by Leah Waldron
This week, the Log Cabin Republicans’ executive director, R. Clarke Cooper, took a page out of Paul Ryan’s handbook with a statement that contained more misrepresentations about gay politics than Ryan said about the economy in his RNC speech earlier this month. Cooper’s derisive comments were in response to Barney Frank’s zinger that all Log Cabin Republicans are subservient “Uncle Toms.” But does being called an “Uncle Tom” give Cooper the right to lash out against members of the LGBT community and Democrats?
Here is R. Clarke Cooper’s rebuttal to Barney Frank’s “Uncle Tom” comment, in full, but with numbered sentences:
“1. Congressman Frank, of all people, should understand the importance of perseverance when working within a party to achieve change – after all, it was not so long ago his party was indifferent at best when it came to respecting gay families. 2. Leaders committed to LGBT equality know that every victory our community has achieved has required bipartisan advocacy and bipartisan votes, and winning support from Republicans will only be more important in the days ahead. 3. Come January, Republicans will maintain a majority in the House and likely secure a majority in the Senate. 4. Without Log Cabin Republicans working with fellow conservatives, LGBT Americans would be left without a credible voice within the GOP. 5. Barney Frank’s denial of Log Cabin Republicans success, particularly on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal and the freedom to marry in New York, is sad but unsurprising. 6. It is time for him to pass on the baton to leaders better suited to a world where equality is not a partisan issue.”
Nearly every line of Cooper’s statement is preposterous. His first sentence states that Frank’s Party has a history of being “indifferent at best when it [comes] to respecting gay families.” Unless he was referring to the pre-Stonewall Democrats, Cooper was way off base with this jab. Yes, Democrats are just now getting around to supporting gay marriage, but when it comes to recognizing (let alone “respecting”) the rights of gay Americans, the Democrats have been an entire generation or two ahead of the GOP. In 1972, the DNC hosted its first-ever gay and lesbian delegate speech, and by 1980 (Barney Frank would have been 40 years old), the DNC wrote a pro-gay rights plank as part of its national Party platform.
How long did it take for Republicans to “respect” gay people in their Party platform? Answer: 40 years. At this year’s convention, in 2012, the Party platform committee was convinced—by the Log Cabin Republicans—to add the words “dignity and respect” to its plank on gay issues. But instead of addressing gay rights, the Republican party’s “gay plank” was written by one of the most homophobic people in the country (Family Research Council President Tony Perkins), and only promised more discrimination, including a Constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage at the federal level. But sure, Cooper. Grover Cleveland was probably a homophobe.
And it’s only down (Capitol) hill from here. Cooper’s second sentence insists that “every victory our community has achieved has required bipartisan advocacy and bipartisan votes.” Actually, this is not true, either. Many of the federal pro-gay laws that have been passed in the House and Senate have been pushed through because of a majority vote, and not because of a reach-around (the aisle) moment between Republican and Democratic representatives. Cooper may have been referring to the rare Republican representative who supported gay rights—and they do exist—but bipartisan politics is not the cause of “every victory” in the war for equality. Republicans who change their minds on socially conservative issues do not “evolve” when they cross the aisle; the evolve when they cross paths with a gay person, and realize that all people, regardless of who they love, deserve civil rights.
In the third sentence, Cooper posits that Republicans will gain a majority this November, which is just wishful thinking. Cooper’s fourth sentence, however, really serves up the meat of his crap sandwich: “Without Log Cabin Republicans working with fellow conservatives, LGBT Americans would be left without a credible voice within the GOP.”
Really? The LCR is our only chance for “credible” representation? How can a group of Republicans—Lincoln-worshipping or otherwise—deign to speak on behalf of an American subset, the majority of whom would never vote with that Party? That’s like saying black people who grew up in Duluth, Minnesota are the only “credible” representatives of black Americans. It’s inaccurate, it’s arrogant, and it’s insulting to every LGBT American.
Finally, sentence 5 (the sixth sentence is just a low-blow insult) wraps up Cooper’s misrepresentation-a-thon: “Barney Frank’s denial of Log Cabin Republicans success, particularly on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal and the freedom to marry in New York, is sad but unsurprising.” It was shocking to see the word “denial” used by a member of the LCR, but to its credit, the LCR did play a role in the repeal of DADT and in the passing of New York’s gay marriage legislation. But Cooper is asserting that Frank denied the LCR’s “success” as if he were on the sidelines, booing their efforts. If anything, Frank worked with the LCR to help repeal DADT. In October of 2010, Frank asked the LCR to help bring Republican voters to the table.
Funny how Cooper has such a short-term memory. But how else could he justify being a Republican on a daily basis?
Even if Cooper disagrees with Barney Frank’s politics (and who wouldn’t be angry at an “Uncle Tom” epithet?), his blame should be directed at Frank, and not LGBT Americans and Democrats. Maybe he should offer the Democrats what he fought so hard to give gays in the Republican platform: a little “dignity and respect.”
Library of Congress