As Evan said below, Ken Mehlman worked for years to get anti-gay bigots elected. He ran the reelection campaign of Bush The Junior, waving the gay scarecrow at voters despite the fact that he himself was one…

But he was, and probably still is, a party loyalist, and as Garrison Keillor said after Norm Coleman won in the almost-as-ugly 2002 election (which also saw Max Cleland, a triple-amputee Vietnam veteran loose to slimeball Saxby Chambliss), they are Republicans first and Americans second. If the party tells you it wants to put a knife in your back, you offer to do it yourself as a show of loyalty.

But let it be said they are not completely incapable of regret. In 2005 Mehlman apologized for decades of GOP race baiting

“Some Republicans gave up on winning the African-American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization,” Mehlman said at the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “I am here today as the Republican chairman to tell you we were wrong.”

This was happening back when some pundits were thinking republicans could peel some of the black vote away from the democratic party on social (read: anti-gay) issues, which makes Mehlman’s offering this apology more then a little grotesque.  But if all you’re noticing about this is its tang of political opportunism, you’re missing that he’s offering this apology for deliberately polarizing the nation to win elections, just a year after they’d waged the most homophobic campaign in American history.  Here’s a cartoon I did at the time…

That was the summer I stood in a protest line outside an ex-gay ministry in Memphis Tennessee, where a gay teen had been committed against his will by his own parents.  There I heard the stories of other gay kids and young adults either forced into ex-gay therapy or on their own because they were terrified of being homosexual, in a climate of anti-gay fear, loathing and hate ginned up over the years by among others, Ken Mehlman.  He had an election to win you see, and never mind the damage done to this country in the process.  Neighbor had to hate neighbor. Parents had to loath their own flesh and blood, children had to see that loathing in the faces of their own fathers and mothers, and remember having seen it for the rest of their lives, so George Bush could be president.  To the party loyalist the ends justify the means.  You must be willing to destroy some families, to win an election on Family Values.

I’m glad Mehlman is finally at some sort of inner peace with the person he is.  For one thing, people who are disgusted with their sexual nature, gay or straight, tend to take that disgust out on others.  But no one, not even Republican’s first and Americans second, should feel forced to live their lives in the closet.  But it isn’t unreasonable to expect those republicans to work a little harder now to make this an America where nobody else has to either.  There’s a lot of damage out there, with their names on it.