Revolt Against the Rainbow RINOs

There is a widening gap on LGBT issues between the right-wing grass roots in the states and the national Republican Party establishment.

In just the first few months of 2022, state lawmakers proposed a record 238 bills designed to curtail the proliferation and effects of LGBT ideology. That is nearly a sixfold increase from 41 such bills proposed in all of 2018, according to an NBC News analysis of data from the American Civil Liberties Union and the LGBT advocacy group Freedom for All Americans. Most of these measures aim to reform school curricula, enshrine religious freedom, and staunch the spread of transgenderism.

This activity at the state level shows the existence of a thriving popular movement pushing back against LGBT activism. But what seems to be a paradox comes into view: this struggle would not have been necessary if the national GOP establishment were not complicit in promoting the LGBT movement, giving up ground that the grass roots is now fighting to recover.

The national GOP has long been able to browbeat its socially conservative constituency into conformity with the spirit of the times, which haunts the corridors of D.C. more than the town halls of Middle America. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a high-ranking state-level member of the Republican National Committee (RNC) told Chronicles that the order to push the LGBT agenda came from national leadership, in defiance of grassroots opinion. “All of it was done unilaterally” the committee member said. “I got hundreds if not thousands of emails, as did other members from people all over the country, saying, ‘has the RNC decided to abandon our marriage platform?’”

Indeed, a recent dispute between Texas Republican Party Chairman Matt Rinaldi and the Log Cabin Republicans (LCR) revealed not only disagreement with but outright hostility toward state Republicans from the national apparatus. This time, however, Rinaldi emerged victorious, indicating that the age of acquiescence ushered in by the establishment is nearing an end.

The dustup began during the state party’s biennial convention in Houston. There Lone Star Republicans embraced a new platform that sent shivers down the spines of media scribes. The platform declared that homosexuality is “an abnormal lifestyle choice” and that no one “should be granted special legal status based on their LGBTQ+ identification.” The convention also denied a booth to the Log Cabin Republicans, as it has done for at least two decades.

A swift and ferocious torrent of outrage befell Rinaldi. Texas, the Associated Press shuddered, had “broken new ground in its push to the far right.” Charles Moran, president of the national Log Cabin Republicans organization, said in a press release,

It’s clear that inclusion wins, which makes the Texas Republican Party leadership’s decision to exclude the Texas Log Cabin Republicans from their convention not just narrow-minded, but politically short-sighted. President Trump, who historically expanded the GOP’s coalition, made clear that LGBT conservatives are welcome in the America First movement and the Republican Party. It’s shameful that the Texas GOP leadership is choosing to not follow his lead. The only way we will regain control of Congress is to expand the tent.

Of course, for Moran and other Republican LGBT advocates, the price of “inclusion” is to push out every last dissenter from the party. Moran is right about one thing, though: the convergence of the national GOP and Mar-a-Lago on this issue.

Ric Grenell, a key fixture among the GOP establishment and the Log Cabin Republicans, tweeted, “Texas politicians must stand up to the intolerant leadership of the Texas State Republican Party.” Grenell, who was the first openly gay presidential cabinet member as Trump’s acting director of national intelligence, declared that “Silence is weakness”—a slogan not so different from the “Silence is Violence” cry that Black Lives Matter agitators chant while intimidating pedestrians—and added that Donald and Melania Trump “welcome gays and lesbians to the Republican party.” Indeed, in statements to Breitbart News, Donald Trump Jr. complained that Texans were “canceling” the Log Cabin Republicans, while Arthur Schwartz, a longtime New York consultant and friend of Trump, mocked Rinaldi for “alienating Republican voters.”

Despite withering criticism, Rinaldi emerged not only unscathed but seemingly more popular with his supporters, who had unanimously reelected him just days before the row began. Moreover, the platform denounced by Moran, Grenell, and others had received full support from more than 5,000 delegates across Texas. Among the top eight issues they prioritized at the convention were parental rights, protecting children from sexualization, and banning gender modification—all things running counter to the LGBT zeitgeist embraced by the national GOP and propelling the grassroots counterrevolution. Further, Rinaldi noted that the plank on homosexuality received over 90 percent of the vote in support. In effect, the mostly out-of-state critics were not condemning merely Rinaldi but Texas grassroots voters as well.

