Social movements rarely if ever can be viewed as monolithic. Members and segments of these movements often have variant views and advocate different, sometimes opposing, strategies to achieve their goals. What, though, are the ramifications for any group when segments not only hold opposing positions on issues, but more fundamentally, when they work toward conflicting goals?
To highlight this point, I offer two organizations, one historical and one current: the Association of German National Jews and the Log Cabin Republicans.
The Association of German National Jews
Founded during the Weimar Republic in 1921 by a politically conservative Jewish man, Max Naumann, the organization lasted into the early years of Nazi Germany. Naumann was closely aligned with the politics of German national conservatism: a nationalist variety of conservatism, which promoted upholding national and cultural identity by emphasizing traditional cultural and so-called “family values” while opposing immigration.
The organization, though never accumulating great numbers of members, was very active and it was supported by some wealthy and established German Jews. Eligible for membership were “Germans of Jewish descent,” who, while openly acknowledging their descent, nevertheless felt so completely rooted in German culture and Wesen [essence, character] that they could not but think and feel as Germans.
The Association’s chief goal was to achieve the total assimilation of Jews into the German national community through the self-extinction of Jewish identity. In other words, to conquer antisemitism, they believed they must relinquish their Jewish identity.
The Association also worked against allowing Eastern European Jews to immigrate to Germany, believing it threatened Jewish integration into German society because these immigrants brought with them “racist” ideas that served the interests of British imperialism. They saw Eastern European Jews as racially and spiritually inferior. Paradoxically, Max Naumann was born into an assimilated Eastern European Jewish immigrant family.
After the rise of Hitler and his Nazi party in German politics, and eventually its takeover of the government, the Association fought against an ongoing Jewish boycott of German products brought about in reaction to increasing harassment and violence directed against Jews.
Hermann Göring — Nazi Reich Marshall and Air Force Commander – summoned prominent Jewish leaders to his office on March 25, 1933, to convince them to help call off the international Jewish boycott of German goods. Naumann attended, along with German-born Zionist and former secretary-general of the World Zionist Organization, Kurt Blumenfeld. He opposed the anti-Nazi boycott claiming, “The boycott harms German Jews first and foremost. The boycott has no favorable results for us.”
Göring made the charge at the gathering that Jews inside Germany were fabricating deceptions and lies about Jews being attacked by Nazi forces. Naumann responded to Göring by showing him a long list of abuses and pulling out a newspaper article depicting Nazis forcing Jews to scrub streets with brushes. Naumann and the other Jewish leaders responded to Göring by telling him there was very little they could do to halt the international protest actions.
In an attempt to convince Jews who were taking part in the boycott, however, the Association issued a manifesto that stated that the Jews were being fairly treated in Germany. Association members opposed the boycott believing it would jeopardize its standing in the country and its goal of total assimilation.
In 1934, the Association released a statement regarding Adolph Hitler’s ascension as German Chancellor, “We have always held the well-being of the German people and the fatherland, to which we feel inextricably linked, above our own well-being. Thus we greeted the results of January 1933, even though it has brought hardship for us personally.”
Some Association members believed that Hitler provoked German antisemitism as a strategy before taking power for the purpose of “stirring up the masses,” but once in office, they hoped he would soften his stance on the Jews. For all of Naumann and the Association of German National Jews’ efforts, Hitler and his Nazi regime never assented to Jewish assimilation. The administration declared the Association illegal and forcefully dissolved it on November 18, 1935.
The Gestapo arrested and detained Max Naumann at the Columbia concentration camp. He was released a few weeks later. Naumann died of cancer in May 1939.
Naumann and his colleagues must have read Adolph Hitler’s only completed book, Mein Kampf. Did they believe that Hitler meant it as a work of fiction or as a mere joke? In the book, in public speeches, and in the official daily Nazi newspaper, Hitler resurrected ancient and longstanding antisemitic tropes for a modern audience.
Members of the Association of German National Jews never fully allowed themselves to accept the truth that the Nazis hated Jews to their core because of Jewish supposed “racial” defectiveness, their “non-Aryanness,” and their supposed desire for national and world domination. This Nazi ideology made it impossible for Jews ever to be considered authentic Germans regardless of whether they relinquished their religious and cultural adherence to Judaism and to the Jewish people.
