The big tent

The big tent

: Ira Glass’ This American Life on NPR has become my favorite radio program, for it’s not only the best exercise in story-telling anywhere, it is consistently and delightfully surprising (hear this amazing story about a Hasidic Jew who became an underground rocker and this story about how hard it is to work in Iraq).

This week’s surprise: An entire show devoted to the Republican Party as the inclusive party, the big tent. I told you it was surprising: It’s on NPR (well, PRI, but I tire of splitting that hair) and it’s fair and balanced about Republicans.

The show makes the point that the Republicans are the party that’s growing and they’re doing it, in great measure, by acting open. Whether, in the end, they really are open depends on where you stand and what matters to you and whether you’d feel OK in their tent. The Republicans had Guliani and McCain and Schwarzenegger on the dias and kept the fringes locked in a closet during the convention. But their platform was a document of the concrete-solid right. And from my perspective, Bush is from that solid right (though I know many of that far right would disagree); if he were more open to other views on some issues I’d be more open to him. Still, the show says, the Republicans make an effort at openness while the Democratis, it can be argued fairly, persist in PC dogma and are not open to, say, pro-lifers. On the other other other hand, though, it’s not news that there are gay Democrats but it is news that there are gay Republicans and that’s an indication of relative and historic openness. I could keep this on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand all day but I won’t.

I recommend the show highly (it’s being aired this week; it’s on Audible now; it’ll be on Real next week). You won’t hear mudslinging and hate. You will hear people who honestly disagree within and without the Republican party trying to at least discuss issues. It can happen.

  • william

    “but it is news that there are gay Republicans”
    Only if you haven’t read a newspaper or followed politics for the last 20 or so years.
    “In the wake of the Briggs campaign, gay conservatives in California formed the Log Cabin Republicans.

  • derby

    There have always been gay republicans – it’s just that now they are out of the closet. This Republican Party is still anti-equal rights for gays. In fact, the platform calls not only for the FMA but for the banning of civil unions as well. Republican-controlled Virginia has even gone so far as ban contracts between adults that are designed to try and ensure marital-like benefits flow from one partner to another.
    This is not a party interested in being inclusive of America’s gay citizens.
    Did any of the moderates who spoke at the Convention mention any of the issues that separate them from the conservative wing? No. It is especially disappointing from Rudy Guliani – who while going through his divorce stayed with a gay friend.

  • Wow, a fair & balanced look at the RNC from NPR! What next, will Dan Rather come clean??
    As a homo myself, I’m sad to report that the above Derby are sadly typical of gay groupthink: they can’t imagine that people might support the FMA out of considered moral opposition to gay marriage, still less that people who don’t consider gay marriage a ‘civil right’ are anything but slavering homophobes.
    In this, they’re following the failed (& stupid) strategy of the abortion rights crowd, which has recused itself from the moral arena with the idea that abortion is simply a civil rights quibble about a woman’s right to choose.

  • Robert Brown

    I think you miss the concept of a “big tent party”. It seems to me the idea is to coalesce around issues that the party can agree on and tolerate the presence of minority views within the party.
    Gays for whom sexuality is the number one issue should obviously be in the Democratic party where they will be welcomed with open arms. There must be something very repulsive about the Democratic party that keeps gays in the Republican party.
    If the Republicans can somehow moderate their views on social issues, they have a chance of becoming the majority party, but it won’t happen over night and it won’t be helped by Gulliani picking fights on the national stage.

  • I’ve always found NPR to be less skewed than the networks. They still tend towards a left-leaning bias, but it’s almost as if they are less aware of the bubble that they are in, but are more gracious when they meet folks from outside the bubble.
    Network types like Rather know full well that they are inhabiting a bubble, but they fight tooth and nail to destroy and discredit anyone outside of the bubble. Does that make any sense?
    In any case, most conservatives I’ve known would give money to NPR despite the leftward slant. The excellent programming is valued despite the soft bias here and there. I was even a really big fan of Garrison Keillor before he became virulently political. It’s not even that I can’t put up with the odd rant, it’s just that he seems to have converted from a gentle, humorous soul to an unfunny misanthrope. Politics doesn’t necessarily do that to you, but hate does.

  • morress

    Hey, Jeffy: why haven’t I seen any posts from your boy Wolcott talking about what divine retribution it is to have Hurricane Ivan heading for Castro’s little paradise? Just curious, sport.

  • carsonfire,
    That’s the best description of NPR I’ve read. Well said. As a registered Republican, I enjoy NPR. Too bad that there isn’t right-leaning form of that. Be nice to hear both points of view on the radio in an informational and civil format.
    To Jeff’s point, I’ve heard Lieberman complain that his opposing points of view on matters within the DNC find no audience. He’s a centrist, and the Democratic party finds little room for centrist thought.

  • Obviously, I don’t mean it’s breaking news. I mean it more figuratively: It’s more unusual for there to be gay republicans than democrats.

  • Kat

    Republicans want the right to make a personal opinion about homosexuality–Democrats want to shove it down my throat, regardless of my personal opinion. Democrats want to think for me and tell me what I should think. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. You can make all kinds of gay laws, but you can’t make me believe homosexuality is normal . All you can do is call me a rightwing bigot for not swallowing the swill I’m supposed to. I hate those Democrat heterophobes.

