Gregory T. Angelo is president of the Log Cabin Republicans, the most important conservative organization defending gay rights on American soil. And when he went to Cleveland to celebrate with the thousands of other Republican Party members, he was devastated.
In fact, he may well have worn his Sunday best—a three-piece suit and tie with small red, white, and blue dots—but he didn’t seem to be enjoying the party.
Some 48 hours earlier, Donald Trump’s party had adopted a platform that some have called homophobic. It’s “the most anti-LGBT platform in the party’s 162-year history,” the activist confirmed.
This platform contains the guiding principles that the party will follow for the next four years. In it, the party explicitly asserts that it must do all it can to reverse the 2015 Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage.
The party has even inserted a sentence that reaffirms “the right of parents to determine the proper medical treatment and therapy for their minor children.” Mundane, wouldn’t you think? Not at all, Gregory T. Angelo explains. That passage was added following the decision by five states to ban “conversion therapy,” which claims to be able to “treat” homosexuality.
This disturbing regression by the Republicans when it comes to gay rights is the symptom of a deeper sickness.
The party’s platform also recommends banning abortion even in cases of rape, the nomination of judges who promote “family values,” the construction of a wall between the United States and Mexico (naturally!) and opening the door to the deportation of illegal immigrants.
The party also maintains that women in the army have no place in combat missions. Among many other propositions, the platform makes it clear that “conservatism” definitely does not mean “conservation” for the Republicans of today. When they mention climate change, for example, it’s only to assert that people are making much ado about nothing when it comes to that subject.
American society is transforming in more ways than one. Americans are becoming less and less religious and more and more progressive on certain social issues, including gay rights. The majority of Americans are also concerned about climate change.
The Republican Party’s response to this evolution has been to dig in its heels. Instead of changing, it became radicalized.
Of course, that was the case even before Donald Trump. Over the last decade, the most conservative activists have never passed up a chance to express their disappointment with the Republican candidates for president, expressing disappointment especially with John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012.
This time, they seem to have won the lottery. They’ve taken control of the party and now they have a say in the direction it will take from here. All this to the great displeasure of more moderate Republicans.
Mike Pence’s nomination as vice presidential candidate seals the deal. The Indiana governor is a hard and fast Republican. It was under his governance that the state adopted the sadly popular religious freedom bill: a law that allows anyone to refuse service to gay people in the name of their “convictions.”
“Choosing Pence will allow Trump to unify the party,” Marianne Stearns, a convention attendant from Pennsylvania, explained with the enthusiasm of a child who just found her gifts under the Christmas tree.*
Translation: Mike Pence will reassure the most conservative of conservatives who were not certain that Trump shared all their ideas, including their most radical ones. These doubts also explain why the party has been radicalized a bit more this year, as much by its platform as by the choice of the potential vice president of the United States.
This hard turn toward the right which makes a point of targeting ethnic minorities, the LGBT community, and women has had an impact. One needed only to visit the site of the convention to see that. Diversity was nowhere to be found. By some estimations, for example, there were only a few dozen African-Americans out of the 2,472 Republican delegates.
That the Republican Party emphasizes its radicalization is worrying.
The political group, which has had an elephant as a logo for over a century, is fooling itself if it thinks that this turn will ensure its future.
By giving fanatics the power to determine its priorities, the Republican Party has not only taken a wrong turn. It has also placed itself on the wrong side of American history.
*Editor’s note: The original quotation, accurately translated, could not be verified.