In the end, though the Association supported some of the initiatives of the Nazi Party (for example, its closed immigration policies), by supporting Hitler’s administration, Association members worked against their own self-interests.
Log Cabin Republicans
Though we cannot equate the U.S. Republican Party point by point with the Nazi Party – although the parallels are fast becoming clearer and more profound since Donald John Trump captured the Party’s heart and soul over the past half decade – another conservative organization, the Log Cabin Republicans, has attempted to couple itself onto the quickly moving right-wing train against its own self-interests. The organization’s name was chosen to evoke and honor Abraham Lincoln’s groundbreaking work on issues of justice, liberty, and equality.
“Log Cabin Republicans is the nation’s original and largest organization [for more than 40 years] representing LGBT conservatives and straight allies who support fairness, freedom, and equality for all Americans,” the group’s mission statement reads. “We are loyal Republicans. We believe in limited government, strong national defense, free markets, low taxes, personal responsibility, and individual liberty. Log Cabin Republicans represent an important part of the American family—taxpaying, hardworking people who proudly believe in this nation’s greatness.”
And what could have been written by Tucker Carlson of Fox News, the group proclaims, “Log Cabin Republicans is taking a stand against the ludicrous cancel culture, social shaming and slander because we have truth on our side.”
Founded in 1977 in California, Log Cabin Republicans was meant initially as an organizing vehicle for conservative LGBT people who opposed the Briggs Initiative, which attempted to ban homosexuals from teaching in public schools. The initiative not only sanctioned the termination of openly gay and lesbian teachers, but also would have authorized the firing of teachers who publicly “supported” or taught about homosexuality in the classroom if passed.
Clear and sharp echoes resound today as Republican-led statutes throughout the nation, led by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the legislature’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” law, terrorize school personnel and students alike in remaining in a dark and dank closet of intimidation and fear. The group has repeatedly defended DeSantis and his nonstop attacks on the LGBTQ community, including his staff’s allegations that gay men are predators and child molesters.
Log Cabin Republican members supposedly work to ensure the election of Republican Party conservatives who support LGBTQ equality, but since endorsing Trump for president, the group has started endorsing candidates who are openly hostile to LGBTQ rights.
In 1992, Log Cabin Republicans held their annual convention in a Houston, Texas suburb to discuss whether the organization would endorse the re-election of President George H. W. Bush. Following a full discussion, they voted not to endorse Bush because he did not denounce homophobic rhetoric spewing from several speakers at the Republican National Convention, and by his silence, he endorsed homophobic language in the Party’s platform that year.
Claiming itself as the law-and-order party of family values, portions of the platform were clearly homophobic: “Unlike the Democrat Party and its candidate,” stated the 1992 Republican platform, “we support the continued exclusion of homosexuals from the military as a matter of good order and discipline…. We oppose any legislation or law which legally recognizes same-sex marriages and allows such couples to adopt children or provide foster care.”
Four years later during the next presidential election cycle, Republican presidential candidate, Bob Dole, returned a $1,000 campaign contribution from the Log Cabin Republicans. Asked by lesbian columnist, Deb Price of the Detroit News, why Dole failed to accept this donation, the Dole campaign dispatched a letter to Price stating that Dole was in “100% disagreement with the agenda of the Log Cabin Republicans.”
LCR endorsed George W. Bush in 2000, but declined to endorse him in 2004 for re-election because of his support for the Federal Marriage Amendment, which, had it passed, would have constitutionally excluded marriage for same-sex couples by defining marriage exclusively as between one man and one woman.
In September 2008, the Log Cabin Republicans voted to endorse the John McCain–Sarah Palin ticket in the 2008 presidential election. LCR President Patrick Sammon said the most important motivation for their support was McCain’s opposition to the proposed constitutional amendment to ban marriage for same-sex couples.
Despite 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s deplorably homophobic position supporting a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages, objections to canceling the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, and his opposition to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, Log Cabin Republicans, nonetheless, endorsed him because of the “gravity of the economic and national security issues currently at stake.”
