That’s what a Republican state lawmaker told me recently.
They were referring, of course, to the controversy over bigoted, anti-LGBT language in the NDGOP’s state platform.
The language has been there, in one form or another, since 2016. The party’s executive committee has disavowed the language after it made headlines this month. However, a faction of the party is still standing behind it, and Republican officials generally have gone silent as to how the language came to be in the first place.
They’ve been stiff-arming inquiries from the news media, and even elected Republicans can’t seem to get their questions answered.
“I saw the news last night and they would absolutely not talk to KFYR-TV,” this lawmaker told me. “[They have] absolutely gone silent, people there know what has happened and they’re not talking.”
Another Republican lawmaker echoed this frustration to me this week. “I would love to see that happen,” they told me when I asked why rank-and-file party members, from local activists up to elected officials, aren’t doing more to speak out against this sort of ignorance in their political organization.
But the first lawmaker I spoke said the challenge in doing so is political.
“First most don’t want to get involved because quite frankly out west it doesn’t get much traction with the general public,” they said. “It’s a much bigger deal out in the valley. Second, people are definitely circling the wagons around the party because they don’t want to hurt candidates in the fall.”
That explanation for silence makes sense, at least superficially, but let’s think about this for a moment.
Republicans have dominated North Dakota politics for decades. Since statehood, really, with just a few interludes of Democratic leadership. How much are they risking by taking a strong stand against those who hold increasingly marginal views on LGBT issues?
Sure, some Republican voters might get offended, but what are they going to do? Express their disdain for Republicans being tolerant of the LGBT community by … voting for Democrats?
There are a lot of Republicans — people who hold elected office, people who donate a lot of money and time to the party, people who vote for the Republican ticket year after year — who are incensed about this resolution, specifically, and their party’s obstinance in the face of evolving public sentiment on social issues generally.
They express these sentiments privately. They send words of support to me when I speak out on these issues as a conservative commentator. But they’re unwilling to take action themselves because they’re worried about upsetting the apple cart.
But can they claim the moral high ground if they tolerate bigotry in the party they support?
Again, this anti-LGBT language has been in the party’s resolutions since 2016. They knew it was there and they didn’t do anything about it.
Does that make them any better than the people who wrote and passed the resolutions?
When news of the resolutions first broke, many prominent Republicans — people like Gov. Doug Burgum, Congressman Kelly Armstrong, Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread — spoke out forcefully against them.
That’s a good start, but since then, the NDGOP has hunkered down, waiting for the storm to end. That speaks to a willingness to let the status quo persist.
It’s time for Republicans to evolve, and the only people who spur that process are Republicans.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at [email protected]