Perhaps Paul Babeu, the Arizona sheriff and former Romney campaign manager, should spend more time studying the Republican Party's approach to gay rights. The former U.S. serviceman turned law enforcement officer, who by all accounts has lived an exemplary life, has a blaringly obvious blindside.
Babeu is currently embroiled in a scandal involving a Mexican immigrant male with whom he admittedly carried on a secret three-year relationship. At present, the details remain unclear, but the story seems to embody the classic characteristics of a love affair gone wrong: hard feelings became harsh accusations. Following the demise of their relationship, "Jose," the man identified as Babeu's ex-lover, has accused the sheriff of threatening him with deportation as a tactic to secure his silence.
Babeu, who is currently running for Congress on the GOP ticket, achieved national notoriety as a new, youthful face of Tea Party conservatism when, in 2010, he appeared in a reelection campaign advert for Senator John McCain. The now-infamous commercial focused on border control and featured Babeu alongside McCain urging President Barack Obama to "complete the danged fence." Babeu, who rode the post-2008 Tea Party wave into office, joined Governor Jan Brewer and the state's Republican-majority legislature in pushing for a strict anti-immigrant (read: "anti-Hispanic") platform, causing Arizona to become the stage for a trifecta of xenophobia, GOP politics, and anti-Obama sentiment. The relatively unassuming patriot, who previously served in Iraq as a member of the Army National Guard, bought into a reenergized Republican platform of national security, traditional values, and "taking back the country." In the face of growing concern over violence among Mexican drug cartels, and a flailing U.S. economy still struggling to provide jobs for American workers -- let alone illegal immigrants -- the GOP's aggressive message resonated.
But Babeu had a secret, and one he seems to have been all too happy to keep until forced to admit. Publicly, Babeu supported conservative, Republican dogma, which is all too often anti-gay-rights in general and anti-gay-marriage in particular. Privately, he has been perusing gay dating websites and engaged in romantic relationships with other men. This wouldn't be newsworthy except for its inherent hypocrisy and political significance amidst a Republican presidential primary race defined by culture wars. Abortion, women's contraceptive rights, and gay marriage have each become fodder for Republican debates and policy proposals, all in the name of Christian ideals and American exceptionalism.
In a recent interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Paul Babeu naively suggested that the Republican candidates would agree with him that his personal life should not be infringed upon by the government. This is where the wave of cognitive dissonance presents an overwhelming tide. Either Babeu has no idea how aggressively far-right the modern Republican Party has become in the Age of Obama, or he has chosen willful ignorance, like too many openly gay Republicans.
Santorum made it clear there should be no public policy effort at the federal or state level to support, protect, or promote the interests of gay Americans. Mitt Romney has articulated his disappointment with President Obama's decision to repeal DADT, the antiquated U.S. military policy that excluded gays from serving openly. Romney went further by attacking Obama's directive to the Justice Department to cease defending DOMA, which allows states to ignore and disregard gay marriages that have been granted in another state or territory. Gingrich is equally static on the issue of gay marriage, despite currently being with his third wife, following two messy extramarital affairs and divorce. Ron Paul, hailed as the ambassador of libertarian idealism and freedom from government control, continues to spout the well-rehearsed line that marriage should be only "between one man and one woman." In what political universe is Paul Babeu living?
If love, family, God, and country are the central tenets of his faith and patriotism, then he appears sorely misguided. Today's GOP is as anti-gay as it is anti-abortion and anti-Obama. Babeu's insistence on supporting a political party forcefully opposed to issues that affect his personal happiness and govern his individual choice either reflects a deep-seated self-hatred and internalized homophobia or mirrors the broader hypocrisy of the modern Republican Party: namely, saying one thing but meaning another, using lies in defiance of facts, and promoting propaganda as a platform for political consciousness.
Babeu's opponent for the Congressional seat, Arizona State Senator Ron Gould, is now poised to gain more support in a relatively conservative district. Babeu, 43, had remained tacit on his public stance for gay rights, but following the revelation of his gay affair, he said, "I can be a supporter and get out and help articulate as we progress as a culture and a society." The logic behind such a statement is clearly flawed, as gay rights activists and organizations continue to work toward equality in civil rights, achieving real success from Washington to Maryland, California to New York. Babeu and his ilk remain trapped in a past that ignores progress, as if American culture and society has not already moved on beyond where the Republican mindset sits stunted. Countless European nations, and even South Africa, the former cradle of apartheid, have embraced gay rights. When will the so-called freedom-loving, compassionate conservatives in America come around to the idea? And why do gay Americans like Paul Babeu cling to GOP ideology and rhetoric that are specifically designed to deny people like him the fullness of an American dream and great American love story?