Jimmy LaSalvia, Founder of GOProud, Leaves Republican Party

Party has been "brain-dead for a long, long time," he tells TIME

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GOProud Founder Jimmy LaSalvia.
Paul Morigi / Courtesy of Jimmy LaSalvia

GOProud Founder Jimmy LaSalvia.

Jimmy LaSalvia co-founded political action group GOProud to prove to America that the Republican Party is a safe home for gay conservatives. But he no longer believes his own arguments. On Monday, he announced on his blog that he could no longer take his own party’s refusal to stand up to bigotry: he was leaving the Republican Party and had registered as an Independent. “I am every bit as conservative as I’ve always been, but I just can’t bring myself to carry the Republican label any longer,” he wrote.

His condemnation of the GOP was even stronger when he explained his decision to TIME on Wednesday. The Republican brand, he says, is so tarnished that he no longer believes it is salvageable. “I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s time to pull the plug on the patient. It’s been brain-dead for a long, long time.”

In a wide-ranging interview with TIME, included before in an abbreviated form, LaSalvia explains the journey that led him to abandon the party ship:

TIME: You are someone who once had lots of hopes for the GOP. What happened?

LASALVIA: I have been my whole life the ultimate team player. I was ‘The Gay for Mitt’ last year. I think that what I did should cause the leadership in the Republican Party to ask themselves, How bad must it be if we’ve even lost Jimmy?

I spent my career working to create an atmosphere in the conservative movement where gay conservatives can be open and honest and live their lives and work within the conservative movement. I wanted it to be a place where straight conservatives could publicly support gay Americans and even eventually come to support civil marriage for gay couples.  I feel like I have accomplished that. I had hoped that would be enough to melt the anti-gay bigotry that runs through the ranks of some in the Republican Party. I’ve come to realize that it is not, and that the leadership of the party tolerates bigotry, not just antigay bigotry, but anti-Muslim, any people who are not like us it seems like, because they are afraid of losing that sliver of their base who are anti-gay. And the truth is they are turning off millions more Americans by kowtowing to a group that frankly is losing and who most Americans think are wrong.

There were so many examples that happened during the 2012 election, when I saw Mitt Romney paralyzed with fear, he was afraid of doing anything that showed he was in touch with life in America in 2014 for fear of retribution from the antigay right. There were some big things, like when he didn’t stand up for his staffer Rick Grenell when he was under attack for being hired. They had a Noah’s Ark of a speakers list at the Republican National Convention—there were two of everybody on that stage except gays and Muslims. In all America you couldn’t find any gay people to speak at the convention. They couldn’t even bring themselves to bring a surrogate to the GOProud event at the convention. We had a 1,000 people, and they said no to sending anyone to come and say thank you for your support.

After that election loss, I thought, well, maybe they have learned their lessons, that the bigotry was going to drag them down and they’ve been out of touch with life in America today. I had hoped that they would address some of it in their autopsy and the new revamping of the Republican Party, but they’ve done almost anything but that to address the problems in the party.

We have seen lots of examples lately. Just recently a member of the RNC who has a long history of saying many anti-gay statements went on an anti-Muslim screed on his Facebook page, and the best that the RNC chairman can do is say we need to treat everybody with respect. He can’t say that that’s wrong and denounce it.

There were other things, like, the congressman from Virginia, Randy Forbes, recently trying to keep the NRCC from funding two gay candidates for Congress, and [Speaker John] Boehner said no we are going to fund them. He thought that that was a big bold move, but the truth is he should have said, ‘No, he’s wrong.’ But Boehner couldn’t bring himself to denounce the bigotry. He could only say that’s not me, he doesn’t speak for us.

You’ve touched on the final straws. Was there a tipping point?

I really think that the Romney campaign was a big wake up call for me. I had been very patient and strategic frankly during the primaries, but then after he got the nomination, I was told point blank on the phone [by the campaign], we are not going to meet with you, because we don’t want to look etch-a-sketch.

I was astonished when Ken Cuccinelli was embraced as an acceptable candidate. To me, his views about gay Americans or Americans who are different from him are simply unacceptable in this day and age. I was astonished to see the party embrace him as their nominee. I likened it at the time to David Duke running in the early ‘90s. That’s not acceptable now. The fact that that doesn’t register with them is disturbing to me.