  • hey

    jeff, in re bush, he’s solid on some things, not solid on others.
    he is solid on whats most important: that civilisation must be defended forcefully. on putting government in its proper place (i.e. exceptionally small and within the ambit it was given by the founders) not so much, too spendthrift, too socially involved.
    as to what does and does not constitute homophobia: the goalposts keep getting moved. this is a bad thing for gay people longterm. it’s an acceptance of radical (and radical leftist) queer theory, that being gay is anti-everything normal and traditional in society, overthrowing all bourgeois norms…
    most of my gay friends just want the government to leave them alone. they don’t want them involved in any way shape or form with their lives. same with my straight friends. but then all of my friends are pretty solid anti-state conservatives. but there are some people whose politics are not completely controlled by what sort of weird and unspeakable things they do with/to their partner(s) in various stages of undress. to bad that there are people who’s politics are defined by their sexual identity… you should grow up some!

  • T

    There are anti-gay-marriage democrats just as there are anti-abortion democrats. I’m sure there are homophobic democrats. Many people aren’t single-issue voters.
    I actually find it strange that with all the serious problems facing our country that the gay marriage issue would be decisive for anyone, gay or straight. Particularly as I don’t think it will make any difference who’s elected–the anti-gay-marriage amendment will go nowhere regardless and I don’t see Kerry actively supporting gay marriage.

  • Ptolemy

    Gays who will let themselves admit it can safely say that this is a great country to be gay in. There is a lot of insulting talk from politicos but very little actual “oppression” going on and I’m living in the South. The future is in gay people’s favor as far as total equality.
    As far as gay Republicans, its the party to go to when you are invested in the nation and want to assist it. You go Democrat when you want something from the state and prefer living amongst your own for comfort and are fixated on what will make you happy every day.
    That’s not to say that Log Cabin Repubs don’t perform some hard work but they actually get more support from Repulicans with influence than is recognized.
    Republicans will give you a strong nation that will provide a prosperous life as an individual. The Dems will give you lip service for your self-esteem problems but endanger all your rights by catetering to those who would kill queers first.

  • can someone post a link to the actual content of this story on I couldn’t find it.

  • Robert: I’m not sure a link will work because it contains a user id.
    but go to audible. at the pulldown on the left, go to radio and tv.
    scroll down to this american life.
    click on the latest or one-month sub and you can buy it there.

  • If the Republicans can somehow moderate their views on social issues, they have a chance of becoming the majority party,
    Robert Brown,
    As a libertarian, it truly pains me to say this, but the GOP already is the majority party. The average Republican is closer to the average American politically than just about any other party. The rest of us have our points (good and bad), but not the proximity.
    Now of course this is news to people like Dan Rather.

  • If the Republicans can somehow moderate their views on social issues, they have a chance of becoming the majority party,
    Robert Brown,
    As a libertarian, it truly pains me to say this, but the GOP already is the majority party. The average Republican is closer to the average American politically than just about any other party. The rest of us have our points (good and bad), but not the proximity.
    Now of course this is news to people like Dan Rather.

  • HA

    I have a problem with gay folks. It has nothing to do with their bedroom activities. Rather, it the extreme left-wing politics they tend to have that I have a problem with.
    My only issue this election is national security. I’m deeply worried about what kind of world my children are going to grow up in. And when I look at the political views gays tend to hold, it is obvious that most gays don’t give a shit about national security. In fact, gays tend to hold views that are outright HOSTILE to national security. They aren’t weak on national secuity. They are opposed to it.
    So if gays don’t give a shit about issues that are important to me, why should I give a shit about issues that are important to them?

  • You can hear TAL free at, though they haven’t yet posted the story Jeff is talking about.

  • Heather

    What the heck? Most gays are hostile toward and opposed to national security? That’s so absurd I don’t even know how to respond to it.
    Pull your head out of those Fred Phelps newsletters you’ve been reading and think about what you just typed.
    Although, maybe some folks don’t care about what issues interest you because you keep making insane statements like that — thought I seriously doubt that means they are longing for another terrorist attack on the US.

  • HA

    That’s so absurd I don’t even know how to respond to it.
    In desperation, you responded with a blatant disregard for the facts. Come back when gay activist groups stop opposing the presence of the ROTC and military recruiters on college campuses.

  • Thanks Jeff. I’ll check it out. Did anyone see that short piece from The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart on the second day of the rebuplican convention BTW? Hilarious. I gotta find that link. Humor is good antidote to this stuff too…. :) – Rob.

  • Heather

    Actually, HA, I responded with some desperation because your original comment was, to me, a very grand generalization painting all gays as against all national security. You offered no examples of what you meant and seemed fairly extremist.
    Thank you for clarifying more what you meant. Though, you’re still making a generalization that all gay groups oppose ROTC and military recruiters on college campuses. I don’t know which gay groups do what you say, so some examples would be helpful.
    I see no problem with gay groups protesting (peacefully!) whenever recruiters or ROTC are out in public on a campus. Why shouldn’t they if they believe that gays should have the right to serve in the military?
    Banning ROTC and recruiters from campuses is wrong to me, but that wouldn’t prevent me from protesting. This doesn’t mean I hate the military. That’s kind of like saying everyone who protests the war in Iraq hates all soldiers. So I just don’t like the military’s rules about gays serving.
    And actually, I think most gays are very pro-national security because they want the right to serve in the military in the first place.

  • HA

    I agree that I’m generalizing. Of course there are many gays that take national security seriously. But I think I’m correct to state that most gays or gay advocacy groups have a hostility towards the military. And I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to assert that gays tend to hold left-wing political views.
    Banning ROTC and recruiters from campuses is wrong to me, but that wouldn’t prevent me from protesting.
    To me this is the right approach to take. Keep the ROTC and military recruiters on campus and engage them in a respectful manner.
    I’ve generally been sympathetic to gay rights. But like I said, national security is the ONLY issue that is important to me right now. And I don’t see gays (most, not all) supporting the issue that is important to me. So why should I support their issues?