Sean Hannity likes to refer to the Democratic party as ‘the party of slavery’ from time to time, harkening back to the days of Republican abolitionists and conveniently ignoring that inconvenient piece of recent history that had democratic president Lyndon Johnson losing ‘the south for a generation’ by signing important civil right legislation.
The other part of Hannity’s useful (yet telling) omission is another recent historical fact: The modern GOP is the party of cynical opportunism. When democrats & moderates in the 60’s went to bat for our country’s minorities, the GOP at large--seeing the now disenfranchised southern racists--modified their party platform to welcome these bigots.
A generation later, not much has changed. In fact, the modern GOP is bending backwards to accommodate that same old dixiecrat/American Taliban/tea bag movement that has proved so useful for it in recent history. It’s well known that this constituency is very easy to get riled up and mobilized, and it’s also well known that social conservatives have a very short memory when it comes to the promises their elected officials make them while on the campaign trail regarding abortion, marriage, gay rights, etc. In fact, it’s very funny how vacuous these promises can be in order to slide by. Sometimes, a wink will suffice, although a wink can mean significantly different things to the winker than it does to the winkee.
This constituency is useful in the moment, but today’s republicans also love to take credit for yesterday’s progressive victories, i.e. Sean Hannity’s ‘party of slavery’ trope. Hannity can reach back to Lincoln’s republican affiliation to (sort of) validate his claim that the GOP is the forward thinking party, but I wonder who the Sean Hannities of the future are going to refer to while claiming the republican role in achieving gay equality (the inevitable next ‘progressive victory of yesterday’). There is no one, unless they want to try to squeeze Barry Goldwater or Cindy McCain into that role, which would be a stretch even for republicans.
It seems like it would behoove at least a handful of prominent republicans to acknowledge the opportunistic and cynical soil their modern party has sunk its roots in, and get out in front of this issue that is inevitably going to be viewed by history with progressive eyes.
Republicans can get a sugar buzz off of the support of the more dubious elements of their constituency by blocking and whoring on the issue of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’, or, they can look to the future viability of their party, and join their voices with the president’s in ending it. The president has even created a space for Republicans to one-up him on the issue of gay rights by opposing gay marriage; but, I doubt the party of Palin has enough foresight to cash in on it.