In an interview with Chronicles, Rinaldi explained why these establishment GOP attacks missed the mark. Grenell, he said, “is from California and D.C.—he doesn’t understand Texas politics at all.” He’s not the only one. The Texas GOP’s former pro-Log Cabin vice-chairwoman, Cat Parks—a proponent of “big tent” politics that only seem to trend leftward—became unelectable because of her position on this issue, according to Rinaldi.

“The delegates were overwhelmingly in favor of winning the culture war, and that included not recognizing groups based on sexual identity politics,” Rinaldi said. However, he said that no individuals were excluded, including the former president of the Log Cabin Republicans, who had a booth with a different group that had nothing to do with sexual-identity politics.

Rinaldi also had allies among local Log Cabin Republicans. In a June resignation letter, Michael Cargill, acting chair of the Texas Log Cabin chapter criticized, without naming, “DC and California LCR members inexplicably interceding in Texas affairs.” He denounced the Log Cabin Republicans for their “divisiveness, lack of respect for the chain of command and due process” and “bully tactics.” Cargill, in other words, recognized that the winds are with Rinaldi and the grass roots.

This is not the first time there has been division between the Log Cabin’s national and Texas branches. According to Rinaldi, the national Log Cabin machine “railroaded” Marco Antonio Roberts out of his seat as chairman of the Log Cabin Republicans of Texas because he was “too moderate” on transgender issues. Roberts hinted at the schism in an interview with Dallas Voice in May. He said it would not be “appropriate for me to say too much about the internal matters of LCR” but confessed that

over the last year it became clear to me that national and I were not on the same page, not so much about policy, although I would say I probably have some new concerns about that, but more about matters of governance and how policies are arrived at that claim to represent LGBT and allied conservatives and across the country.

This brawl has been a long time brewing. Rinaldi recalled a key moment last year when, from Mar-a-Lago in Florida, the Republican National Committee announced its first-ever RNC Pride Coalition, which entailed a more intimate partnership with the Log Cabin Republicans. Grenell, who was present, reflected on the occasion as yet another victory over the GOP’s regressive tendencies.

“In 1992, I was working on the Bush-Quayle re-election campaign on national staff, and I sat and listened to Pat Buchanan speak at the Houston Republican Convention,” Grenell told Fox News. “He outlined a strategy where gay people were not welcomed in the Republican Party.”
Those comments may strike some Trump backers as odd, alarming even, because many perceived Trump’s victory in 2016 as a vindication—not a condemnation—of Buchanan’s “America First” policies. The Trump version of Buchananism, however, largely abandoned social conservatism.

Rinaldi and his supporters in Texas see the national Log Cabin Republicans as striving “to normalize what’s happening nationally and in corporate America and in every other institution—to normalize it in the Republican Party” at the expense of traditional values. The GOP State Republican Executive Committee, which is comprised of representatives from each of Texas’s senatorial districts, voted to condemn the RNC Pride Coalition. Rinaldi said he received an unprecedented deluge of emails that were overwhelmingly in support of the condemnation, and his personal support was so high afterward that he ran unopposed for reelection as the state chairman.

It went virtually unnoticed that a series of other grassroots rebellions erupted over the RNC Pride Coalition announcement. John Bennett, the head of the Oklahoma Republican Party, called on RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel to resign over the matter. “The OKGOP will not cooperate with this decision and, as your Chairman, I assure the Oklahoma Republican Party that I will continue to stand up for our Republican Party Values and our principles,” Bennett wrote in an email.

McDaniel ended up backtracking later in an email about the scope of the Pride Coalition aims. She apologized to GOP organizers on phone calls, claiming it was all a misunderstanding born of poor planning and execution. But the truth about the Pride Coalition’s motives was quite clear at the Mar-a-Lago gala, which was characterized by a sense of triumph over the socially conservative Republican base. They did not expect that plebeians would revolt.

For decades the leaders of the Republican Party have contented themselves with paying lip service to traditional values as a mere fundraising strategy. That, it seems, will no longer do—nor will the peasants lay down their pitchforks to preserve the integrity of a conspicuously liberal big tent they never asked for or agreed to. If the GOP is to be more than a “moderate” version of the Democratic Party, it’s going to have to ride the tiger of social conservatism.

Image: Texas GOP Chairman Matt Rinaldi, speaking in a video of the June 2022 State Convention. (Texas GOP / effect filter by Canva)

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