A black, gay Army veteran has ‘come out’ as conservative because of the ‘outrage culture’ he said he has experienced within the Democratic Party.
Rob Smith, author of a 2017 book about being a gay man in the military during the ‘don’t’ ask, don’t’ tell’ era, is a registered Democrat and was raised in a liberal working-class family in Ohio. But he said that over the past couple of years what he considers to be left-wing outrage culture has pushed him to become conservative.
He did not vote in the 2016 election but wants to buck what he said is a stereotype that African Americans and LGBTQ people are always liberal Democrats.
He said: ‘For me, as a gay man and a black man, I have to… Somebody has to start the conversation, specifically with LGBTQ people, to say being a Democrat is not a sign of morality and being a Republican is not a sign of evil. We can work on both sides to advance this idea of LGBTQ equality, we just have to figure out what that is.’
He agrees that Kanye was soundly and rightly criticized for his comments that slavery was a choice, describing such a statement as ‘indefensible’, but Smith said that doesn’t mean the rapper’s general political opinions should be dismissed or judged.
He asked: ‘How much has Kanye West done for black culture in entertainment?
‘If you have somebody with that much power that has done that much for the culture and they can get torn down within days for saying that they support the President or for saying that they may not subscribe to what the Democratic Party has been telling black people that we need to think? … And I just looked at this whole thing and I just said, well if it can happen to Kanye, it can happen to anybody. What am I supposed to be, afraid to have different ideas?’
‘Those comments [on slavery] were terrible. They just don’t make any sense. And it was actually very right of a lot of people to denounce that.
‘I think that it was very easy for people to hop on those comments and focus on those comments to completely discredit everything else that he had said before.’
Smith served two tours of duty – one in Kuwait and one in Iraq – during his five years in the Army from 2000 to 2005. It was during this time that he realized he was gay despite ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ – a policy preventing LGBTQ soldiers making their sexual orientation public without risk of being discharged.
In November 2010, five years after he had left the military, Smith and 12 other activists, both military and civilian, handcuffed themselves to the White House fence to protest ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’. They were arrested. A year later they were invited to meet then-President Obama and attend the ceremony where the policy was repealed. That was one of Smith’s first major steps into LGBTQ activism, which he continues today.