Tom Ridge Torpedoes Tea Party at Log Cabin Dinner
Tom Ridge lit into the modern-day Republican Party in a fiery speech Wednesday night that called for the GOP to embrace inclusion or face indefinite defeat.
Speaking to Log Cabin Republicans at the organization’s annual Spirit of Lincoln Dinner, the former Pennsylvania governor and first Homeland Security secretary under President George W. Bush said a "hard-core and shrinking base" of the Republican Party of today has alienated the voters necessary to win elections, and has pushed the party toward intolerance.
"For those who don’t toe a strict party line - or have an unbending ideological line - or who dare to work with Democrats to get anything done - they’re neither conservative enough, nor Republican enough for some within our midst," Ridge said. "For many observers, the GOP has become intolerant, judgmental and self-righteous - perhaps worthy of attitudes of the Pilgrims in 1620, but hardly attractive qualities for a political party nearly 400 years later."
While Ridge’s speech touched on a number of topics, including Obamacare, abortion and some of the Republican Party’s most iconic leaders - including Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan - the 15-minute speech was in many ways a rebuke of the Republican Party of the tea party era.
Ridge, who was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1983, said that a clutch of the GOP has come to believe unity must require unanimity on every issue, and that such a mentality has pushed away potential voters and Republican leaders, diminishing the party’s chances of governance.
"In order to govern, we must win national elections. To do so the narcissists and ideologues within our party need to understand that Americans are more conservative than liberal, but are more practical than ideological and more tolerant and open-minded than judgmental. They are also looking for real, not rhetorical, solutions," Ridge said. "They are not attracted to a party that imposes an even more severe litmus test on its own members, projects an unacceptable rigidity and self-righteousness on social issues, and spends more time and energy objecting to bad law rather than proposing alternatives."
Ridge spoke to his evolution on marriage equality, noting that it did not happen overnight but came through the "seasoning of time and experience." Indeed, as governor of Pennsylvania, Ridge signed a state version of the Defense of Marriage Act, only for this past summer to sign on to an amicus brief filed in the Proposition 8 case before the Supreme Court calling for marriage equality nationwide.
He also lamented the way many in the Republican Party have exiled or excluded those who differ with the party on social issues. While insisting the Republican Party will always be the party opposed to abortion, Ridge added that the GOP’s "narrow thinking on social issues" is one of the key reasons Democrats have won the past two national elections.
"Many Americans are outraged by the moralistic attacks on the gay and lesbian community from some within our party. Perhaps they should be more concerned about their own relationship with God," Ridge said. "As both Saint Matthew and Saint Luke taught us, ’Judge not, lest ye be judged.’ It is an important enough lesson to be mentioned multiple times."
"Let’s face it, who’s left to offend? Perhaps just white males like me, and you know I’m not real happy now," Ridge continued.