The Republican National Convention this week relied heavily on the American people's inability to hear co-optations and see incongruences. Speaker after speaker, including nominee Sen. John McCain, used words and phrases that stood out during the Democratic National Convention the previous week in Denver. The nominee wants 'change,' and the opponent doesn't 'get it.'
There was wild applause for the appearances of family values and jeers against activist judges. But all the while the GOP was emphasizing its intention to hoist a social conservative flag over its march to the White House, it was setting into motion a madcap mixture of tactics—a nominee who is willing to be identified in his introductory convention video as a 'mama's boy;' the party's first-ever female vice presidential nominee; and a willingness, albeit quiet, to seek the support of gay voters and independents who prefer a more politically moderate pitch.
Patrick Sammon, president of the national gay Republican group Log Cabin Republicans ( LCR ) , said he has no doubt that two top McCain campaign leaders visited the group during the convention because they know the race with Democrat Sen. Barack Obama will be another very close contest. The latest polls—conducted Sept. 2-4—show Obama up by only two to four points, with a margin of error of two points.
'John McCain will lose this election unless he gets enough independent votes,' said Sammon, explaining why he believes the McCain campaign was willing to send its national political director, Mike DuHaime, to speak at an LCR event Sept. 2, and send senior advisor Steve Schmidt to deliver its 'respects' Sept. 4.
DuHaime, 'on behalf of Senator McCain and the campaign,' thanked an audience of about 200 for the LCR endorsement. He added that the both the campaign and a McCain administration would be 'inclusive.'
Schmidt, whom Sammon likened to Karl Rove, President Bush's chief strategist, paid his and the campaign's 'respects' to LCR, adding that the gay group was 'an important one in the fabric of our party.'Read more story below....
'I admire your organization,' said Schmidt. 'Keep fighting for what you believe, because the day is going to come.'
The Advocate reported—and YouTube footage shows—that Schmidt also shared with the luncheon audience Sept. 4 that he has a lesbian sister and that she and her partner are important to him and his family.
Sammon said the appearances of DuHaime and Schmidt indicate the party knows 'it's going to need a lot more support, be more inclusive on lesbian and gay issues' in order to appeal to independent and gay voters.
Exit polls indicated that President Bush won 25 percent of the gay vote in 2000 and 23 percent in 2004, but a recent Harris poll suggested McCain might get as little as 10 percent. Sammon said that poll, based on the Web responses of only 178 LGBT people, is not a reliable indicator of the gay vote.
'McCain will easily surpass Bush's vote,' said Sammon. 'He's a much more inclusive candidate.' Sammon said he continues to hear anecdotal evidence that suggests many LGBT Democrats who initially supported Sen. Hillary Clinton might cross party lines to vote for McCain.
To cross, or not to cross
It seems unlikely, however, that vice-presidential running mate Sarah Palin will attract that crossover. She opposes equal marriage rights for gay couples and, as mayor, expressed interest in banning certain books from the public library. While her speech was clearly well-received by the convention audience, it was stridently derisive of her Democratic opponents. She mocked Obama's work as a 'community organizer,' his convention speech in front of 'Styrofoam Greek columns' and his 'devoted followers.'
'What does he actually seek to accomplish, after he's done turning back the waters and healing the planet?' asked Palin. 'The answer is to make government bigger, take more of your money, give you more orders from Washington and to reduce the strength of America in a dangerous world.'
Other speakers mocked the Democratic ticket, too, often implying things about their positions that are flatly not true. For instance, former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said that McCain 'doesn't want to change the definition of marriage,' implying that Obama does. In fact, Obama is opposed to same-sex marriage.
It was somewhat startling Sept. 4, however, when a final video about the nominee began airing and one of its first clips was from an interview with McCain's 96-year-old mother in which she summed up her son up as 'a mama's boy.' It is a term sometimes used to suggest a man is effeminate.
But the key image being conjured of McCain at the convention this week was that of an enormously tough war hero. Although his wife, Cindy, suggested McCain prefers to remain 'quiet' about his time as a prisoner of war during Vietnam, nearly every convention speaker and video—and even the candidate himself—put significant reliance on that experience.
Meanwhile, reaction to the LCR endorsement of the McCain-Palin ticket drew strong criticism from many quarters of the LGBT community. EqualityGiving.org, a Web site that provides financial and educational resources for pro-LGBT concerns, suggested LCR misrepresented McCain's opposition to the Federal Marriage Amendment. It says McCain's opposition was based on his defense of states' rights and noted he actively supported a similar amendment proposed in Arizona in 2006.
The Human Rights Campaign responded to the endorsement by pointing out that the Republican Party 'has declared in its platform that they want to pass the federal marriage amendment.'
'Their party's platform also calls gay and lesbian Americans unfit for military service, supports policies that would allow faith-based organizations to deny us jobs and services using federal dollars, and attacks judges who acknowledge our equality under the law,' said HRC.
Sammon acknowledged that the GOP platform is 'awful' but he said it's also irrelevant.
'The day after it passes, they put it in a drawer,' said Sammon. 'People vote for the candidate, not the platform. I'd rather have a candidate who votes against the Federal Marriage Amendment [ as McCain did, twice ] than a platform that's for it.'
©2008 Keen News Service