This week, Richard Grenell resigned from Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. Grenell was hired specifically to assist Romney on foreign policy. Grenell was George W. Bush's spokesperson to the United Nations, and worked under conservative favorite, Ambassador John Bolton. Given that resume, one would think Grenell was supremely qualified for his job in the Romney campaign. Mitt Romney certainly thought so. Unfortunately the extreme conservative base of my beloved Republican party — of which my family has been life-long members for a hundred years — disagreed.
See the problem is, Richard Grenell is openly gay, and makes no secret of it. He has been an ardent supporter of gay marriage, and has vented his frustrations — on his rather loquacious Twitter account — with Obama for dropping the ball on gay rights.
Now, had you asked me last week if I thought the GOP would disqualify someone from a position they were otherwise qualified for, simply because they were gay, I would have told you, "Of course not." Despite the loudness of the Evangelical movement, the GOP's silent majority has always been moderate, and the moderate candidate (with exception of Goldwater vs. Rockefeller in 1964) has always been nominated.
For generations, our party has been the party of industry, personal freedom, state's rights, and efficiency. We have always stood for limited and responsible governance, and an unbending commitment to freedom and democracy for ourselves and all who seek it. Our hyper-pragmatic view on industry and efficiency has fostered a philosophy that a person's merit is based on their actions, not esoteric notions about ethnicity or other nonsense.
Given this portrait of our party, it isn't surprising that the GOP were major supporters of the Civil Rights Movement, major supporters of abolition, and of capitalism, but skeptical of excessive well-fare, subsidies, and interventionism.
That said, one would think, Richard Grenell's resume would ensure him the support and cooperation of the GOP. He was appointed by Bush in 2001, served as Director of Communications and Public Diplomacy for eight years, then in 2009 launched his own consulting agency for media and public affairs. By GOP standards, he was perfect for the job.
Or at least, I thought so, and Romney, Bush, John Bolton, Dick Cheney, Condolezza Rice, and Colin Powell all seemed agree. But apparently, the Evangelical base thought otherwise.
For years now, I reconciled my continued support of the GOP by reminding myself that social issues are what frivolous Democrats care about. Gay marriage won't put food on a hungry child's table, or a wrench in the hand of an unemployed mechanic. Abortion rights won't protect Penn Station from a bomb. Social change is inevitable in the progressive direction. We always push the envelope a little more each generation, and even when we take one or two steps backwards, like in the 50s (a result of a dramatic attitude shift post WWII and the Depression), we're always slightly ahead. However, America's security and prosperity is not such a guarantee. We must always work, always compete, always reach for the next milestone in order to be the best. If we stop to rest, we will be overtaken. Any professional athlete can attest to that.
But now, the Evangelical movement isn't just a novelty and the conservative litmus test is not just a hoop to jump through to secure the nomination. Their new and alien influence, only 30 years old, on a party over 150 years old, has gotten so strong, that even when we nominate the inevitable moderate out of a sea of polemicists, our candidates are now still finding themselves constrained by this inane dogma at the general election. We've alienated so many of the moderates who once were loyal supporters, in such a short amount of time, that we actually need the Evangelists to show up at the polls now.
The Evangelical, socially conservative influence in the Republican Party came on the coattails of Southern Democrats switching parties in the 70s and 80s and the politicization of the Midwestern Evangelical movement that coincided with the Reagan Revolution. Relatively speaking, it is as new to the GOP as Arlen Specter is to Democrats. While there is much to be lauded about their views on decency, charity, and family values, their baseless opposition to the gay community contradicts the very values the GOP was founded on.
The current focus of the GOP is to get government out of our lives, and get this country back on the track to prosperity. The debate on the morality of homosexuality is as immaterial to that mission as the cut of Santorum's sweater vest. The GOP became the grandest old party by embracing the smartest and most accomplished Americans, and turning their considerable talents towards public service. We must continue to do so, not drive them out. If the Evangelical Christians want to be a part of MY party, the party of my parents, my grandparents, my great-grandparents, and my great-great-grandparents, they need to learn what we stand for, saddle up, and get with the program.