Democrats need to up their game. There’s a new guy in town. And he’s a Republican. And he’s not your daddy’s gay Republican (the kind who proudly helped his boss bash the community). But a gay Republican who actually pulls his weight and helps our community get its number one goal, marriage.
Granted, all but one Democrat voted for marriage in NY. So Democrats were better on the issue than Republicans. But it feels like we’re seeing more improvement, more advancement, on the GOP side of the aisle than we’re seeing on the Democratic side of the aisle, in terms of acceptance of us and our issues. Dems are still ahead in raw numbers, but the GOP is ahead in changing attitudes — the Democrats attitudes sometimes feel like they’ve frozen in 1993 (though Cuomo, a Dem, was clearly the hero of the day, so it’s still a mixed bag).
Still, I think the days of the gay community being massively in the Democrats’ pocket may be over. The GOP, for the first time in my memory, is actually coming through for the community. And while Dems are still better overall than Republicans overall, the kind of thing Mehlman and company pulled in NY could provide enough emotional cover for increasing numbers of gays to at least consider voting for someone without a D after his name. I think we’re seeing an epic change here. Will the Dems see it coming?
Increasingly, however, the defining feature of the gay rights activist community is its bipartisan nature. Some of the biggest donors in the Republican Party were bankrollers of the gay marriage push in New York and, presumably, would write checks for candidates elsewhere who back their worldview.
As The New York Times reported, several weeks before the crucial vote, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s most trusted advisers met with “a group of super-rich Republican donors,” successfully convincing them to “win over the deciding Senate Republicans.” Attendees included Paul Singer, whose son is gay, and hedge fund managers Cliff Asness and Dan Loeb. According to interviews with nearly a dozen activists and operatives involved in the New York same sex marriage push, that anecdote was — as one source put it — just one of many critical stepping stones on the path towards the bill’s passage. Steven Cohen a hedge fund manager and the founder of SAC Capital, also was persuaded to lend his clout to the campaign.
Last year, the American Foundation for Equal Rights held a major event featuring Singer, Mehlman, and Peter Thiel, the gay billionaire who was an original investor in both PayPal and Facebook. It also included a host of famous politicos, like former Gov. William Weld, Environmental Protection Agency head Christie Todd Whitman and Republican operatives Nicole Wallace and Alex Castellanos. The event provided an early illustration of the type of donor base that was available for the right-minded candidate.