Guns, God and gays: Why the Republicans are trapped in the past

President Reagan’s Big Tent was never that big. Photo: Birthplace of the GOP, Ripon, Wis.

WASHINGTON,  April 9, 2013 — Perhaps Bob Dylan put it best: “The times, they are a-changin’.” That’s the lesson the Republican Party doesn’t seem to have yet learned, mired as they are in the 1980s when President Reagan was in the White House and “all was well with the world.”

President Reagan called for a Big Tent party back then, but the Reagan tent had a narrow entrance and even a narrower one now: social issues. If you can’t squeeze through it, a Republican presidential candidate hasn’t a prayer of support. Even poor Mitt Romney couldn’t flip-flop fast enough to satisfy the wedge issue wing of the GOP.

Republican logo

The 2013 Republican Autopsy — the GOP’s words, not mine — called for reaching out to minorities, women and gays, but not for dismantling the GOP platform, plank by plank, a platform that still embraces outdated issues of Yesteryear.

Until the Republicans bring in a wrecking ball, they will be held captive by a small and shrinking base that stubbornly clings to God and guns. And, of course, they can’t give up their antediluvian beliefs either, whether about gay rights or gay marriage, much less immigration.

Candidate Obama in 2008 had it right when he said: “And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

At the time Obama had to retreat from his off-the-cuff remarks and even apologize, but like it or not, he nailed the problem, which has only worsened for Republicans.

That is why no one is rushing to get into the Reagan’s Big Tent. Instead young people, women and minorities are scrambling to find the exit sign. You’d would think someone had yelled, “Fire!”

Sadly, the current Republican Party has become the party of Yesteryear when women, African-Americans, Latinos, gays, and secular types “knew their place.” Nowadays those same groups are getting downright uppity, if you listen to some in the GOP.

Gov. Bobbi Jindal spoke truth to power. AP

Even Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American from Florida, cautions his fellow Republicans that immigration reform must move slowly, as though it were not already inching along at a glacial pace. Florida is filled with Latino voters, so what is he afraid of? Simple. Rubio, the Tea Party candidate in 2010, plans to run for president in 2016, and he is more afraid of the Tea Party than he is of Latino voters.

Then there is the God crowd, which tries to rewrite or reinterpret the Constitution, based on what it thinks God wants, believing somehow that God dictated the Bill of Rights just as he did the Ten Commandments. These fringe Republicans seek to redefine rape, as we saw in the last election, or stand in defiance of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision as they are doing in Red state North Dakota.

However, the big fight right now is over guns and gun rights…and wrongs. A minority of the minority party has a stranglehold on Red State Congressional members of both parties. So tight is that headlock, in fact, that even background checks and a ban on straw sales will probably die an unholy death on the floor of Congress.

It doesn’t seem to matter that this small, but mighty and vocal group does not represent the thinking of the American people as poll after poll shows, ranging from Fox News and Rasmussen to the Pew Research and Wall Street Journal polls.

Yet there is no stemming the floodtide of history, and gun control laws will finally pass, gay marriage will soon be fully accepted, pro-choice will continue to prevail, women’s rights will be strengthened, and immigration reform will happen. Not all of it today or even in 2014, but within a very few years.

More immigrants are voting, women are energized, young people are fed up with Yesteryear politics, and African Americans are gaining political clout, and the chances for the GOP to remain a mainstream party is fading fast.

Too late, Republicans only now realize that Republican Louisiana Governor Bobbi Jindal was right when he scolded the GOP, “Stop being the stupid party.” For Republicans, regrettably their Big Tent has become a circus tent.

To contact Catherine Poe, see above. Her work appears in Ad Lib at the Communities @ She can also be heard on Democrats for America’s Future. She is also a contributor to broadcast, print and online media.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Catherine Poe

Catherine was named one of the top Progressives in Maryland along with Senator Barbara Mikulski and Congresswoman Donna Edwards. She has been a guest of President Obama in the Rose Garden.

As past president of Long Island NOW, she worked to reform women's prisons in New York, open the construction trades to women, change laws to safeguard battered women, and protect the rights of rape victims. 

Long active in Democratic politics, she served as the presidentof the Talbot Democrats in Maryland for six years and fought to getthe Health Care Reform bill passed.

Catherine has been published in a diverse range of newspapers and magazines, including Newsday, Star Democrat, Rocky Mountain News, Yellowstone News, and the Massachusetts Review.

If Catherine has learned anything over the years it is that progressive change does not come easily, but in baby steps. 

Contact Catherine Poe


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