Nagourney's Guiding Light Away from the Religious Right

Out magazine recently named "The New York Times Gay Mafia" as number 13 in its "Power 50" countdown. One of the ten staffers named was political reporter Adam Nagourney, who's also the co-author of a 682-page history tome titled "Out for Good: The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America." So the reader should suspect a lack of objectivity in a Wednesday "Political Memo" article titled "Same-Sex Marriage Holds Peril for GOP." Unsurprisingly, Nagourney crusaded for the Republican Party to drop its opposition to gay marriages if it wants to broaden its reach. He began:

It was only five years ago that opposition to gay marriage was so strong that Republicans explicitly turned to the issue as a way to energize conservative voters. Yet today, as the party contemplates the task of rebuilding itself, some Republicans say the issue of gay marriage may be turning into more of a hindrance than a help.

The star of Nagourney's article is McCain strategist Steve Schmidt. The natural question: Is the manager of a losing presidential campaign really have credibility on how Republicans can win?

Nagourney made no mention of Schmidt's recent endorsement of gay marriage, his lesbian sister, or his recent speech to the convention of the "Log Cabin Republicans." Actually, Nagourney quoted a small snippet of the speech without explaining the venue:

Steve Schmidt, who was the senior strategist to Senator John McCain of Arizona during his presidential campaign, said in a speech and an interview that Republicans were in danger of losing these younger voters unless the party comes to appreciate how issues like gay marriage resonate, or do not resonate, with them.

"Republicans should re-examine the extent to which we are being defined by positions on issues that I don't believe are among our core values, and that put us at odds with what I expect will become, over time, if not a consensus view, then the view of a substantial majority of voters," he said in a speech.

This does not mean, Republicans said, that most Americans are suddenly embracing the idea of same-sex couples going to the chapel. It is more that, for a lot of these Americans, gay marriage is not something they spend a lot of time worrying about, or even thinking about.

This is a common tactic of activists on the gay left - that the gay issues aren't really worth the time of conservatives or Republicans, that they aren't "core values" of Republicans. For Schmidt to say this reflects an obviousdistaste for religious conservatives in his party. He told Nagourneypolitics is about "addition," but somehow he's neglecting how his strategy would subtract the religious right:

Before joining Mr. McCain's ill-fated campaign, Mr. Schmidt was known in Republican circles for arguing that the party needed to move away from social issues to be successful; he managed Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign for governor in California.

"The Republican Party is shrinking," he said. "One of the reasons it is shrinking is because there are large demographics in this country that view the party as intolerant or not relevant to them. Politics is about addition."

Nagourney also interviewed former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who agreed "he did not think it made much sense for Republicans to be harping on the issue if the party had any serious interest in returning to power."

The only dissenter in this piece was Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who didn't exactly breathe fire for social conservatives:

This was reflected in a recent conversation with Tim Pawlenty, the Republican governor of Minnesota, a social conservative who opposes gay marriage and is considering a run for president.

Asked if he thought, given recent events, that Republicans were making a political mistake in emphasizing gay issues, Mr. Pawlenty, who is 48, responded: "I think it's an important issue for our conservative voters." But he notably did not dwell on the subject.

If the reader doesn't know that Nagourney made the gay "Power 50" and is ahistorian of gay activism, they're missing a major reason why Pawlenty might have felt it was wise not to dwell on the subject.

But where are the leading crusaders of the Christian right? They're apparently not worthy of an interview with The New YorkTimes Gay Mafia. They certainly would have reason to object to some of these strong paragraphs from Steve Schmidt's Log Cabinspeech, where he suggests that they are denying basic liberties, spreading "truly un-American" prejudice and dehumanization, and ruining the Republican Party with an unviablesectarianism:

On the contrary, it seems to me that denying two consenting adults of the same sex the right to form a lawful union that is protected and respected by the state denies them two of the most basic natural rights affirmed in the preamble of our Declaration of Independence - liberty, and the pursuit of happiness....

It should offend us as Republicans and Americans when gays are denigrated as degenerates or un-American or undeserving of the government's protection of their rights. And the Republican Party should give voice to genuine outrage when anyone belittles the humanity of another person. It is offensive in the extreme to the values of this nation, and we should be in the forefront of rejecting such truly un-American prejudice....

As I said, I respect the opinions of Americans who oppose marriage for gay couples on religious grounds. I may disagree, but if you sincerely believe God's revealed truth objects to it then it is perfectly honorable to oppose it. But those are not the grounds on which a political party should take or argue a position. If you put public policy issues to a religious test you risk becoming a religious party, and in a free country, a political party cannot remain viable in the long term if it is seen as sectarian.

An article that was a debate instead of a crusade would allow a religious conservative to engage on these issues, not merely wish they would vanish.