Fred Karger Interviewed on Future of GOP in Washington Times

Here are Part I and Part II of an extensive interview I had with Joseph Cotto, of the Washington Times, on the future of the Republican Party.  I thought that you might enjoy it:
 
Part I CLICK HERE



Fred Karger on how he is building an LGBT-friendly Republican Party
 
Photo: Used with permission of Fred Karger Photo: Adam Bouska
Thursday, April 4, 2013 - The Conscience of a Realist by Joseph Cotto

Joseph Cotto


FLORIDA, April 4, 2012 — The Republican Party is in transition.

On one side, social conservatives are clamoring to maintain power amid a cultural climate which increasingly counters their views. On another side, libertarians are making strides in blending social liberalism with virtually unregulated free market capitalism. On yet another side, traditionalists are seeking a return to what might be described as the Eisenhower Era; utilizing various philosophies to achieve this end.

Finally, moderates, who have largely been maligned since the passing of Nelson Rockefeller, sense that there might be a place for them amid the shuffle.

Perhaps Fred Karger fits best into this group. A career political operative, he rose to prominence by consulting on the campaigns of notables such as Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bob Dole. His most famous cause, though, is not for a single politician, but an extremely divisive issue: same-sex marriage.

Karger brought much attention to the matter when he ran for the GOP’s presidential nomination during last year’s primaries. In doing so, he became the first openly gay candidate for the presidency. These days, he furthers the interest of not only LGBT rights but also of reasonable Republican politics as a commentator.

In this first part of our discussion, Karger tells us about advocating for LGBT rights within the GOP, if he thinks many of the Party’s anti-LGBT stances will fade away with increasing electoral support for same-sex marriage, how the Religious Right has changed the GOP, whether or not he believes that Ron Paul libertarianism is a positive influence on the Party, and what he expects the future to hold for LGBT Republicans.

Joseph F. Cotto: When one considers the Republican Party, LGBT politics are not something which typically come to mind. Is advocating for LGBT rights within the GOP really as quixotic as it sounds?

Fred Karger: The GOP is slowly coming around. Not all that long ago the Republican Party used to be the leader in civil rights. Now more and more Republican elected officials and leaders are coming out for LGBT equal rights. With 81% of 18 to 29 year olds supporting marriage equality, it’s just a matter of time.

Cotto: With increasing electoral support for same-sex marriage, do you believe that many of the GOP’s anti-LGBT stances will fade away?

Karger: We are coming off electoral victories for marriage equality in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington just last November. The Oregon Republican Party stripped anti-gay language from its 2012 party platform in a shift toward the political center. Illinois’ GOP Chairman Pat Brady recently came out for marriage equality. Illinois will soon have a legislative vote on the issue.  I live for the day when the Republican National Committee helps lead the way toward equality for all Americans just as our first Republican president did 150 years ago.

Cotto: One of the Republican Party’s key voting blocs is the Religious Right, which consists of fundamentalist Christians. Needless to say, these voters do not tend to support LGBT politics. Has this proven to be a problem for LGBT Republicans?

Karger: The Religious Right wants to cleanse the GOP of people who do not agree with them 100% of the time. I learned from Ronald Reagan that we need a big tent Republican Party, reflecting a wide variety of views, while still maintaining core Republican beliefs. The problem that the Party is now facing is that so many reasonable, mainstream Republicans have left the Party that the primaries are now dominated by the far right.

Cotto: Across the political spectrum as of late, libertarianism has become very popular. Specifically in the Republican Party, followers of Ron Paul are storming the establishment’s gates, so to speak. Do you believe that this is a positive development?

Karger: The libertarian movement within the Republican Party is making great headway thanks primarily to Ron Paul. He has had a clear and strong message of less government, and by so effectively communicating that message, has brought in a tremendous number of young people to the GOP.

Cotto: During the years ahead, as the LGBT community’s political lobby grows stronger, the GOP will undoubtedly need its support, both electorally and financially. What do you think the future holds for LGBT Republicans?

Karger: There is a huge opportunity for the LGBT community within the Republican Party right now. I get asked all the time why I don’t switch and become a Democrat. Well, the Democratic Party is in fine shape on LGBT issues. 48 Democrat U.S. Senators are supporting marriage equality. Only two Republicans support it at the moment. Change will only happen on LGBT issues in the GOP from within, which is why I am sticking around.



