’Joe the Plumber’ Doesn’t Want Gays Near His Kids
With the Republican party floundering to find its post-Bush era identity, hints of a deepening schism between the party's extremist and centrist elements continue to surface.
The most recent indication of the ideological split within the party's ranks is the response of the GOP's extreme right wing to the more centrist attempt to "re-brand" the party through a planned series of meetings, on what has been dubbed a "listening tour."
The idea is to check in with the American electorate--and learn just what it is the American mainstream wants and needs from its political leadership, in order to hone a winning message in the 2012 race for the White House and, more immediately, next year's mid-term elections.
But the rightward fringe of the GOP rejects the idea of reaching out to common Americans for inspiration and guidance; indeed, the same elements that seek to bar gay and lesbian families from marriage rights by insisting that "the people" have a right to decide on the rights of their fellow citizens reject the notion that the American public has anything worth hearing when it comes to GOP leadership.
Right-wing leader Rush Limbaugh, who recently asserted what many saw as his de facto leadership of the party by excoriating Republican National Party chairman Michael Steele--even getting a public apology from Steele after attacking him on his radio program for remarks Steele made about "ugly" and "incendiary" remarks made by Limbaugh--launched a similar attack on the "re-branding" effort on his show, reported The Huffington Post on May 5.
The centrist GOP outreach effort, called the National Council for a New America, comprises a number of celebrated GOP leaders, including presidential hopefuls from last year's election John McCain and Mitt Romney, along with former Florida governor Jeb Bush, brother of George W., and Virginia congressman Eric Cantor, who serves as the Republican Whip, the Huffington Post reported.
The National Council had its inaugural "Listening Tour" confab in a pizza shop in Virginia, launching Limbaugh into excoriation mode the next day.
On air, Limbaugh dismissed the idea that everyday Americans had any business grasping the reigns of the party's leadership, saying that "a teaching tour" was what the GOP needed, rather than a "listening tour."
Said Limbaugh, "I'm weary of the same people who drove us to this point telling us what we have to do now," the Huffington Post reported.
The radio host went on to brush off the idea of common Americans helping guide the Republican party's leadership, saying of centrist GOP leaders, "We did it their way in 2008. We did it with the candidate and approach that they thought would work: pandering."
The right-wing radio host went on to elaborate on what he meant by the suggestion that the GOP was "pandering" to the mainstream.
"'We got to listen to the American people,'" Limbaugh mocked the centrist message.
"I maintain that when a politician says we have to listen to the American people and learn, we are pandering. We're not leading," Limbaugh declared.
The right-wing radio personality's top-down idea of governance garnered press together with comments from "Joe the Plumber," a GOP-minted celebrity who shot to fame during last year's election race.
Joe the Plumber--whose real name is Sam Wurzelbacher--was interviewed by Christianity Today, reported Huffington Post in a May 4 article, as well as The Colorado Independent in an article published that same day.
Offering a mixture of individualist rhetoric and anti-gay commentary, Wurzelbacher, whose name appears along with that of Thomas N. Tabback on a book titled, "Joe the Plumber: Fighting for the American Dream," indicated disdain for the idea of "re-branding" the GOP, saying, "You got the [Republican National Committee] talking about repackaging principles and values to make them hip and cool to the younger generation."
Wurzelbacher expressed skepticism, saying, "You can't repackage them. They are what they are."
Wurzelbacher defined his idea of "conservatism" as being centered around "the basic rights of individuals," but seemed to qualify those rights within the context of a theocratic theory of government, saying, "As far as the government goes, the Founding Fathers based the Constitution off of Christian values. It goes hand-in-hand."
As for the oft-reported alignment of Republican leaders and evangelical Christians, Wurzelbacher was unconvinced: "None of them stand up for anything," he said of leading GOP politicians.
"They use God as a punch line. They use God to invoke sympathy or invoke righteousness, but they don't stay the course," Wurzelbacher continued. "That's why I think that all needs to be taken out of the federal level and give it back to the states."
