News & Politics

Yet Another Reason the GOP Failed

Republicans are soul-searching right now. They'd be wise to consider jettisoning their gay-baiting.

 As Republicans sift through the ashes of their latest defeat, the data shard that Democrats probably most hope their battered rivals ignore is this one:

Voters ages 18 to 29 -- who cast nearly one in five ballots -- favored Democrat Barack Obama over Republican John McCain by 66 percent to 32 percent.

In contrast, voters ages 65 and older -- about 16 percent of the 2008 vote -- favored McCain 53 percent to 45 percent, exit polls show.

Clearly, this old GOP elephant needs more than Botox and a hip replacement.

For proof that cosmetic changes won't be enough to get the worn-out old elephant back up, look no further than the fact that women -- 53 percent of all voters -- favored Obama by 56 percent to 43 percent, and Latinos, a rapidly growing voting bloc, backed him by 67 percent to 31 percent.

The GOP ended up with those dismal results despite offering its first female vice presidential nominee after, in 2006, its first Hispanic national party chair.

While establishment Republicans are soul-searching, they'd be wise to realize that, simultaneously, young voters are watching TV, where they see openly gay Rep. Barney Frank trying to save U.S. capitalism and openly gay Suze Orman explaining how early investing in 401ks will make them rich.

TiVo-generation voters, while fast-forwarding through commercials, could suggest what an appealing, youthful elephant would look like. That cuddly -- yes, cuddly -- party animal would appeal to young people's desire to enrich their hearts as well as their wallets, offering a combo deal of fiscal policies that raise all boats and "values" policies that address the needs of all families as well as single Americans.

To become that attractive elephant, Republicans will have to embrace gay people -- even if, in the short term, that costs them some social conservative votes.

That's what the Conservative Party did in Great Britain, turning itself from a big-time loser in 1997 to an ultramodern brand that's fast becoming a political head-turner.

British columnist Jonathan Freedland recently wrote in the New York Times that Conservative leader David Cameron "set about decontaminating the Tory brand. Central to that mission were forays into two areas of political terrain previously deemed forbidden zones," gay rights and environmentalism.

Conservative thinker Fred Barnes, reflecting on the Conservative makeover in the Weekly Standard in August, noted that Cameron's favorite word is "modern," and his big tent includes women, gays and Muslims. "(H)e publicly congratulated a member of his shadow Cabinet, Alan Duncan, on his civil union with his male partner," Barnes wrote.

McCain took some significant first steps by jettisoning gay-baiting in favor of outreach to gay voters. He was rewarded with the largest proportion of gay votes for a Republican presidential nominee -- 27 percent -- despite competing against the most gay-friendly Democratic nominee in history.

McCain laid a new GOP floor for the party's 2012 presidential wannabes. And if Obama, as he has promised, raises the national floor, such as by signing into law a ban on job discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, GOP leaders can embrace that breakthrough and toss off the anti-gay albatross still around their necks.

America is a country of innovators and works best with competition, including for votes. So, Americans of all political stripes should look forward to celebrating a Grand New Party.


Deb Price of The Detroit News writes the first nationally syndicated column on gay issues.
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