I am not leaving because of one issue. I have never been a single-issue voter. If I were I would have left a long time ago, frankly. It is about a culture, and it is about what is acceptable in American life today and demonizing other Americans simply because of who they are, whether it is their ethnic or religious background or their sexual orientation, whatever it is, is not acceptable.

What else about the Republican Party is not consistent with your values?

The inability to offer real solutions to the problems affecting us is remarkable to me. The fact that their M.O. is to oppose Democrats at all costs and yet not offer any alternatives—I don’t agree with most everything Democrats propose either, but just opposing what they want to do doesn’t address the problem. They always let the Democrats define the problem and offer a solution, and then all they do is oppose it without even recognizing the problem.

The whole culture of the party is just not what I had always worked for, and I think though that the fact that they are so out of touch culturally is the biggest issue for me. That’s something that can’t be dealt with with policy changes or messaging changes. That’s about who they are. To me, that is the biggest issue, that the leadership in the party is so out of touch culturally that I don’t think there’s any hope for them.

Has anyone in the GOP leadership reached out to you in response to your decision?

No, they haven’t. That doesn’t surprise me, given that for the last couple of years I’ve done nothing but attempt to help, and most of the time I’ve been met with a face palm. I can’t say all the time. When they were doing the autopsy report, I had great conversations with some [Republicans], and that is why I was hopeful that there would be changes. But lately it’s as if they are doubling down on the cultural stuff.

What happens now to GOProud?

I left six months ago. They still exist, they are on a little bit of a smaller scale, and a couple of my former staffers run it. It is still a place where gay conservatives and their allies can go to work together. I can tell you that from the beginning of GOProud we always had a lot of independents as members. I’d say about a third has always has been independent, because I’m not the first [conservative] to give up on the Republican Party. I’ve stayed and fought for as long as I can.

The bottom line is I’m still a conservative, I still care about our country, and I still want to work to make it better. It just won’t happen in the context of working within a party that is frankly shrinking. You have a party that is shrinking and going under with no hope of repair. There comes a point when you have to abandon ship. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s time to pull the plug on the patient. It’s been brain-dead for a long, long time.

What would have to happen for you to rejoin the GOP?

I don’t know. I just don’t see anyone with the backbone to make the changes that have to be made in a bold way. I just don’t see anyone who can do that. Frankly, if I thought there was hope, I wouldn’t be leaving.

39 comments
sandyoestreich
sandyoestreich

A REALLY smart person is one who knows "when to hold and when to fold", like him. Must have been hard for him, but Congrats.  Many of us say the same things and stay Independent or Democrat--at least, ALL people are welcome.


My sadness and my Problem (capital P) is that the nation's girls and women are still strongly dissed by Republican pols verbally and legislatively, as per the 916 anti-woman, anti-family they filed in Just 3 months----> the GOP Legislative War on Women, no doubt.


In 2/3 Florida legislature (and 6 other states), I've spent FOURTEEN YEARS of my 79 y/o life (YES, 14!) struggling with 300 000 members in my 2 corporations to get Florida House even to hold Hearings on the fully re-ignited Equal Rights Amendment. Males benefit; women take the brunt:  women passed over at work; trafficked; stalked, grabbed, raped and murdered senselessly in our military, on college campuses, at home, and on the street going to work, everywhere!  Our young millennials now live in a Rape Culture--just ask my granddaughter!

Republicans Refuse even to hold a single meeting to discuss and vote on ERA in ALL these years! What are these legislators afraid of? What have we American females ever done to them..except cuddle with them, feed them, house-keep, raise our kids, and work outside to bring in some shared $$? We're not perfect, but we ARE human. Treat us equally, put us in the US Constitution where we are not, just like our men--only they're there 39 times--us, once. Period. YOU know what it means to be left out of a contract--we are NOT mentioned in this big one!  That's why we can be corralled, constrained and thrown under the bus and Warred upon. Yes.


