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Last Tuesday’s Democratic debate stood in stark contrast to the GOP debates, which have featured useless equivocating that does nothing to attract voters — while clearly angering others.
This is especially clear on LGBT issues. No GOP presidential candidate looks likely to push for ENDA or for expanded rights for trans Americans. That said, it’s unlikely any GOP Presidential candidate could actually reverse marriage equality or the advances that LGBT Americans have made over the last decade. Rather than allowing Huckabee and Ben Carson to railroad the debate into these dicey waters, the party should get everyone to just shut up about gay issues.
The pitch the GOP can make to the LGBT segment of the electorate is actually very simple. Gay couples often have higher disposable incomes than their straight counterparts. They are likely to be business owners or independent contractors. With marriage won, the GOP has a lot to offer: less taxes and regulation, as well as more opportunities to create wealth and participate in the global economy. By not fixating on things that drive LGBT voters away, the GOP could actually make a strong, and perhaps ultimately winning, play for the four or five percent of the electorate that identifies as other than straight.
While recent elections have brought Democratic candidates with better records on LGBT issues than their Republican counterparts, this is a relatively modern innovation. Conservative LGBT groups actively supported Nixon and Reagan, and in 1996 Dole/Kemp were arguably ahead of Clinton/Gore on our issues.
No less important than their ability to transcend party, LGBT voters are an essential part of the American social fabric. Many other countries now view gay rights and openly gay people as a dangerous Western import. The GOP should view gays as a boon if only because of the wildfire manner with which Americanized LGBT rights have advanced our nation’s interests and stature abroad.
The GOP establishment is attacking Donald Trump for his unartful comments about immigrants, but seems markedly less concerned about Ben Carson mouthing off about “the gays.” Trump is doing just fine in hypothetical matchups with Clinton and has made the base incredibly excited to turn out and vote. If the party wants to see a change in the box score on 2016’s election night, it is looking at the wrong voters. There are plenty of gay voters clinging to God, guns, and religion who are ready to settle for a Republican — as soon as one who isn’t actively toxic rises to the fore.
Tim Rosenberger is the former Vice-Chair of the DC Federation of College Republicans and a former member of Georgetown University’s Pride Board.
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