How About Ritual Homophobia? Is That A Principle?
In the Washington Post yesterday, Dan Balz noted that "Power is intoxicating, its pursuit revealing of character but sometimes debilitating; House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is Exhibit A. In his ceaseless drive to become the next speaker of the House, he has demonstrated weakness, hypocrisy and a willingness to lie to save his skin." But what that reveals about the party he leads-- not to mention the institution he is on the verge of leading-- is even more revelatory-- and more disturbing.
After squeaking a couple of sounds about holding Trump to account for his attempted coup, McCarthy first lost his nerve and "has since been craven in bowing to Trump’s wishes, fearing that crossing the former president could compromise both his party’s hopes of capturing the majority in November’s midterm elections and his own desire to lead a Republican-controlled House next year as speaker. He also has been weak in the face of calls to discipline the most extreme members of the House GOP conference-- those who have been the most loyal to Trump and his conspiracy theories, including the false claim that he won the 2020 election. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), who was then chair of the House Republican Conference and among those on the call when McCarthy said he planned to tell Trump he should resign, has maintained her will and backbone. She said of Trump that he 'summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame.' She voted to impeach Trump and now serves as vice chair of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. For her willingness to put country above party, Cheney has become a pariah in the GOP, expelled from her leadership position (with McCarthy supporting her dismissal) and facing [certain] defeat in her reelection campaign."
This is what the Republican Party in the House of Representatives now stands for-- the abandonment of a principled conservative leader and the possible elevation of a politician whose abiding principle is the pursuit of power, one who has bent and bowed before a former president whose actions he denounced and knew were wrong.
...If this doesn’t prompt Republicans to think hard about whether to elevate McCarthy to the speakership, should they win control of the House in November, it will add another ignoble chapter to the modern history of a Republican Party that has soiled itself in bending under Trump’s grip.
And what does it say about the American people who are marching towards giving the GOP control of Congress? That's an even scarier proposition to contemplate, no? Also writing for The Post yesterday, Annie Linskey and Cassey Parks drilled down into just one aspect of the Republican Party's abandonment of principle and embrace of a toxic mixture of authoritarianism, fascism and a lust for power for its own sake (personified by McCarthy): the gays.
"Republican lawmakers around the country," they wrote, "are pushing an array of bills that limit the discussion of gay rights in schools under the auspices of parental rights, leading some party strategists to worry that the initiatives may backfire with moderate voters by making the party seem anti-gay." Seem? Republican-controlled legislatures have begun passing copy-data bill of Ron DeSantis' "Don't Say Gay" law, including Alabama and Ohio, as well as generally LGBTQ-tolerant Louisiana.
They added that "The measures have been accompanied by a push among some Republicans to falsely describe backers of gay rights as “groomers” who are recruiting children to question their own sexuality or gender identity at a young age, torquing up rhetoric that LGBTQ activists say is dangerous. One top Senate Republican also recently criticized the legal underpinnings of a 2015 Supreme Court decision affirming the right to same-sex marriage-- a ruling that has broad public support... 'Youngkin invented this, and DeSantis has perfected it,' said Dan Eberhart, a GOP donor who is close with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R). Eberhart said laws like the one in Florida signal to the base of the party a willingness to take on fights. But Eberhart said that he thinks DeSantis 'may have gone too far' in pushing subsequent legislation that stripped special tax breaks from the Walt Disney Co. after it opposed the parental rights bill. Now, he said, Democrats can paint DeSantis as hurting the economy in central Florida, where Disney employs thousands of workers." Not to mention handing a huge tax bill to Floridians living in Orange and Osceola counties.
New Republican principles: attack on free speech, attack on free enterprise, higher taxes... and the right-wing voter base overwhelmingly favors DeSantis for president if Trump dies or goes to prison before 2024.
The resurgence of anti-gay rhetoric is reminiscent of a past era, some observers said. In 2004, for example, Republicans pushed state referendums banning same-sex marriage. But by the time of the Donald Trump administration, GOP antipathy to gay and lesbian rights had in many respects faded.
“On the substance, it’s a departure from Trump-era conservatism,” said Sasha Issenberg, the author of “The Engagement: America’s Quarter-Century Struggle Over Same-Sex Marriage.”
But Issenberg said the style of discourse around the bills bears the imprint of Trump’s party. “Over-the-top, borderline-libelous online rhetoric clearly feels like the way Trump’s right wing communicates,” Issenberg said.
Trump openly campaigned for LGBT support. At the same time, while president, Trump tried to ban transgender soldiers from the military and moved to restrict access to homeless shelters for transgender people. His administration also erased protections for transgender patients against discrimination by doctors, hospitals and health insurance companies.
Some Republican strategists are concerned enough about the new laws and rhetoric that they are working to launch campaigns against the measures. One group, Conservatives Against Discrimination, released a video on Wednesday that focuses on the struggles of a transgender man and held a roundtable to discuss how gay and transgender issues are being talked about.
“The LGBT advancements was one of those issues that, over time, there was consensus in this country,” Sarah Longwell, a Republican strategist, said during the virtual forum. “If you allow for this new spate of ‘we’re going to frame things differently now; we’re going to frame it as protection of children,’ we’re going to create more distrust.”
During the forum, former Indianapolis mayor Greg Ballard, a Republican, said he had seen firsthand the effects discriminatory bills can have. He was mayor in 2015 when then-Gov. Mike Pence and Republican lawmakers pushed for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which allowed business owners to turn away gay and lesbian customers for religious reasons.
“We became the focus of the nation,” Ballard said. “That was very disturbing to me.”
The CEOs of Apple, Angie’s List, PayPal and other companies called on the state to repeal the law. Leaders at Visit Indy, the city’s convention and visitors’ bureau, eventually found that the law cost the state more than $60 million in convention business.
“I believe in freedom. I believe in people’s rights to live their own lives without the pressure of government on them,” Ballard said. “I try to send the message to other Republicans… I would suggest to you that that was what the conservative movement was supposed to be about.”