It's true that ALL but 3 required states long ago vetted and voted for the ERA, and that only 3 are still left while SEVEN unratifieds struggle, fight, meet endlessly with stony-faced Republicans to JUST HOLD HEARINGS so the public and we can see their objections. We have long ago corrected their objections about same-sex and abortion, women in the military, etc.--ERA doesn't even regulate those!


So, when talking GOP, mention their hatred of women and girls. Even their wives, daughters, sis, and Mom. We ask them, they shrug. Yes, they do.


We want an ERA as it will make sex discrimination, male And female, a violation of the US Constitution in many cases.  WOW, what a Blessing. 2passERA.org has some backgrounding, incl."ERA for Men". Ladies, see "ERA for Women" and the extraordinary list of what rights you and I are refused Until there's an ERA.


Oh, and did I remind you that 98% of states have already vetted and voted for ERA? That all nations created since WWII already have gender-equal treatment codified there?  And some of them saw their GDP (Gross Domestic Product) CLIMB BY, by 9%. Revenues climbed, costs of courts, Medicaid-like care, Public Assistance and food stamps (if they had them) HAVE ALL DROPPED.


Besides, here in USA, the EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT IS LEGISLATION THAT REQUIRES NO FUNDING !


Why do we ignore this Big Hole, 51% of the Nation, when we count up how wonderfully we are becoming "exceptional" and an "equal" nation???


Women know, all but GOP Ladies know, WHY don't all men march in the streets for women's equal pay, now only averaging across USA a bare 77% of men's--same job, same creds, experience, same hours!  WHY ARE YOU NOT MARCHING IN THE STREETS WITH US:  National Equal Rights Amendment Alliance, 88% of the population, male AND female!  sandyo, Prof Emerita;fmr elected official; Nurse Practitioner; internationally distributed pharmacology author--best of all Wife to feminist guy, 2 really great daughters  See what you are missing: 2PassERA.org, Talk to us: Sandyo@PassERA.org

storeyy
storeyy

The GOP is starting to resemble the FLDS w/o the plural marriage but who knows. Its offensive to see the way they attack minorities, gays, the poor, the unemployed amongst others.  The GOP says they are for smaller govt yet they are trying to govern everything about your personal life and they do nothing to help your progress at life in general.  Instead of focusing on the private lives of American citizens they need to focus on making the lives of everyday people better.  When they were swept into the House in 2010 they promised JOBS....we haven't seen a JOBS bill from John Boehner since he became Speaker.  In the beginning I was all for the T Party I too believe in small govt and less taxes but I also believe in doing what's best for the country.  We should have universal healthcare, the min wage should be 15 dollars per hour and every American willing to work should be able to find a job but as it stands the GOP and the T Party are so determined to see this country fail under the current administration they can't see straight.  I hope they are made to pay  for it in the 2014 and 2016 election cycles.

Kafantaris
Kafantaris

“No hope for the Republican Party?”

There is always hope. 

But it takes time. 

MatNazarian
MatNazarian

Like freedom in your economic life, but tired of Republicans bossing you around in your social life? Join the Libertarian Party. We're fiscally conservative AND socially liberal.

DrkRayne
DrkRayne

Not surprised. I'm a conservative lesbian, but I can't be GOP....just too much prejudice there. 

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

So the "Big Tent" is now a "Small Outhouse" a sure recipe for success.

sacredh
sacredh

This is hardly a surprise. My only question is how oblivious do you have to be to finally see that the GOP has been getting worse, not better, for years? They constantly have to placate a base that is driving any moderate factions in the GOP away. It's a shrinking party, not a growing party.

Back2Life
Back2Life

These guys are a bit late to the party...the GOP's platform is one of hate against gays. True Story. 

DavidStrayer
DavidStrayer

As another former Republican who always considered himself a moderate, there are a number of points here.  All will be lost, I suspect, on the Republican party, but I'd suggest


The GOP has devolved into a highly reactionary group of people who are bound together by two things: their total hatred of minorities of all types and of anything that helps ordinary people live their lives; and their desire, for diverse reasons, to turn the clock back to (take your pick) 1950s, 1850s or 1095 (the date of the first Crusade).


They have become a party with no platform, nothing to offer the American people, no vision of the future and no sense of commonality with ordinary Americans.  Their agenda is build on pandering to the very wealthy, the hard core bigots and the one man army wannabes.


