Scott Lively has built his reputation on being a homophobe. He began his career promoting anti-gay ballot measures in Oregon in the early 1990s, and then took to exporting his anti-LGBTQ message to Russia and, most notoriously, Uganda, where he influenced legislation that would have made homosexuality a capital offense.
As a sideline, Lively keeps running for office in Massachusetts. His latest bid, to win the Republican nomination for governor, unsurprisingly failed yesterday. Lively was up against popular incumbent Charlie Baker, and as a fringe candidate Lively had virtually no campaign funds.
What is surprising is that what should have been a blow out for Baker wasn’t quite the trouncing it should have been. Instead of scoring in the low single digits, Lively won more than a third of the vote.
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That Lively was on the ballot at all testifies to the resurgence of the culture wars as a catalyst in GOP politics. At the state party convention in April, more than a quarter of the delegates voted for Lively, in an implicit rebuke of moderate Baker.
However, it says a lot about the state of the Republican party that a third of Republican voters in Massachusetts, which has a long tradition of backing more moderate (and dare we say, even liberal) candidates, would opt for a man a federal judge says peddles “crackpot bigotry.”
Lively owes a lot of his vote to the GOP’s embrace of Trump and disdain for moderation.
“Unfortunately some of the activists in the party see [Baker] compromising and don’t like it,” Beth Lindstrom, who was an aide to Mitt Romney when he was governor, said just prior to the election. “You can still have your conservative principles, but you have to represent everyone.”
Geoff Diehl, who won the Republican nomination to run for Senate against Elizabeth Warren, was able to succeed where Lively failed. He tied himself to Trump in the campaign and beat two other, more moderate Republicans.
“The grassroots activists are now the people with power in the Republican Party,” Diehl told the Boston Herald before the election. “You don’t seem to need the approval of the upper echelon anymore.”
That’s good news for the likes of Lively. It’s bad news for everyone else. We now know that a third of Republican voters in Massachusetts would elect a man who believes homosexuality is “worse than genocide.”
Welcome to the party of Donald Trump.