Thursday, October 12, 2006
Aside from perhaps being the proverbial House of Cards that brings down the GOP power chokehold, the Mark Foley scandal is a watershed moment in terms of how the Republican Party deals with homosexuality going forward. And that's a very good thing, not just for gays, but for the nation as a whole.
The importance of FoleyGate is that it shines a spotlight on the simple reality that the party with the loudest anti-gay voices is also the party that's filled with gays on every level, from staff member to Congressman to, as rumored, chairman of the party itself.
For over a dozen years now Republicans have presented themselves to America as the party of ethics, morality and family values. They've spent incalculable time, money and political currency trying to pass discriminatory legislation--on both the federal and state levels--against gays. They've told us that straight is right and gay is wrong. That straight is Republican, and gay is a by-product of the loosey-goosey amoral Democratic Party. Those days are over.
The Foley scandal has proven to America that gay life is just as much a part of Republican life as it is in liberal circles. The only difference is that among conservatives it's more closeted and repressed. And that fact gave Republicans a false justification to spew their hypocritical venom towards gays and make them the scapegoats for everything wrong with the fabric of American society. Their overall message? That being gay is a liberal problem, not a conservative one. Well, guess again. Foley, his former chief of staff Kirk Fordham, former House Clerk and Hastert appointee Jeff Trandahl (at the center of the Foley page scandal) and Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona are openly gay. There are rumors about Rep. David Dreier (R-CA), RNC Chair Ken Mehlman and others as well. The true long-term significance of FoleyGate is that it proves to Mr. and Mrs. Joe America that the elephant is just as gay as his donkey colleague.
Don't get me wrong here. FoleyGate won't mean that Repubs all of a sudden find Jesus on this issue. Their hypocrisy will long outlive Foley. But what it will do is take away a very powerful, very decisive weapon--a hate-based wedge issue of the ugliest kind--that the Repubs have used extremely effectively to draw lines in the sand and to get-out-the-vote. As a result, I suspect the Republicans' push towards outlawing same-sex marriage and limiting other civil rights for gays will be muted at best and maybe even non-existent. The bully-pulpit has been embarrassingly dismantled.
Perhaps the ultimate benefit to come out of FoleyGate, in addition to being the final catalyst in the fall of the GOP, will be a greater tolerance and acceptance--even if forced--of gays by American conservatives and in particular, those in positions of power. The gay skeleton has been let out of the GOP closet. And he's not going back in.