Part II CLICK HERE


Fred Karger: 'The GOP should welcome all LGBT Americans'
 

Photo: LGBT rainbow flag, Friday, April 5, 2013 - by Joseph Cotto

FLORIDA, April 5, 2012 — The LGBT community is gaining unprecedented influence in American politics. How might the Republican Party become more inclusive toward it?

Many believe that if the GOP becomes more socially tolerant, it could lose some elections as fundamentalist Christian voters might stay home. However, tolerance does seem necessary if the support of younger voters is sought. What can be said about this seeming conundrum?

In this second part of our discussion, Fred Karger shares his views. A career political operative, he rose to prominence by consulting the campaigns of notables such as Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bob Dole. His most famous cause, though, is not for a single politician but for an extremely divisive issue, same-sex marriage.

Karger brought much attention to the matter when he ran for the GOP’s presidential nomination during last year’s primaries. In doing so, he became the first openly gay candidate for the presidency.

Karger also tells us about whether or not he believes that antiabortion politics will continue to be a prominent feature of GOP social policy, what he learned from his presidential run, and what inspires him to continue on in his career each day.

Joseph F. Cotto: In a summary sense, how might the Republican Party become more inclusive toward the LGBT community?

Fred Karger: The day before I filed my papers at the Federal Election Commission in Washington, DC in April 2011, I met with newly elected RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, Co-Chair Sharon Day and Chief of Staff Jeff Larson in their offices at the RNC. They welcomed me into the race, offered my campaign all the facilities of the RNC, included my campaign staff in all meetings and could not have been more cordial. The RNC had me on its list of 12 recommended candidates to be on state primary ballots, which was the principal reason that I was on so many.  This is the direction that the Republican Party needs to be taking on LGBT rights, and it should welcome all LGBT Americans into the GOP not just with words, but with actions.

Cotto: From your perspective, will antiabortion politics continue to be a prominent feature of GOP social policy?

Karger: Sadly, the politics of abortion will be around forever in this country. We need to respect each other’s positions on this highly emotional issue. President Reagan was a shining example of this. While he adamantly opposed abortion, he worked with both sides of the issue, while continuing to speak out loudly on his beliefs.

Cotto: Many believe that if the Republican Party becomes more socially tolerant, it could lose some elections as fundamentalist Christian voters might stay home. However, tolerance does seem necessary if the support of younger voters is wanted. What do you think about this seeming problem?

Karger: Republican leaders got a loud wakeup call last November 6th with the trouncing that Mitt Romney took against a weakened President Obama. Change is happening albeit all too slowly for many of us. Party leaders and elected officials will have to alter their ways. We cannot afford to drive away an entire generation of younger voters if we expect to survive as a political party.

Cotto: Last year, you ran for the GOP presidential nomination. Campaigning for national office is an undertaking so massive that few of us can fully comprehend it. What did you learn from your candidacy?

Karger: I was treated amazingly well for a first-time candidate. I learned how to run a national campaign on a very limited budget by concentrating my efforts in the first two early states of Iowa and New Hampshire. We did all the things that the big campaigns did only on a much more limited basis. From the very beginning, I needed to appear as a serious candidate, so it was imperative that everything that we did and said was well thought out and looked like a presidential candidate and campaign should look. The internet and social media afforded us the opportunity to communicate cost effectively and instantly.

I was very fortunate as the first openly gay candidate of either major political party to receive a tremendous amount of news coverage worldwide because of the historic nature of my candidacy. I also learned that the first time may not always be the path to the nomination.

Cotto: Now that our discussion is at its end, many readers are probably wondering how you came to be a noted political operative and voice for LGBT rights. What inspires you to continue on in your work each day?

Karger: I will forever remember the 16 year old girl who came up to me in a parade in Manchester, New Hampshire three days before last year’s primary. She said she was a lesbian who had struggled with that for years. She had driven many miles to meet me, shake my hand and thank me for running for president. She said that had made her life so much better. It gave her hope that she could do whatever she wanted to do in her life. I don’t even know her name, but she represented so many young people who sent emails, facebook messages, tweeted, and reached out to me with a similar message.  That’s what got me up each and every morning for the 2½ years that I campaigned for president and continues to motivate all my LGBT activism. I want kids growing up today to have a far easier time of it than so many of us did before them.



All the best,