Walking around campus, you may have seen advertisements for “Homocon.” Regardless of what one may initially think, Homocon was an event in which an openly-gay conservative, Jimmy LaSalvia, came to speak to Stony Brook students about how homosexuals, along with homosexuality in general, are becoming more accepted in the Republican Party. He also discussed the role they can play in bringing the Republican Party back to its roots: economic and social conservatism.
The presentation started off with a brief introduction by the College Republicans before Mr. LaSalvia took the stage and described his past, from his life as a military child from Kentucky, to the influence Ronald Reagan had on his political beliefs. However, a majority of the event was dedicated to student questions, questions which really allowed us, as students, to perhaps learn about viewpoints other than our own.
To me, the most interesting thing about LaSalvia’s viewpoint is how he incorporates his homosexuality into the conservative viewpoint. For example, he cited an article which claimed that one third of homosexual individuals voted Republican in the 2010 Congressional elections, when the Tea Party movement started to gain its momentum. To him, this signifies that economic conservatism, along with a limiting of government and the role it plays in people’s lives, is not just restricted to heterosexual people.
While many members of the Tea Party are now associated with what can be known as the “Righteous Right,” or religious fundamentalism taking its place among economic and social conservatism, Mr. LaSalvia argued that it does not necessarily have to be that way. One can, in his view, still be socially conservative but support gay marriage, something he called a “political inevitability.” As a social conservative, LaSalvia is pro-life, against pre-marital sex (a reason, he argued, why gay marriage needs to be passed quickly, followed by applause from the audience) and other traditionally conservative social values.
I think Mr. LaSalvia really struck the heart of the matter when he gave a personal anecdote about how, while working for the Republican National Convention in 1992, he watched as people, including some friends and colleagues, shouting something to the effect of, “Family traditions forever! Gay rights never!” after Pat Robertson’s speech. Now, this coincided with the rise of the so called “Religious Right,” and these were some of his (Pat Robertson’s) political followers, but their sentiments have seemed to develop into what has become a standard tenet of the Republican party: an opposition to homosexual marriage.
Of course, I have already stated how LaSalvia believes how homosexual marriage is a political inevitability, but a key question someone raised was this: with the increasing fracturing of the Republican Party, will Republicans accept homosexual marriage? Or, better yet, will it be something that moderate and conservative Republicans be able to rally behind, so as to form a coalition of sorts in the aftermath of the fracturing? LaSalvia believes they will, if they want to stand a chance in the 2016 Presidential Election, an issue he feels 2012 Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney lost key votes on. However, LaSalvia also believes that the Republican Party will start to be formed and led by those more in the middle, whom he calls the “Normal People,” or, in other words, the quite traditional Republicans.
Now, that whole idea is purely based on the principle that the Republican Party can fracture to the point where it needs to get reorganized. While I am not saying it will happen (people said the same thing about the Democrats after the Carter administration), I feel that there is some chance of it happening, and, if that is the case, then Republicans will need to accept gay marriage, and move on to more pressing concerns, like the economy and national security, a position LaSalvia holds as well.
Regardless, I will say this: if the Republican Party wishes to survive, it will need to accept certain progressive issues as party platforms and not ostracize voters like Jimmy LaSalvia. The Republican Party is going to need people like Jimmy LaSalvia if they want to give the Democrats a good run for their money in the years to come.