A reader writes:
These people should not be demonized. Many of them are humane in private and not bigots in any personal way.
That second sentence is exactly why they should be demonized. In many ways this is no different than the attempted rehabilitation of George Wallace. The idea that they just said what was popular so that they could win office is no justification. The ends do not justify the means. And when you are a public figure, how you act in private does not justify advocating (and enacting) law and policy to the contrary.
Later in life, Wallace said, "You know, I tried to talk about good roads and good schools and all these things that have been part of my career, and nobody listened. And then I began talking about niggers, and they stomped the floor." That doesn't make what he said or did right. Nor does the idea that he really wasn't a bigot, because even if he didn't believe in segregation, he took action to uphold it.
Really, this is the problem with the GOP, when people talk about good roads and good schools, the base doesn't listen. But when they talk about faggots, the base stomps the floor. The role, and obligation, of leaders is to say what is right and do what is right. It is not to pander to build the slimmest of majorities to win elections. As a side note, that really was the great political sin of Rove, he could not see beyond 51%, or 270 electoral votes, he could not see that winning elections is not enough, that you also have to actually govern at some point... Rove's political sin is becoming the original sin of contemporary Republicans.