some religious criticism aimed at gay people, homosexuality will be just another orientation to the world in the near future and that will include the right to marry. The GOP needs to get this into their heads and respond to the changes with forethought and intelligence and not with Biblical quotes.
When it comes to racial and ethnic minorities and immigration, some of the more conservative members of congress are now in support of a comprehensive immigration reform that streamlines the system and is less prejudicial in the path to citizenship. Yet, the GOP, as a party, is still not completely on-board because of the racist and xenophobic voices from an ignorant minority that, for some reason, has too much power to influence the party agenda and policy. The demographic shift in the U.S. that has resulted in a majority of ‘non-white’ citizens has changed politics forever–the GOP doesn’t seem to grasp that concept yet. Their anti-immigration stance is clearly based on the idea that more immigrants becoming citizens means fewer votes for the GOP. That is idiocy. The intelligent response would be to develop a political platform that speaks to all minorities. At this point in time, that doesn’t seem likely.
So, my advice to the GOP is to isolate these ignorant, bigoted, xenophobic, homophobic and misogynistic voices in their ranks, then put them on a path out of the party. They are, in fact, both anathema and anachronistic in the 21st century, and if the party wants to be a relevant political force in the country into the future, they have to change their tune–they have to be more inclusive, more intelligent, more open-minded and accepting of all citizens, not just white, Anglo-Saxon, straight, suburban Christian men. If they did this perhaps the ‘noise’ would stop and, we, the people, might be able to hear their message of smaller government and more rational economic policy. But as it stands right now, the cacophony of ignorant voices that come out of the party screaming about abortion, gay rights and immigration, makes it really hard for the country to hear their alleged core, mainstream conservative message. The party would still be able to differentiate itself with its small government, fiscally responsible agenda and also gain some respect again. So, GOP, are you up to the challenge of corralling your mavericks so they don’t run amok over the next two years and threaten your chances for regaining the presidency?
UPDATE: Since this article, Oregon and now Utah and Indiana have been forced by the Courts to accept marriage equality and remove the ban on same-sex marriage from their laws.