During the next presidential sweepstakes in 2016, the group’s national board refused to endorse Donald Trump, though as a rebellion, several Log Cabin Republican statewide chapters endorsed him. However, following his election, on November 9, 2016, the national Log Cabin Republicans officially congratulated Trump on his victory. LCR’s national board, nonetheless, endorsed Trump over a year in advance of the 2020 election.
Then on Presidents Day, 2021, LCR released a delusional and factually inaccurate video love letter praising the impeached President for “standing up for our American ideals of family, freedom and liberty.”
The video claimed that “one of the best things that [Donald Trump] did was launch a global campaign to decriminalize homosexuality” while the evidence showed the total opposite.
A speaker on the video described Trump as the “first Republican President in American history to enter office as a supporter of marriage equality,” which stands as a baseless claim. Actually, leading up to the 2016 election, Trump stated he would “strongly consider” appointing justices to the Supreme Court who would overturn marriage equality.
Members of the Log Cabin Republicans never fully allowed themselves to accept the truth that the Republican Party has a longstanding policy of demonizing and scapegoating LGBTQ people for its own political ends by using them as wedge issues to snare potential voters into the Party. In words and actions, the Party has reiterated longstanding homophobic and transphobic tropes depicting LGBTQ people as child predators, “recruiters,” and “groomers,” mentally and emotionally defective, sinful, and controllers of politicians, the media, and culture.
This conservative Republican homophobic and transphobic ideology makes it difficult for LGBTQ people ever to be considered authentic U.S.-Americans regardless of whether they adhere to the Republican right-wing agenda and when they remain in a closet.
Do political objectives take priority over maintaining and strengthening one’s social identities? Does the Log Cabin Republican organization fully understand that the Republican Party has not acted as the Party of Abraham Lincoln for many decades?
How can any organization whose mission includes working for liberty and equality support a major political party that has vigorously and perennially attempted to restrict women’s rights to control their own bodies, voting rights, firearms safety measures, a fair and equitable minimum wage, and equal salaries for equal work among the sexes? How can any organization whose mission includes working for liberty and equality support a major political party that vilifies people of color and has vigorously attempted to restrict their voting rights and immigration into the United States?
Connected to the personal and often vicious attacks on marginalized people, for example, Jews and LGBTQ people, two important questions must be addressed:
- Have some of us taken on the characteristics of our abusers by perpetuating the abuse from our oppressors?
- And what role does internalized oppression play in our beliefs and actions?
People from socially marginalized communities still live in a nation and a world that, in many quarters, teaches that we are “less than,” that we must sacrifice ourselves and our identities to be socially accepted and acceptable, and that we do not have a right to exist. As such, we can find it difficult not to internalize society’s negative teaching about ourselves.
What amount of internalized antisemitism affected members of the Association of German National Jews and internalized homophobia and transphobia affects members of the Log Cabin Republicans ultimately in taking the political positions they have taken?
The very existence of groups like the Association of German National Jews and the Log Cabin Republicans challenges progressive social activists to answer the question: What are the limits of identity-based politics, or more importantly, have we come to the end of identity-based politics?
Metaphorically, oppression operates like a wheel with many spokes. The rim of that wheel is composed of intrinsically connected strands of patriarchy, Christian hegemony, and white supremacy.
If we work to dismantle only one or a few specific spokes – for example, antisemitism, or homophobia, or transphobia — the wheel will continue to roll over people. Until and unless we can join in coalition with other groups and consider the intersectionality of identities, the possibility of achieving a genuine sense of community and a genuine sense of equality will be unattainable.
Sexual and gender identities and expressions alone are not sufficient to connect a community, and by extension, a movement for progressive social change. Let us, therefore, look beyond ourselves and base a community and a movement not on social identities alone, but also on shared ideas, ideals, visions, and values among individuals from disparate social identities, with like minds, political philosophies, and strategies for achieving their objectives.
Conservative Jews for Hitler and LGBTQ people who support the far-right Republican agenda are beyond comprehension. As history has clearly shown, this is a one-way path to self-destruction.