In his recent book Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning, Jonah Goldberg observes how frequently liberals, even those in the media, dub conservatives fascists. We gay conservatives face similar name-calling from our liberal peers, even those in the gay media.
Our gay peers, however, don’t limit themselves to calling us fascists. They also call us the equivalent of African-American Klansmen or Jewish Nazis (and think themselves original when they use those tired and inaccurate analogies). “The adjective they use most frequently to describe us is “self-hating” and the noun, “hypocrite.”
True to form, Charles Kaiser begins his piece, “Washington’s Gay War,” in Out magazine (kind of a gay equivalent of Vanity Fair) referencing “an ancient hypocrisy at the heart of the GOP.” While he may be fascinated by this ancient legend, he doesn’t devote much time to the present-day reality of gay Republicans (except as viewed through the lens of gay Democrats).
For example, he discusses Terry Dolan, head of the National Conservative Political Action Committee in the 1980s, but doesn’t mention former Arizona Congressman Jim Kolbe, who served in Congress until his retirement two years ago. The former has been dead for over twenty years while the latter served as a House subcommittee chair in Republican congresses, even after coming out as a gay in 1996. He even addressed the Republican National Convention in 2000 — four years after coming out.
Nor does Kaiser mention any elected openly gay Republican official, name any current gay staffer for a Republican Congressman or Senator, reference the Log Cabin Republicans 0r gay conservative blogs (of which we are one of many), or even take note of Mary Cheney, the openly lesbian daughter of the Republican Vice-President of the United States. When President Bush declared victory in the 2004 election, Mary appeared onstage with her partner Heather Poe.
In fact, Charles Kaiser didn’t quote any gay Republican directly. In a follow up piece, he claimed to have interviewed gay Republicans, but acknowledged that he didn’t quote them.
In the original piece, he pulled quotes from other news articles from Log Cabin President Patrick Sammon and David Duncan, aide to former Ohio Congressman Bob Ney. This would be fine if he were offering commentary (as one of my readers noted in commenting to my original Gay Patriot piece on the article).
Kaiser did, however, talk to Barney Frank, an openly gay Democratic Congressman from Massachusetts and to someone else whom he identifies as a “Democratic political consultant.”
He didn’t just talk to Democrats. He devoted the last quarter of his piece to an interview with openly gay Washington Post reporter Jose Antonio Vargas. A Vargas article was the source of his quote from David Duncan.
Kaiser takes everything Vargas says at face value. For example, Vargas claims, “If you come out on the Hill and you’re a Republican, you lose power.” Yet, he fails to provide a single example of a staffer losing his job when his GOP boss learns of his homosexuality.
Had Kaiser contacted me, a real gay Republican who once worked in Washington and was not “out” when I worked on the Hill, I could have not only offered my perspective on why I then kept my sexuality to myself (at odds with his theory), but could have also identified one gay GOP staffer who did lose his job because of his sexuality.
But, there’s a twist to that story. That elected Republican had kept the staffer on even after a leading social conservative in his state asked legislators to fire him. The official asked his longtime staffer to step down only as he considered running for national office.
This seems to be the exception which proves the rule. Numerous other gay staffers kept their jobs even after their Republican bosses learned they were gay.
But, he didn’t even need talk to me to learn about such staffers. In the very article from which Kaiser drew the quote about David Duncan, Vargas writes about Robert L. Traynham, Communications Director for then-Republican Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum (the article’s date is October 20, 2006 during the Mark Foley scandal).
Even though Santorum was one of the most socially conservative members of the United States Senate, he did not fire Traynham when he learned he was gay, calling him “an ‘exemplary’ employee and ‘trusted friend.”
Trayhnam is just one of many examples of GOP staffers keeping their jobs even after their conservative bosses learn of their sexuality. Kaiser might have learned about them had he listened to gay Republicans who work (or have worked) on the Hill or are active in GOP politics in our nation’s capital. They would offer an entirely different perspective on the reality of being a gay Republican in contemporary Washington.
It seems, however, Kaiser really wasn’t interested in the perspective of gay Republicans. A Log Cabin’s alert e-mailed to its members (posted here), generated enough correspondence to warrant, in the words of Out editor Aaron Hicklin, a “response from the author.” That response is telling.
In his response, Kaiser claims his piece was not “an article about gay Republicans,” but about “gay political wars in Washington.” That explanation does not excuse Kaiser from using the words of Democrats to define gay Republicans. If he’s writing about a war, he’s presenting the views of only one party to the conflict.
Perhaps, as Kaiser contends, former Ney staffer David Duncan really does believe “that there’s nothing wrong with working for someone with homophobic positions, if gay bashing is the price you have to pay to keep a Republican Congressman in office.” Shouldn’t it then behoove him to ask Duncan (and other gay staffers for conservative Congressman) how they could square their sexuality with their bosses’ supposedly “homophobic positions.”
It seems, however, Kaiser has a very liberal interpretation of gay bashing, defining it as not supporting the legislative agenda he favors.
Had he talked to gay GOP staffers, he would get some interesting answers. Some would offer libertarian perspectives while others would cite their own efforts to lobby their bosses. He would find a few who chose to remain silent for other reasons, some not laudatory.
The point is that had he talked to gay Republicans and listened to them, he would have found that many of us differ from his jaundiced view. He may even have discovered a hypocrite or two. But, because he only referenced those gay Republicans who fit his image of what a gay Republican was, he couldn’t offer an accurate portrayal of gay Republicans – or of their role in what he calls “Washington’s gay wars.”
Like all too many gay reporters covering gay Republicans, Charles Kaiser would rather stick to his narrative about our hypocrisy than talk to us about our political views. If he dared have that conversation with us, he might learn that while there are a handful of hypocrites among us, they are the exception rather than the rule. We are as diverse as the gay community itself. And we got involved in politics for a variety of reasons.
In the end, because his narrative of our hypocrisy replaces a genuine interest in our reality, he can’t see beyond his own narrow view of those gay people who hold political views at odds with his own.
B. Daniel Blatt blogs at GayPatriot.