As a lifelong Republican who believes in the key principals of the Republican Party like smaller government, a strong national defense, fiscal responsibility, a balanced budget, tough on crime, an independent judiciary, keeping government out of our lives and personal empowerment I am deeply concerned about the survival of today's Republican Party. One of the major reasons for the GOP's potential demise is that it has been hijacked by dangerous, bigoted and self-serving organizations like the Family Research Council, the National Organization for Marriage and the American Family Association. These are all "hate groups" who seem hell-bent on cleansing the Republican Party of minorities, moderates, women and anyone who supports full equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans.
I had the honor of working for President Reagan for seven years as a senior member of his political team. While a true-blue conservative, Ronald Reagan felt strongly that the Republican Party should be inclusive, not exclusive. He embraced a "Big Tent" belief and practiced it regularly both as governor of California and president. He almost singlehandedly brought back the Republican Party from the ashes after Richard Nixon nearly destroyed it with Watergate and his eventual resignation in 1974.
President Reagan reached out to Democrats, Independents, minorities, labor and women and built a coalition that helped defeat incumbent President Jimmy Carter in 1980 just six years after Nixon resigned. As president, he grew this coalition to help him win his 49 state landslide reelection victory in 1984.
The Republican Party used to be the party of civil rights. The first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, unified a divided nation and ended slavery. One hundred years ago Republican Teddy Roosevelt was the first president to appoint African Americans in his administration, all of whom were fired by his Democratic successor Woodrow Wilson. This is the GOP that we long for, a party that welcomes everyone, grows the economy, balances the budget, leads on civil rights and provides for those who are not able to care for themselves.
In a recently unsealed secret memo from a federal lawsuit, one of these third party hate groups, the newly formed National Organization for Marriage (NOM) talks openly about using its influence in last year's GOP presidential primary to get all the candidates to sign its anti-LGBT "Marriage Pledge." Additionally, its strategy to "go after any pro-gay marriage Republicans in primaries and destroy them" was backed up with a $1 million budget and led by NOM leaders Maggie Gallagher and Brian Brown.
NOM's "Marriage Pledge" was signed by six of the leading Republicans running for president this year Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty and Newt Gingrich. Only Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Herman Cain and I withstood the pressure from NOM and refused to sign its hateful pledge. Congressman Paul was brutally attacked by NOM in paid ads in Iowa and press releases for refusing to cave into its demands.
Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council, the lobbying arm of Focus on the Family, took great pride in the fact the he wrote the anti-women, anti-LGBT and basically anti-everybody section of the Republican Party Platform at this year's GOP Convention in Tampa. His toxic language further served to drive away centrist, fair-minded Republicans and Independents from November's election. Several political experts and pundits blame this year's GOP platform for Romney's lopsided loss to President Obama.
Bryan Fischer of the Tupelo, Mississippi-based American Family Association (AFA) spews hate daily on his radio show. He is very influential with Republican Party leadership and many members of Congress because of his 190 radio station network and all the money the AFA gives to candidates and causes. He bullied Mitt Romney to fire openly gay foreign policy spokesman Ric Grenell and gloated when Grenell resigned. Fischer said that "Mitt Romney will never hire any more homosexuals again."
Mainstream and inclusive Republican Party leaders across this country should take back the GOP and repudiate these third party organizations. Tell Tony Perkins, Maggie Gallagher, Brian Brown and Bryan Fischer to take a hike. Let's reshape the Republican Party in the image of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. Let's roll out the red carpet and let young people, women, minorities and everyone know that we are the party that will grow this economy, help them become prosperous, support immigration reform, guarantee their freedoms, protect them from foreign enemies, support full equality for LGBT Americans and stay out of our lives.
With these positions and strong independent leadership that distances itself from these outside hate groups, Tony Perkins, Maggie Gallagher, Brian Brown and Bryan Fischer may well go the way of the dinosaur to extinction instead of the Republican Party.