"Something is Changing... We are Winning"

by Colin Mathews, Atlanta Executive Network Newsletter

September 1999 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Blogger Tumblr

Richard Tafel, Executive Director of Log Cabin Republicans, found an enthusiastic audience while making his second address to AEN on August 19. Tafel remarked jokingly on how receptivity towards controversial speakers has changed within our group: "the last time I spoke here, [former president] Allen Jones practically had to sneak me in through the back door!"

Michael Brown, AEN secretary and president of Log Cabin Republicans of Georgia, introduced Tafel as both a role model and a good friend. Brown described him as "a person of faith engaged in the political community, not a politico using others' faith to curry favor and gain support."

The foundation for Tafel's address was his book, Party Crasher, recently published by Simon and Schuster. Mirroring the organization of the book, he divided his address into the most basic of American freedoms: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Tafel claimed that many of us – after the trials of rejection by family, friends, community and government – are left with a strong "need to be liked." With determination and a bit of ire, Tafel stated: "Politics is not about being liked! I did not go into politics to be liked. We [the gay community] have to become competed for."

Tafel identified himself as a follower of Abraham Lincoln's brand of Republicanism and explained the huge dichotomy between moderate and extreme right-wing Republicans. Tafel's decision to found Log Cabin Republicans was a decision to "stay and fight in the [Republican] party." As a catalyst on progressive issues within the Republican Party, Tafel intends to push the extremists so far away from the party that they marginalize and alienate themselves altogether. And, as he states, "the far right doesn't care about the future of the Republican Party."

Tafel claimed the existence of "a civil war in the Republican Party" between the religious right and the moderate, libertarian, individual rights-seeking Republicans. According to Tafel, the far right benefits our community and moderate Republicans like himself. Extremists like Pat Buchanan and Jerry Falwell are so threatened by the acceptance of all humans within American society that they have become caricatures increasingly ridiculous in their tactics. Between run-ins with Teletubbies and embarrassing hate speech, they have distanced themselves from the mainstream and are contemplating and actually leaving the Republican Party. As evidence of the positive changes occurring within the party, Tafel cited the lack of any antigay rhetoric (even from the worst and most frequent offenders) at the latest Straw Poll Speeches. He then stated emphatically: "Something is changing... we are winning."

Tafel identified his true passion as his faith. Building on his assertion that we should avoid the trap of needing to be liked, Tafel emphasized that all of our needs simply cannot be met in politics. "We as a community must look at our faith... our inner spirituality. In looking at our spirituality, we can be more strategic in asking for our rights."

Tafel expanded his argument, pointing out that we can meet the religious extremists head-on, and even beat them, by defining our movement as a moral one. Instead of demanding the rights that we certainly deserve, he suggests that we, as a community, pose moral arguments based on a sense of justice.

Tafel concludes this argument by stating that "bigoted people have always gone to the Bible to justify their prejudice. They start with a prejudice and find a passage." Summing up his arguments and concluding his powerful address to AEN, Tafel claimed that "intolerance is not moral: honesty is."