...Or what Republicans can learn from the gay community.
*A quick note before we start: this post is really for any Republicans who, like me, live in an area dominated by Democrats. Now, on to the show.
Republicans have a serious image problem. And while it's true that much of the blame for that can be laid at the feet of our opposition, a large part of the fault is still ours. We complain about unfair representations in the media and pop culture, sure. But the primary objective of those complaints seems to be to get those two entities to give us a better shake. That's not a bad goal, but in a culture where the press is fully willing to throw away its credibility with 1/2 of the population in order to elect a political official, is it a realistic goal? The same can be said for Hollywood and their steady stream of films which alienate that same half of their potential audience; getting them to give Republicans/conservatives a better shake isn't a bad goal, but is it honestly realistic?
Granted, things like Big Hollywood, Pajamas Media, and PJTV are good ways to hit back by creating the content we feel is lacking, but let's face it- not all of us have the sort of talents that would enable us to really make a splash in that arena. (I certainly understand that this blog's primary contribution is simply being a place for me to clear my head so that I don't turn every social interaction I have throughout the day into a political debate/discussion. If it happens to entertain the few people who drop by every now and then or- against all conceivable odds- inform, then I'm thrilled beyond words, but I know where I stand in the internet hierarchy.) All of that is perfectly alright because fixing the popular image of Republicans is going to take more than carving out a Republican friendly niche in the press and pop culture. It's going to take visibility.
I'm not talking about the visibility of politicians, talking heads, or party organizations. I'm not talking about parades or week long parties either- that's not what I meant, by learning visibility from the gay community. I'm talking about those of us in the red closet (full time and part time) coming out (or at least a little more out).
You can live in the heart of Berkley, California right next door to the Code Pink HQ, completely surrounded by people who are certain they don't know a single solitary Republican, but they all know Republicans exist. Therefore visibility of the talking head/politician/party organization variety is essentially a moot point. In fact, so far as they know, those three things make up the entirety of their knowledge pool on Republicans. Additionally, being responsible for the redirection of traffic (and the resulting jams) is pretty much guaranteed to make your neighbors want to choke you, not get together for cocktails to see if they've been in error.
Republicans have to come out. The change in the public perception of gay people has less to do with lobbyists and parades than it does with the expanding portion of the population that personally knows at least one gay person. That person could be a friend, family member, co-worker, or just another responsible member of the community. That's who we have to be; we have to become that Republican your liberal mom/friend/co-worker will mention in a positive light the next time their liberal friends equate Republicans to the Antichrist.
Much like with gay people, they're not all going to be success stories. Coming out of the red closet pretty much ensures that you're going to lose at least one contact. Choosing to live outside of the red closet full time could get you completely ostracized. We haven't even talked about the harassment issue. But I'm not saying anything you don't already know. After all, this is exactly why so many of us have chosen to live in the red closet at least part of the time. That's also why not being openly Republican doesn't make a person a coward; you can't fault someone for not wanting their family to stop talking to them or for wanting to keep their job.
We all know the price of being openly Republican in a Democrat dominated area. What's the price of being a closeted Republican? What's the weight of all those little (and not so little) moments when you tuck your head down and keep your mouth shut in order to get along or fit in or just not be harassed? We all know benefits of keeping silent, being invisible. What are the benefits of visibility? What's it like to shed fear and speak boldly in defense of yourself and your beliefs? In the long run, creating an environment where it's not socially acceptable to harass or intimidate Republicans for the crime of disagreeing with liberal ideology is a win for political discourse in this country. That makes it a win for everyone. Well everyone except for those who are only concerned with the gaining and keeping of power, but those people are the true enemies of liberty and to know their names by their disdain for open discourse is a victory for liberty.