I had the opportunity to meet Fred Karger this summer at the Netroots Nation conference. He was already talking about running for President then, but Karger made his bid official yesterday. He’s the first Republican to officially enter the race, as well as the first openly gay candidate (in a major political party) to run for President.
And yes, you heard that right. He’s a Republican.
My interview with Karger is below. I was fascinated by him because, despite the label, he didn’t say anything particularly Republican. At least not the Republican party that I’m familiar with. Karger is pro-choice. Self-identifies as a feminist. Pro gay marriage. He even talked about the Equal Rights Amendment! He talks about being a fiscal conservative, but didn’t really open up about exactly what that meant.
It’s pretty obvious that he’s not going to go very far on the Republican ticket. I’m not even sure the Democrats could handle an openly gay candidate. But he will force the issue in the Republican debates for as long as he’s in the race—and for that, we can thank him. It won’t hurt to have a pro-choice openly gay Republican going head to head with whoever runs in his party.
Transcript after the jump.
Miriam: Thanks for joining me. Why don’t we start with you telling me who you are and what you’re doing.
Fred: My name is Fred Karger and I’m seriously considering running for President as an Independent Republican in 2012.
Miriam: So why are you running for President?
Fred: I’ve been a frustrated candidate my whole life. I’ve always been gay but I’ve never been out of the closet publicly which I just did four years ago. I feel that there is a need to have a gay candidate run for President. I feel that for three important areas. One that the LGBT community needs good strong representation a good voice to talk about big issues that are not being talked about right now. I feel the country is in need of a good shot in the arm in terms of leadership. I feel that the current President is not doing a good job lifting the spirit of Americans. I think that is something I could do. The Republican party is on it’s way to extinction unless we open up the flaps of the tent and work to get young people engaged in the party.
Miriam: Are you a feminist?
Fred: I’m a very strong feminist. My mother was so I better be. I’m a founding member of Republican Majority for Choice. I’ve been a big supporter of Planned Parenthood, of the Equal Rights Amendment which was around when I was just starting in politics, and a big supporter of Hilary Clinton the first time around.
Miriam: Your policies make you sound more like a Democrat. Why are you running as a Republican?
Fred: The Republican party I grew up in was very moderate, very progressive. Some of the early Republican leaders were you know much more liberal. The Democrats were the segregationalists at the turn of the last Century. It’s gotten hijacked by the Christian Right. George W Bush really helped that along and took the party on a big right ward course.I think it’s important that the gay community be represented in the Republican party. I think we should have a seat at the table. I think it’s very appropriate that the first openly gay candidate be a Republican.
Miriam: Are there any issues with which you agree with the Republican party as it stands?
Fred: The hypocrisy of the Republican party is pretty prevelant these days. They preach small government but they want to tell women what to do with their bodies. I’m a fiscal conservative, I come from a finance background. I definitely want to work to strengthen our economy, I believe in the private sector. I’m a libertarian of sorts.
Miriam: What do you think about Sarah Palin calling herself a feminist?
Fred: Maybe Sarah Palin doesn’t quite know what a feminist is. I don’t know if she’s going to be in Tea Party or the Republican party. I certainly welcome her into the Republican Presidential race. I think it would really add a lot of excitement. She’s a rockstar. I think she has things to bring to the table and certainly issues to discuss but as far as a feminist I think her definition and mine are about 180 degrees apart.
Miriam: Do you think you’ll see marriage equality in your lifetime?
Fred: Marriage equality is a certainty. It’s a question of when. When I was growing up in the fifties and sixties and realizing my sexual orientation the word gay wasn’t even in the vocabulary. The hearts and minds of Americans are changing so rapidly. Every day something good happens. Marriage equality is around the corner. The best most logical way is through this Prop 8 case, through the Supreme Court. They did the right thing in 1967 with the Loving v Virginia case. When this gay marriage case comes up it might not be a politically popular decision but that’s why we have three branches of government. I’m very hopeful they will do the right thing. But the public tide is also moving really quickly. Eventually marriage equality will be the law of the land for all Americans.