The deathbed of the Grand Old Party

Republicans’ shunning of ENDA equally shuns its voters

On my 18th birthday, I registered to vote as a Republican. As a proud Massachusetts native, however, I naturally disagree with the party line on certain issues. Opposition to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is one of them.

ENDA is a proposed bill which has recently passed cloture in the Senate, with five Republicans crossing party lines to join the 55 Democrat senators in favor. It seeks to expand the protections afforded to suspect classes in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Although the popular objection to the act hinges on the claim that it forces folks to act contrary to their religious persuasions in offering protections for “deviants,” the bill actually includes an exemption for religious organizations more permissive than Title VII itself; while churches can currently employ preferentially on the basis of religion alone, under ENDA, they can perform wholesale discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people. This cop-out might leave a bad taste in my mouth, but I recognize it pragmatically as necessary for the bipartisan support necessary to pass the bill in the House. This exemption isn’t enough for the mainstream Republican Party; the vitriol spewed forth paints an image of frivolous lawsuits, and teachers wearing drag. Truthfully, I can’t say I’m surprised. The impending legislative slaughter of ENDA by John Boehner is the latest incident in an apparent fervent desire to kill the party from within.

The Republican Party has a PR crisis. Increasingly, the party has demonstrated only legislative intransigence and divisiveness. Pundits are perfectly content to ascribe it wholly to biased reporting, but the problem lies instead in the vector of unapologetic bigotry along which the party is following. The great conservative statesman Barry Goldwater issued a solemn warning in 1994:

“Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.”

The mainstream Republican Party has demonstrated a contentedness to pander to a fundamentalist, conservative fringe in the party, at the expense of alienating all other demographics. Although “apologist” conservative organizations including GOProud and the Log Cabin Republicans have attempted to repair some of the damage wrought unto LGBTQ voters, and neo-con icons including John Bolton and Dick Cheney have shown an apparent willingness to listen to the winds of change, the party proper has continued along in a reactionary manner. This trend expands beyond the party’s mistreatment of the LGBTQ community, as Republicans refuse to budge on issues of women’s health and immigration reform. For most young people, the thought of voting Republican is thus unconscionable. The party’s frankly backward social views are simply too extreme, regardless of fiscal policy persuasion.

I vote Republican because I am fortunately located in a state in which I can largely ignore the social issues side of the party’s platform; I can rationalize my choice along purely fiscal lines. If the Republican Party continues to show a willingness to be associated with an antiquated way of thinking, however, I will have to disaffiliate, and I won’t be the only one. If the Republican Party continues apace in its current direction in appealing only to a shrinking socially conservative minority, its downward slide in popular opinion can only worsen. If the Republican Party continues to stick its collective head in the sand, there very well may be a day in the near future in which the Grand Old Party is no more.

David Bocek over 4 years ago

Well said! As a child of gay parents, I just could never vote for a republican candidate, no matter how they may stand fiscally. With minority voter suppression and women's rights oppression rampant, I can never see a way in which I could support such a backwards party.

Matthew over 4 years ago

I was going to let this opinion go until I saw the words, "these Christians." There are billions of Christians around the world and we are not going away. You have a sad misunderstanding of what is going on with respect to Christians.

The vast majority of people in the US do not like either party and consider them to be professional lawmakers with no sense of the voters at all, regardless of party. ENDA is another unnecessary law. One's orientation should not even be asked about, along with numerous other things which are private. Respect, virtue and pointing of the moral compass are primary in a civil society. Both parties are losing their base.

Aaron Hammond over 4 years ago


"There are billions of Christians around the world and we are not going away. You have a sad misunderstanding of what is going on with respect to Christians."

I was Catholic educated and met a lot of perfectly decent folks who were religious but willing to listen and compromise. Barry Goldwater in the quotation is specifically referencing those who are sufficiently (and almost Calvinistically, I might add) assured in their own piety as to refuse to compromise or engage in the sort of discourse necessary for democracy.

