In 2001, after the election of Doug Sutherland as Commissioner of Public Lands (a campaign I am proud to have managed), I sat in my first Board of Natural Resources meeting when Doug named his new management team. One moment stood out.
When he announced his choice to oversee forest regulation on private lands, there was a loud groan from members of the environmental community seated in front of me. The nomination of Pat McElroy was the only one to elicit this response. Later, I found out later why.
Pat was a strong believer in active forestry and he had little time for the unscientific and emotional appeals of the environmental community. In addition to his tough and direct attitude was one more thing: he was gay.
With the exception of the homemade biscotti Pat occasionally brought to management meetings, you simply wouldn’t have guessed it. And it simply wasn’t important.
Pat moved the conservative movement forward. He promoted sound forestry science, the effective use of natural resources to promote prosperity and stymied the greens’ attempts to promote feel good forestry. Working with him was always enjoyable, and I was fortunate to have him fighting alongside me.
The fact that homosexuals have helped move conservative causes forward shouldn’t be a surprise. What would be it about one’s personal relationships that determines one’s opinion of science? Why would being straight indicate a belief in free-market economics any more than being homosexual would oblige one to be blind to the economic anguish caused by politically driven economic planning – anguish that hits everyone, straight or gay?
The two, of course, are not correlated, and more than a few homosexuals recognize this and are tough, effective advocates of conservatism.
After George W. Bush was reelected in 2004, I remember watching an interview with the Bush campaign manager explaining why they knew the early reports of a Kerry victory were incorrect. After a decade and a half in politics, few things surprise me anymore about strategy or tactics. The explanation by Ken Mehlman, however, was brilliant and I was riveted. He was so incisive, clever and knowledgeable that I still remember being struck by his explanation. I remember being thankful that he was on our side.
In 2010, Mehlman announced he is gay. And it doesn’t matter. Those of us who believe in the free-market, personal freedom and responsibility and who believe in American exceptionalism and the power of the American Dream should be thankful for Mehlman’s work in 2004 and as RNC chair.
This isn’t my judgment alone.
There is no name that makes a liberal shudder more than that of Dick Cheney. Just say his name in Seattle and watch the horrified reaction around you. Yet when the conservative stalwart was asked about gay marriage he responded, “I think freedom means freedom for everybody and you ought to have the right to make whatever choice you want to make with respect to your own personal situation.” Even those who have religious objections to homosexuality can certainly see the clear conservative strain of thought in Cheney’s argument.
I must admit, it is hard for me to understand being attracted to other men. That, however, doesn’t affect me and I don’t have to understand it. I can simply appreciate what we have in common and their principled commitment to conservative ideals.
In 1992 when I was first learning the ropes of political campaigning, I attended a campaign management school in Olympia run by the State House and Senate Republican campaign organizations. One of the most insightful teachers was the Senate Republicans’ chief strategist John Rico, a man whose home was “plastered with autographed photos of himself with Ronald Reagan and George Bush” according to a profile of him in the Seattle Times. John was also gay and it would have been difficult for Republicans to capture control of the State Senate in 1994 without the tremendous work he did.
Add to this list the great work of longtime Republican strategist Sally Poliak, who is revolutionizing the use of social media and data for Republican campaigns right here in Washington state.
All of these individuals and more have been an important part of moving conservative ideas forward. We should be thankful for their support and should tell everyone who believes that free markets are the best way to promote prosperity, that children shouldn’t be locked into failing public schools and that the American Dream comes from individuals, not government, that we welcome them to help us make Washington and America a better place for everyone.
[Featured image credit: queerty]