They are NOT a conservative party, because they seek not to conserve but to destroy.  They seek to make government unworkable and unanswerable except to a small coterie of the wealthiest oligarchs.

treuj24
treuj24

Not a one issue voter? Who cares about the issues when the party who you identify with hates your every existence as a human being? The GOP is more or less a hate group. The pols are haters, the supporters are haters and the base is completely immersed in the hatred of fellow Americans. The GOP is almost exclusively for Caucasian, Christian, heterosexual males and they have drummed every other possible racial and religious minority completely out of the party and they are working very very hard to have whatever women that are left in the party to leave too.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

I'm so old I can remember when the republicans at least pretended to have a Big Tent.


I like that they have dropped that fig leaf. 

manslagt
manslagt

Can anyone here honestly say that they had ever heard of LaSalvia before today? The GOP had nothing to do with gay "rights" when it was founded in 1854, it had nothing to do with gay "rights" during the 20th century, and it should not be about gay "rights" during the 21st century. The party will survive and thrive without the likes of LaSalvia.

CandiceCameron
CandiceCameron

@storeyy$15 per hour!? Small Business' can't afford what they have to pay now. All that will happen is more loss of jobs.

sandyoestreich
sandyoestreich

@storeyyGotta vote 'em out as neo-medievalist cult, marauders, cruel, stupid and vicious. Look at Christie--a lot are like him,--bullies.


Talk it up--GET 'EM OUT OUT OUT.

sandyoestreich
sandyoestreich

@Kafantaris Moms and kids and families are near-death from starvation. Jobs are nonexistent. Women are thrown under the bus and subjected to "medical rape" at the say of Republican politicians.


They are crazed with desperate displays of power. If they were birds, they'd be hawks. If they were fish, they'd be pirhanas.


They will eat their buddy-Republicans, watch.

They will die of their savagery.... and YOU want Us to "Wait"???? What for. We already Know what they are capable of.


Criminals, manipulating Wall Street and making off with Your $. What is to "like" about them!


Working women's wages averaging only 77% across the Nation is bad enough to put 1 of 3 elderly women now in Poverty. 


1. Greedy corporations everywhere chuckle on the way to the bank

2. Those corps pay little or No taxes on the income

3. YOU and I take care of the Elderly ladies with small or no pensions and Social Security because they earned below-living wages!!


Did you know that? That YOU pay deeply when Corporations hold out pay from women everywhere????


Why are you not MAD? Not marching in the streets (Families lose an average of $5855/yr because Mom is Underpaid!). Mad yet?

storeyy
storeyy

@Kafantaris I bet that's what the members of the Whigs were saying at the end too.

sacredh
sacredh

@mantisdragon91, the GOP will split before they ever become inclusive. It's the angry old white guy club for now.

sandyoestreich
sandyoestreich

@Back2LifeTake a look:  GOP is a Hate-Everybody Else cult.  Look at Daffy Schlafly, she is their icon.  So full of hate for everybody, she's too full of hate to hate them all adequately. Now she's 90, we are all hoping for The Best.

RB1
RB1

@DavidStrayer Your remarks have such great truth in them. It seems to be confusing to these ultra conservative GOPee-rs. I think that they are caught between the Crusades and the American Puritan era, in viewing their objective for the future of America. Don't be fooled, they do have a vision, but the problem is that it's not a vision of a progressive future!  Their fear of the unknown is simply to stifling for them to breathe.  Recently read a study that concluded that becoming a Conservative Republican from youth, involved forming paranoid thoughts about the unknown variables in life. A staunch response for the familiar is much more reassuring than taking a chance with the unknown!

jmac
jmac

@DavidStrayer If he considers himself a "moderate" why is he on tv saying he's an independent?    There's a party that moved right and sits smack in the middle.  The moderate middle.   And what took him so long to figure Republicans out?  This guy's not too bright.  

jmac
jmac

@Paul,nnto   Republican candidates used to walk away from the platform.  WHat platform?  Haven't read it.   They pretended it didn't exist.  


Now they are ALL the platform.   And that platform is not a pretty picture.  