"One's orientation should not even be asked about, along with numerous other things which are private."

-- which is precisely why ENDA is necessary. As it stands now, nothing stops an employer in 29 states from demanding to know an employee's sexual orientation and firing her based on her answer. In a "civil society," ENDA (and the rest of Title VII) wouldn't be necessary. Unfortunately, there are a lot of jerks in the world.

Matthew over 4 years ago

What 29 states are you talking about?

Yes there are jerks in the world, including those who refuse to stop flaunting themselves in ways that they should not.

Matthew over 4 years ago

My apologies, several last thoughts and then I have to move on.

The Americans for Disabilities Act and the Age Discrimination Act did not have the results that were intended. There is an exceptionally long list of groups wishing to be protected with special laws already covered Federally under the 14th Amendment, and then also with local business policy or local or state government policies. The workplace has become more and more legalized to the point where they now have to keep track of things about people that are simply unreasonable, and have nothing to do with actual job performance. If someone loses a job because they do not perform it well, or are not suited for the job, then they automatically think they have been discriminated against, which is not necessarily true. I think it is over-reaching Federal policy, but this is not the first law I think this about. Thanks so much.

Anonymous over 4 years ago

Matthew, perhaps you should take a closer read, since you seem to have seen only the words, "these Christians."

The author is quoting Barry Goldwater in that passage.

Christy over 4 years ago

The union between the "church" and the republican party is not only killing the party, but it is also killing the church. It is an unholy union and it is doing neither any good. The kingdom of God is not of this world....

Elizabeth over 4 years ago

Citizens have a right to their votes and opinions. I do not

think there is a true union. (Christy I do not know what you mean by an

unholy union, and I do not know which church you are talking about.)

Many church going voters would never endorse the candidates the RP has endorsed.

Elections are being purchased. In my state low turnouts were due to distaste of

the horribly skewed media campaigns that had no bearing on any true opinion of

either candidate. The courts are making decisions against the expressed

will of the people and without true consideration of the Constitution in many cases.

The education system is getting worse

(parts of the Common Core are incorrect, for example.) People are getting

quite fussy on a number of matters, and ENDA could impact the people's privacy

and this opinion has to be respected. It is also yet ANOTHER federal law that the

states have every right to handle.

On a theological basis, I would argue the point that

the Kingdom of God is not of this world, but that is another matter.

Barry Goldwater...have not thought about him in a long time. We could quote a

great deal from him, but the quotes have to be taken in context of the time he lived.

Anonymous over 4 years ago

There are single issue voters in all parties.

One way ENDA would be a problem is if child protection measures would be compromised, such as those in place in Catholic dioceses across the country. Anyone working with minors has undergone extensive training wrt safe environments and as such, there would be issues with a church employee, a male for example who was transgendered, using the girl's facilities owned by a diocese without another adult being present to supervise. They have many rules already, and when you have a family responsibilities change, and parents think first about their children. This is a main reason why the House would be getting calls not to pass the bill. It does not really depend on being Christian.

Anonymous over 4 years ago

There will always be religion in politics.

None of us can say, I have nothing to do with this, they govern. No, no, I am responsible for their governance, and I have to do the best so that they govern well, and I have to do my best by participating in politics according to my ability, - Pope Francis

"Denying the right to profess ones religion in public and the right to bring the truths of faith to bear upon public life has negative consequences for true development. The exclusion of religion from the public square and, at the other extreme, religious fundamentalism hinders an encounter between persons and their collaboration for the progress of humanity. Public life is sapped of its motivation and politics takes on a domineering and aggressive character. Human rights risk being ignored either because they are robbed of their transcendent foundation or because personal freedom is not acknowledged. Secularism and fundamentalism exclude the possibility of fruitful dialogue and effective cooperation between reason and religious faith. Reason always stands in need of being purified by faith: this also holds true for political reason, which must not consider itself omnipotent. For its part, religion always needs to be purified by reason in order to show its authentically human face." Pope Benedict XVI