No one would ever accuse the Republican party of being a natural fit for LGBTQ candidates. Still, that hasn’t stopped a few hardy (or, if you prefer, delusional) people from running for Congress as out candidates under the GOP banner.
Until this year.
For the first time in since 2012, there isn’t a single out LGBTQ Republican candidate running for the House or Senate. What makes the dearth all the more noteworthy is the record number of LGBTQ candidates running as Democrats: 21 Congressional nominees looking to add to the existing seven LGBTQ members in the House.
There’s a long list of potential explanations for the change. For one, the list of GOP candidates was never that long to begin with: the highest number was three, in 2016. Gay Republicans note that there were out candidates this year, but they didn’t make the cut in the primaries. (There are also LGBTQ GOP candidates running for state legislative offices.)
Still there’s little question that President Trump and his anti-LGBTQ policies hasn’t helped recruitment. Moreover, Trump’s base consists of conservative evangelicals, who want to ensure that Republicans are firmly opposed to anything LGBTQ related, including candidates.
Indeed, from the religious right’s perspective, the lack of LGBTQ Republican candidates is cause for celebration. Gordon Klingenschmitt, a reliably homophobic pastor whose claim to fame is being court-martialed for appearing in his Navy uniform at a protest with Roy Moore, is thrilled.
In a YouTube video, Klingenschmitt, who goes by the nickname Dr. Chaps (because he was a Navy chaplain—really), praises the Trump administration for “cleansing the Republican Party of sin” and conservative Christians voters for “cleansing the Republican Party of such filth.”
Indeed, a GOP free of any LGBTQ people would be just fine. Having lost so many of the culture war battles in the last 20 years, the religious right is now in the ascendancy under Trump. There’s not a lot of room for LGBTQ people in their universe—or party. They’re looking to get even for all the ground they lost.
As the parties sort themselves more rigidly by ideology and identity, eliminating gay candidates in the GOP was probably inevitable. That doesn’t make it a good thing, though.
“Instead of a Rainbow Wave that should be celebrated by all Americans who believe in the wisdom of a truly representative government, we have a historic moment that is almost entirely partisan,” said Annise Parker, head of the Victory Fund, which produced the report revealing the GOP shortfall.