JoshWeinstein
JoshWeinstein

@manslagt  

It would be one thing if being anti-gay was the only issue for the Republicans. But that is simply not the case. They are anti-woman, anti-science, anti-poor, anti-minorities, anti-intellectual, anti-immigrant, etc. When you add all of that up, it is difficult to see how they can continue to be a viable party. They are excluding too many people.

Irony
Irony

@manslagtIt's a mark of ignorance to talk about the Republican party of the pre-civil-rights era as though it is the same party of today. The GOP was formed on a platform of expanding human rights (those of slaves, in particular) and continued on that track right until the civil rights era when it decided to completely shift gears and oppose human rights in exchange for the Dixiecrat vote. The "party of Lincoln" died right then and there. If anything, the Democratic party is its spiritual successor.

DavidStrayer
DavidStrayer

@manslagt 

On the contrary, manslagt: the GOP was founded in the 1850s to combat slavery.  Their first presidential candidate, John C. Fremont, was an abolitionist and ran on an abolitionist platform.  Their second presidential candidate, Abraham Lincoln, abolished slavery.  


Republicans in Congress pressed Radical Reconstruction of the defeated slavist South, to cleanse it of its terrible legacy of bigotry and slavery.


Gay rights weren't even a gleam on the horizon, but the GOP (which used to stand for Grand Old Party and now would more appropriately be Grinches Only Party) was in the forefront of the struggle for equality and minority rights.  


In the 1850s, women couldn't vote.  Universal manhood suffrage had only been the general rule since the 1820s (prior to which only property owners could vote in many places).  There were many battles to be fought before gay rights.


But the bottom line is that the GOP was about civil rights.  It is no longer.

jmac
jmac

@manslagt How about human rights?   Are they for that?  


How many people today claim they're Republican?  Somewhere in the mid 20's I think the last poll showed.  That's not surviving.  When voters who used to proudly claim they were Republican now have to call themselves Independents or Libertarians - the party's not surviving.  

JohnWeir
JohnWeir

@sandyoestreich @MatNazarian
I call BS on that. Statist is not a code word for racist.  Ron Paul is not a racist. Racism is a collectivist philosophy. Ron Paul and libertarians are not collectivists, but individualists. Libertarians also believe in the non-aggression principle and believe relationships should be voluntary. Racists and statists do not.  A statist may be racist - creating laws preventing people of various legal classifications from interacting - such as Jim Crow segregation laws, or a statist may believe that egalitarian social goals need to be enforced by the law with "affirmative action" programs and busing of school children to state schools to achieve "racial balance."  The point being a statist believes the law should be used to force people to behave the statist believes is right in order to engineer changes in society rather than to protect individual rights.  

HeatForce
HeatForce

@sandyoestreich @MatNazarian Easy libtard, Ron isn't racist. And even if he was it's Obama with the blood on his hands via the wars. I guess "accused racism" trumps actual proven murder (i.e. drone kills) in your little world.

sandyoestreich
sandyoestreich

@MatNazarian@sacredhANSWER: VOTE THE GOP OUT EVERY CHANCE YOU GET. 

That is the only legal way to dispose of GOP.


Tell yr Lady Republicans, who never read the revealing GOP platform, that they are just like turkeys celebrating Thanksgiving!


Smaller gov't with GOP: 

Line up Ladies to be fitted with Chastity Belts, the next legislation they're filing!

MatNazarian
MatNazarian

@sacredh Yeah, everyone should just keep compromising as our national debt heads toward $22 Trillion. Great plan. Bipartisanship, woo hoo!

BeArthur
BeArthur

Unfortunately  you've reduced Congress to a bunch of ignorant hillbillies hellbent on making our country into a cesspool.

reallife
reallife

@sacredh @mantisdragon91  "Send people to Washington to make sure that nothing gets done? It's beyond bizarre."


is it so hard for you libtards to understand that we're sending people to Washington to STOP your hero (and your ilk) from turning this county into a big outhouse?


I guess it is. Talk about bizarre






sacredh
sacredh

@mantisdragon91, it just amazes me that the Tea Party can get anybody to vote for them. Send people to Washington to make sure that nothing gets done? It's beyond bizarre.