Added Wurzelbacher, "We've lost our American history. Every state has 'In God we trust,' or 'With God's help' in their constitution.
"God is recognized as, if you will, [in] America's religion."
Despite the severe curtailing of individual freedoms that would stem from the implementation of a system of law based in literal Biblical scripture, Wurzelbacher went on to say that he "felt connected" to the GOP "because individual freedom should not be legislated by the federal government."
Pundits have identified marriage equality as one dead horse that Republicans continue to flog despite a lack of interest in the topic among voters. Asked about the advent of marriage equality in two states, Vermont and Iowa, last month, Wurzelbacher opined that states should determine the issue for themselves, and indicated an opposition to a federal Constitutional amendment, adding, "I personally still think it's wrong."
Apparently defending general use of the pejorative word "queer," Wurzelbacher went on to say, "People don't understand the dictionary--it's called queer.
"Queer means strange and unusual. It's not like a slur, like you would call a white person a honky or something like that."
Wurzelbacher meandered from there to a comment on homosexuality and faith, saying, "You know, God is pretty explicit in what we're supposed to do--what man and woman are for."
Recognizing the New Testament mandate for Christians to offer unconditional love, Wurzelbacher went on to say, "Now, at the same time, we're supposed to love everybody and accept people, and preach against the sins.
"I've had some friends that are actually homosexual. And, I mean, they know where I stand, and they know that I wouldn't have them anywhere near my children.
"But at the same time, they're people, and they're going to do their thing."
The press fixated on the "wouldn't have them anywhere near my children" comment, noting that the remark would be offensive to GLBT Americans.
Wurzelbacher also offered his opinion on whether the GOP could break away from its reputation as catering to the rich and neglecting the poor; said Wurzelbacher, "I don't know if they can change their image. I really don't.
"But, you also have to take into consideration that the Democrats say they are for people in poverty," Wurzelbacher added. "They're not. They take advantage of all the tax breaks that the IRS has put in place for them.
"Tax lobbying is a billion-dollar industry up in Washington. Get rid of the tax code we have. Implement a fair tax-make it a level playing ground.
Observed Wurzelbacher, "People in poverty keep them in power--that's what people have to understand."
Wurzelnbacher and Limbaugh's comments inspired a comedic take at the Huffington Post in a satirical May 5 article.
"Leading conservative thinkers Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Joe The Plumber today announced a 700 city 'Yapping Tour' to counter efforts by the Republican party to launch a 'Listening Tour,'" the comedy piece began.
The joke item continued, "Joe The Plumber was blunt in his assessment of the GOP's idea of bringing in new voters by trying to figure out why so many voters seem to hate their guts, saying to a group of reporters, 'Listening is gay.'"
The item went on to joke, "The trio said they hope by talking at people across America, they could instill an interest in free market principles, a strong foreign policy and belief in strong moral values.
"As an added benefit, they noted, some fringe lunatic loners might be inspired to go batshit crazy and do things that the three could later claim no responsibility for."
The item poked fun at the GOP's long-standing "big tent" claim, which in essence declares that the party is open to Americans of all sorts.
The article offered a faux quote from right-wing TV and radio commentator Glenn Beck: "Of course we have a big tent. A really giagungus tent, actually.
"Our tent is big so we can be way over on one side and the queers and Mexican primitives and that Steele guy are way way over on the other side," the fake Beck quote went on.
"Maybe sometimes we keep them outside the tent and maybe sometimes we venture out at night after we've had a few drinks and beat them up and then hope the people on our side of the tent acquit us... but it's still a tent of inclusion.
"You're not invited, by the way."
For some, no parodic writing was needed: the comments from the GOP's right wing spoke for themselves.
A May 4 article at Politicker NJ quoted Steve Goldstein, who chairs the New Jersey GLBT equality organization Garden State Equality, as saying, "I would do anything to have Joe the Plumber do a whistle stop tour of New Jersey and offer his views on marriage equality in every part of the state."
Added Goldstein, "The legislature would rush into session and we'd win marriage equality within a week."