This really could have been the year that the Log Cabin Republicans earned some respect from the GOP, as well as from Democrats, independents and LGBT activists of all stripes. Had the group of gay Republicans not endorsed Mitt Romney, which seemed like the plan early on, they’d be winners right now in the GOP and beyond. Instead, they proved to be irrelevant.
Log Cabin came into 2011 and the presidential election cycle with a successful lawsuit, having gotten “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) ruled unconstitutional in federal court. It’s fair to say that Log Cabin’s case, in addition to full-throttle pressure from LGBT activists, helped propel the effort by the White House and Senate Democrats to make DADT repeal happen. The group created a lot of good will. It had also benefited from the 2009 formation of GOProud, the conservative, Tea Party-inspired gay group that ridiculously made Ann Coulter its honorary co-chair, heralded Donald Trump and didn’t even have a position on same-sex marriage. Next to GOProud, Log Cabin seemed reasonable.
When GOProud early on endorsed Romney, a man who backed a constitutional ban on gay marriage and had said that “it’s not right” for gays to have children, many in the LGBT community laughed it off. GOProud was like a joke, and the group, splashy as it was, had little following or influence, with a loosely organized, seemingly tiny membership.
Certainly no one thought Log Cabin would follow GOProud (which had called Log Cabin too liberal). Log Cabin had withheld a presidential endorsement in 1992, when Pat Buchanan declared a culture war at the Republican National Convention in Houston, and Log Cabin also hadn’t endorsed George W. Bush in 2004 after he came out in full support of a federal marriage amendment. For that reason it was expected that the group wouldn’t endorse a candidate in 2012 who was further to the right than Bush was on gay issues (Romney didn’t even support civil unions, whereas Bush did). Well into the fall, that seemed to be the case: Log Cabin didn’t announce an endorsement in August, as it has done during every election in which it had endorsed a candidate, and as October rolled in, it was believed that Romney wouldn’t get Log Cabin’s backing.
But two weeks before the election, Log Cabin announced that it was indeed backing Romney, just when Romney was brazenly and transparently moving to the middle, turning around on so many of his hard-right positions and wanting to convince independents and moderates that he wasn’t so harsh. An endorsement from a gay group could help in that regard. Log Cabin clearly drank the GOP Kool-Aid and thought Romney was actually going to win the election. They probably naively thought that by endorsing him, they’d have a place at the table, even though they’d backed a man who only made promises to the enemies of gay rights.
Log Cabin threw away all the good will it had built up, as LGBT Democrats, independents and even some Republicans reacted with disbelief and anger. And then Log Cabin lost big when Romney lost big. Had the group not endorsed him, not only would it have retained the respect that it had earned, but it would now have more pull within the GOP. So much of politics is about perception, and Log Cabin would be able to tell GOP leaders, in the midst of the handwringing over the party’s “demographic problem,” that had Romney backed off his harsh line on gay rights, and had Log Cabin endorsed him then, the group could have helped him win. LGBT voters made up 5 percent of the electorate and, as The New York Times notes, have “a claim on having been decisive,” with 76 percent of LGBT voters having supported President Obama.
I’m not saying that a great many of those voters would have gone for Romney if he hadn’t been so harsh on gay issues, but, again, in politics perception is reality. Log Cabin could have made that claim, and it could have been part of helping the GOP reach out now, instead of seeming irrelevant and as if its endorsement had no influence among gay voters. (George W. Bush, whom Log Cabin didn’t endorse, won more of the LGBT vote in 2004 than did the man whom the group did endorse in 2012.) The group now comes off like a bunch of hacks who took a gamble at the last minute on a deeply flawed candidate, selling their souls while getting nothing in return.