British-born-feature-filmmaker Wash Westmoreland has focussed a brilliant documentary lens on that oddest bunch of political colonials ever – gay Republicans. Shown at last month’s Inside Out Lesbian And Gay Film And Video Festival, The Gay Republicans examines two strains within the Log Cabin Republican organization.
One faction, exemplified by Los Angeles lawyer Carol Newman, who badly wants a legal marriage to her partner, seeks to take the party of Abraham Lincoln back from religious crazies. Their opponents were exemplified by fellow Republican Mark Harris – not quite a redneck, more a pink-neck – a faggot who constantly condemns gay people for not toeing the Bush administration line on everything, including same-sex marriage. He even door-to-door brawls with West Hollywood gay men whose votes he is soliciting.
The oddest character is a social-climbing Palm Beach hairdresser, Maurice Bonamigo, who treasures form letters from President George W Bush and Karl Rowe. Bonamigo is unconsciously preoccupied with fitting in with the elderly-to-the-point-of-pickled, ultra-rich society of the Florida enclave. If it means adopting their selfish politics he does.
One scary scene involves a plenary convention of the Texas Republican Party, which is prefaced with a religious revival. Party members throw their arms in the air, invoke Jesus and sing hymns. It is a political party colonized by religious militants. Texas is so overwhelmed by them that we meet a heterosexual couple who joined the Log Cabin Republicans’ Dallas chapter simply because it was the least radical organization in town.
So it was disturbing to last month read in The Globe And Mail that Canadian religious extremists were boasting that they had secured Conservative Party nominations. It showed that the ugly face of the Texas Republican experience could happen in Canada. Even more ominously, the nominations did not take place in Alberta (which The Economist magazine last month described as Canada’s “most Americanized province”) but in British Columbia and Nova Scotia. Is American looniness spreading?
In a sense, yes. The BC and Nova Scotia extremists are adopting the very technique Christian militants used to commandeer the locomotive of the Republican Party. As Carol Newman says in The Gay Republicans, the Christians got on Republican policy committees, steering committees and executive committees. Once ensconced, they jiggered the party to suit their aims and kept out more secular moderates.There are enough rump red Tories to keep alive the dream of a moderate alternative to the Liberals, a kind of Conservative Party that seemed to fall into the tar pit when the Tories went a-courtin’ with the Reformers. The federal Tories have tried to put on a pretty face and last week that face was federal Tory lieutenant, Tony Clement.
I still bitterly blame Clement for his scampering participation in the Mike Harris government. Looking like a splay-fingered hell-toad from Bruegel’s nightmare painting, The Triumph Of Death – No, sorry, that was mean of me; I’ll start again. Looking like a chicken-necked vampire who missed dinner all last week, Clement publicly distanced the party from the Christians. He said that religious militants have to accept the party’s general platform, including respecting women’s right to abortion.
And yet, the Conservative Party, with its turnip-like taproot of Reformers ripening in the cellar, has failed to endorse same-sex marriage. In fact it gave yob MP Vic Toews a mandate to filibuster during same-sex marriage committee hearings last week, in an effort to delay a vote until the autumn.
Despite Clement’s attempt to sell Canadians on the idea that the Tories have left the tooting caboose of Reform radicalism behind, Toews and the Christians are indicated that there’s no end of aping American ways. If the Americans do it, it has to be good, right?
But that’s precisely why the Conservatives (or for that matter the macramé-making New Democrats) will never get elected in their current form. So long as they have Yankified colonials in their ranks who ape the methods of our neighbours, they’re going to cultivate suspicion. Decade after decade, the country has elected fiscal conservatives and social liberals and you’ve got to be one in the same.
Perhaps there was something very positive about the Mulroney era, after all. Yes, there was political sleaze but there was no social radicalism like we see today.
Perhaps it’s time that we stop allowing our body politic to be colonized by barking mad ideas from elsewhere. Theocracies of the kind Westmoreland documented must not happen here.