How to explain the unlikely, perverse phenomenon of a gay Republican in 2020?
Delusion? Denial? Blinded by privilege? Daddy issues rendering them subservient to Master Trump?
Whatever the underlying issue, it’s truly sad to watch the once respected Log Cabin Republicans sink into further irrelevance. From Rich Tafel and Patrick Guerriero to R. Clarke Cooper and Patrick Sammon, Log Cabin has been led over the years by smart, committed advocates working to change the Republican Party from within. Whatever your views on the GOP, it’s important to fight from the inside, whether it’s inside political parties, organized religions, or sports leagues, to bring about change.
But 2020 is no ordinary year and Donald Trump is no ordinary president. Anyone who defends Trump’s indefensible behavior is lying to themselves. There’s no excusing racism, sexism, and transphobia. There’s no looking the other way when Trump allows his buddy, the murderous Vladimir Putin, to put bounties on the heads of American soldiers. And there’s no justification for snatching screaming toddlers from their mothers’ arms and locking them in cages.
Trump is running a criminal enterprise out of the people’s house; Steve Bannon is just the latest senior Trump official to be charged with felonies. What the hell more do people need to see to conclude that Trump is unfit for office, incapable and incompetent, and likely to leave Washington in handcuffs?
Despite the overwhelming and undeniable evidence, these hypocritical gay Republicans continue to carry water for their criminal master. The latest is Ric Grenell, the former acting Director of National Intelligence (key word: acting), who released an unintentionally hilarious video touting Trump as the “most pro-gay president in American history.”
In the Log Cabin-produced clip, Grenell refers to “gays and lesbians” throughout, notably eschewing the more common “LGBTQ.” That’s because while Trump’s attacks on gays and lesbians may be more subtle, his assault on the transgender community is overt and aggressive. From banning transgender service members from the military, to enacting an HHS rule that ends non-discrimination protections for trans patients, Trump has used the transgender community as a punching bag to score cheap points with his bigoted base.
In the video, Grenell criticizes Joe Biden for not congratulating him on his acting appointment. Maybe that’s because the short, temporary, non-Senate-confirmed appointment was roundly criticized by experts in the intelligence community due to Grenell’s stunning lack of experience. “This is a job requiring leadership, management, substance and secrecy,” John Sipher, a former CIA officer, told the New York Times. “He doesn’t have the kind of background and experience we would expect for such a critical position.” That’s quite the diplomatic understatement.
Grenell touts his experience as ambassador to Germany, another short-tenured post that led to widespread criticism about his inexperience and ham-handed efforts to interfere in internal German politics.
He references Trump’s purported effort to decriminalize homosexuality around the world, but that effort seems to exist in word, not in deed.
Grenell further criticizes Biden for his past anti-gay positions. Yes, Biden, along with most other Democrats and Republicans, has evolved on LGBTQ issues over the decades (as have a majority of Americans), but we must allow allies to grow, change, and ultimately fight with us.
By contrast, Trump’s assault on LGBTQ equality is long and well documented. From picking the notoriously homophobic Mike Pence — who doth protest too much — as his vice president, to naming a slew of hostile, right-wing judges to the federal bench, to advocating for so-called “religious freedom” carveouts to enable anti-LGBTQ discrimination, Trump has undermined decades of work in just four short years.
Grenell isn’t the only gay toadie still standing in Trump’s corner. Robert Kabel, Log Cabin’s board chair and a former Reagan administration official, this week announced the impending release of his new book. In the press release announcing it, Kabel “is proud to call the GOP the true party of equality—not the Democratic Party.”
Again, these delusional sycophants cherry pick empty Trump gestures to justify their support while ignoring a tidal wave of attacks on LGBTQ Americans. Has Kabel read his own party’s platform?
The 2016 platform was recently re-adopted for 2020. As the Blade reported, “it calls for ending same-sex marriage either through judicial reconsideration or a constitutional amendment, offers veiled support for widely discredited conversion therapy and objects to enforcing civil rights laws to ensure transgender people can use the restroom consistent with their gender identity. Although the 2016 document doesn’t explicitly mention conversion therapy, it includes this line: ‘We support the right of parents to determine the proper medical treatment and therapy for their minor children.’”
Grenell, Kabel, and the rest of Trump’s twisted enablers aren’t just on the wrong side of history, they’re on the wrong side of the law. LGBTQ voters see through these last-gasp attempts by his enablers to hang onto power. From the botched COVID response that has claimed thousands of American lives, to the stoking of racial division and support for white supremacists, to retreating from the climate change fight, and the rolling back of LGBTQ equality, Trump has shown the world he is unfit for the presidency. He knows that clinging to power by any means necessary is the only way he will avoid prison.
Instead of Grenell and Kabel, let’s look to Pete Buttigieg for inspiration. As he put it in his convention speech Thursday night, “I believe in this country because America uniquely holds the promise of a place where everyone can belong. … Joe Biden is right: This is a contest for the soul of the nation.”
Indeed it is. Some of us will emerge with our dignity intact. Others like Grenell and Kabel will have to explain how they sided with a monster who worked to dismantle our government, destroy our democracy, and harm members of our LGBTQ community.
Kevin Naff is editor of the Washington Blade.