That truth should be silent I had almost forgot.
Antony and Cleopatra,  Act 1, Scene 2

Unsilent Truth
September 4, 2004

Red Guard Republicans



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On September 1, NPR's "Kojo Nnamdi Show" featured Patrick Sammon of the Log Cabin Republicans and Ann "Bitsy" Stone of Republicans for Choice, and the two guests discussed the fact that the Republican Party platform was drawn up by conservatives while the face the Party was presenting on TV during the convention was supplied by moderates.

To paraphrase Golda Meir, I can forgive both Sammon and Mrs. Stone for defending their positions. But I shall never forgive them for making me defend the Republican Party.

What I kept noticing was the uniformity of speech they engaged in. Though the two have different interests, they differed on nothing in this appearance. More important, they used the same key vocabulary.

Both referred over and over to gay and lesbian "families." Not couples. "Families." Clearly the purpose of that legerdemain was to make listeners think of homosexual social units as families in the same sense as, say, the Waltons (the TV Waltons, not the multi-bazillionaire Waltons).

It also permitted them to say that, in opposing so-called same-sex marriage and in opposing same-sex civil unions, the Republican Party was opposing certain families. The Party wasn't pro-family at all. It was — here comes another devil-word — excluding some families.

A recorded statement from Gary Bauer (formerly of the Family Research Council) was played in which he attempted to state the position of the Republican Party regarding what has become known as the traditional family, but everything he said was dismissed. Neither Sammon nor Mrs. Stone would so much as pretend that he had said anything that might have had even the tiniest element of truth in it. There was no possibility of even honest misunderstanding. No, Bauer was just a hate-filled monster (these are my words, now, but they convey the acid) who had nothing to offer America except fear and intolerance.

But I think the language trick that made me craziest was the repeated (and repeated and repeated) references to the "radical Republicans" who were running the Party.

Let us pause here for a moment to savor the irony. The original Radical Republicans were a group that imposed harsh measures on the defeated Confederacy, using the newly freed Negroes as weapons. I should think that they would be models of the sort of thing Red Guards such as Sammon and Mrs. Stone would want in the Party. Certainly, they don't want any antediluvian Confederate sympathizers in it — at least not running it.

Back in the 1990s, we got used to the deranged ravings of Al Gore when he smeared as an "extremist" every opponent of every program or plan dreamed up by Bill Clinton. It caught on, and soon, anyone in the Republican Party who wasn't Rudy Giuliani was a right-wing extremist. I can remember when "right-wing extremism" meant something — conspiracy nuttism; or sympathy with the Nazis; or fire-bombing black elementary schools. Just as "left-wing extremism" meant Maoism; or calling cops "pigs"; or arming Black Panthers.

Today you're a "right-wing extremist" if you favor a flag-burning amendment to the Constitution — call for abolishing the ministry of education — exhibit a less-than-slobbery embrace of the homosexual agenda — but, most especially, express opposition to abortion.

But consider: Opposing abortion was something no one even had to think about 40 years ago. Most people, if they thought of abortion at all, probably thought it was infamous. In any case, the Republican Party has included some opposition to abortion in its official documents ever since the subject became an issue. And homosexuality? Even liberals weren't calling for tolerance toward that, let alone for admitting it to elementary schoolrooms. Of course, what was or was not permitted 40 years ago is not an ethical standard. But it ought to be a standard for what counts as radical and what doesn't.

Don't get me wrong here: I do not think that "radical" is a pejorative term. How could I? Anarchism is about as radical as one can get.

But Sammon and Mrs. Stone want to change the Republican Party in ways that might be legitimately called "radical," or at least "extreme"; and at the same time they are greeted as moderates. They are social revolutionaries, yet they want to be taken for "big-tent" Republicans. They are taking positions that no one even imagined taking 40 years ago — not even themselves. I worked in an office with Ann Stone — "Bitsy," as she was known — 30 years ago; I was a guest once or twice at her home; and I can confidently say that never once did I hear her express the opinion that the Republican Party should take a more liberal stand on abortion. Or that it should open its arms to a homosexual agenda.

Those things just weren't in the works then. But now, we are expected to believe that it has become radical to hold the same opinions one held then.

What is happening is that Red Guard Republicans are attempting to define themselves as mainstream and define traditionalists as the radicals. I find that just audacious — but then, audacity is the traditional weapon of social revolutionaries. It's as though Robespierre had called peasants who opposed the Revolutionary Calendar radicals because they liked keeping familiar and traditional names for the months of the year.

The host of the program, of course, never once interrupted to ask, "But what do you mean when you call these people radicals?" Or to suggest that the phrase "radical Republicans" was awfully tendentious, and perhaps his guests were really referring to "conservative Republicans." It was as if he couldn't recognize the difference between nomenclature and name-calling. Indeed, none of the established media ever question this kind of terminology.

And here is what gives the tactic away in its essential dishonesty: there is already a descriptive term for the Republicans who are so disdained by Mrs. Stone and Sammon — conservatives. But that was a word they would not — I emphasize, would not — use. (I kept wondering when they would apply it to themselves!)

So far, one trick that establishment Republicans do not seem to have learned is how to coin obviously false (even stupid) labels and make them stick. "Un-American" is the best they've come up with, and it's a pretty sad entry.

Well, that's their problem. I'm just an observer of these things. And as an observer, sometimes I feel like the guy who watches a chess game in the park and sees that one of the players never seems to be able to put together a proper response to a Queenside gambit. Indeed, he has not yet conceptualized the need to cobble one together.

The discussion was not entirely fruitless (no pun intended). The question naturally came up why the two guests were still in the GOP. What followed was a discussion of tactics. If they should leave the GOP, the voice of pro-abortion women and the voice of homosexuals would not be heard in the Party. The Party would suffer no pressure to make changes. As Mrs. Stone put it, "This is where the fight is." If you want to fight for these issues, don't go to the Democrats. Yes, they'll embrace you and roll out the red carpet; but they're already on your side.

At first I thought this was just another instance of Red Guards' attempting to take over an existing institution rather than attempting to organize and build their own. (As they did to the Episcopal Church and other institutions. Why build when it's easier to steal?) But as I continued to listen to the discussion, I realized that I was wrong.

I was wrong because the Republican Party is not organized around a set of principles. Rather, it is an organization for attaining and holding power. We have to keep our eye on the ball — and the ball in this context is power, not principle.

Both Sammon and Mrs. Stone said that they agreed with about 80 percent of what the Republican Party is said to stand for — lower taxes, smaller government, that sort of thing. But the Log Cabin Republicans and the Republicans for Choice are not in the GOP because they adhere to those principles represented by the GOP. They are in it because "that is where the fight is." One does not see them forming a "Democrats for Tax Cuts" movement or a "Log-Rollback Democrats" movement to take those fights to the Democrats. And those would be fights to buy tickets to.

No, the fight is the fight for power. If organized homosexuality is to enjoy unrestrained political power, in addition to the social power it already holds, it has to hold a position in this power locus. The way for left-wing feminism and pro-abortionism to be sure of their power is not to throw more support to the Democrats but to mold and redefine the GOP. Once that is achieved, no matter which party is in power, those agendas will be served. Sammon and Mrs. Stone are willing for the "80 percent" of what they agree with to take a back seat when the Democrats are in power — as they surely will be again some day. But the 20 percent — that's where their hearts are. That's what has to have a seat at the table no matter who is in charge.

The models here are the various corporate and foreign interests that fund both parties. That strategy has been famously successful, and an adaptation was certainly due. We will know that the conservatives have begun to catch on to this tactic when they form a vocal anti-abortion caucus within the Democratic Party.

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