by Tafel, Richard
Publisher:Simon & Schuster, 1999
Yes, gay Republicans -- not only do they exist, but they are proactive in both party and national politics, and as this book explains, they are intent on changing the status quo.
In Party Crasher: A Gay Republican Challenges Politics as Usual, Richard Tafel, head of the Log Cabin Republicans, issues a challenge to some of America's most sacred political institutions with an insightful analysis of the past, present, and future of gay politics in this country. Using personal anecdotes as well as the stories of other gay and lesbian Republicans, Rich Tafel succeeds in humanizing the struggle he and others have undertaken in their effort to have their party deal fairly with gays and gay issues, as well as their campaign to make gays aware of the benefits that can accrue from having political alliances with others besides traditional left-leaning Democrats.
At first glance, this gay Republican's story may seem a quixotic quest, but by book's end the reader is reminded of the power an individual can wield. In a political system in which apathy and cynicism reign, Tafel's maverick style is refreshing; in a culture filled with people in need of being liked, Tafel offers the alternative belief that being respected is more important than being liked. And through his stories it becomes clear that even his most ardent opponents on the left and on the right have to harbor a grudging respect for the integrity and depth of his beliefs.
The book is laid out in three sections: "Life," "Liberty," and "The Pursuit of Happiness." In the part entitled "Life," Tafel shows that gay political ideologies are a product of the rejection gays experience. The next section, "Liberty," shows how those ideologies play themselves out in the course of day-to-day American politics, and Tafel warns of the dangers gays face in being taken for granted by the Democratic Party while being written off by the Republicans. In the course of this discussion, he chronicles the process by which the Democratic Party became the overwhelming party of choice for gays, and he challenges the treatment of gays by the Democrats as a triumph of empathy over substance, while at the same time blasting the Republicans for pandering to the zealots of the far right.
In "The Pursuit of Happiness," Tafel argues that political strategies alone aren't enough to advance the cause of gay rights -- spiritual values and morals, he says, must be at the heart of the gay strategy. Here he challenges both those within the gay community who reject moral language and spirituality and those in organized religion -- particularly those in his own Christian faith -- who view sexuality simply as a matter of choice, and a choice to be condemned if it is not the straight and narrow.
By the book's conclusion, Rich Tafel has crashed any number of parties: the Republican establishment, the Democratic establishment, the gay establishment, and the religious establishment. What is unique in his criticism of his community, his church, and his political party is the underlying desire he has for all parties to live up to the "better angels."
More than a book about gay politics or Republican politics, Party Crasher is a reminder that a few committed people, basing their actions in integrity, can still make a difference in the jaded world that American politics has become. Certainly that is a message that Americans need to hear.
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