I know I'm supposed to be angry and disappointed that Richard Grenell, Mitt Romney's foreign policy aide, who is openly gay, felt obliged to resign from the campaign "because my ability to speak clearly and forcefully on the issues has been greatly diminished by the hyper-partisan discussion of personal issues that sometimes comes from a presidential campaign." Grenell got "hounded by anti-gay conservatives," according to the conservative Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin. They were concerned that Grenell is a strong supporter of gay marriage. (I don't know any gays who aren't, but maybe I don't get out enough.) Some anti-Grenell sentiment was even expressed in the mainstream-conservative National Review. The Romney campaign says it's sorry to see Grenell go, but the Post's Greg Sargent points out that Romney passed up an opportunity to tell anti-gay religious bigots to go to hell, he's keeping Grenell. Which, I suspect, is what Romney wanted to do. But he can't. And I'm glad he can't.
He can't because the Republican party, and therefore Romney's campaign, has been captured by extremists who won't let Romney move very far to the center, as he needs to do to win. I'm sorry that Grenell is paying the price for this, and I believe Grenell's treatment is deplorable. But I also think it would be unfortunate if Romney were able to persuade people that the GOP isn't captive to its extremists, because even if Romney showed some bravery on this issue it wouldn't really be true in general. Not to put too fine a point on it, if you are gay you'd have to be out of your mind to support today's Republican party. And if you believe in tolerance, or the necessary role of government in helping others, or the existence of global warming, or Darwin's theory of natural selection, or just about any notion of equality, you'd have to be out of your mind to vote for the GOP's presidential candidate, even though Romney likely believes in all these things (except maybe equality). The GOP will eventually learn to embrace these values, but that won't change until after Romney loses in November, as I think he will do, and it may take a few more big losses after that. Eventually the GOP will be able to accept people like Grenell, but when it does, the acceptance should be sincere, and not some trick to persuade people that the GOP can abide the political center when really it can't. In the meantime, I'll look forward to a likely second term for President Obama.