FRED, the story of Fred Karger‘s quixotic run for president in 2012 gives an inside look at politics as the first out gay candidate for President revs up his campaign for the Oval Office. Karger, our guest tonight, is one of the most engaging and delightful politicians I’ve ever encountered. We’ll be discussing his 2012 run for president, his work to expose NOM and the Mormon money in Prop 8 campaigns, and political activism.
Despite having worked on nine presidential campaigns and serving as a senior consultant to the campaigns of Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and Gerald Ford, Karger is virtually unknown (his campaign slogan is “Fred Who?”) as he launches his campaign in 2010.
He faces an even larger political hurdle: He’s a gay Republican. The 2010 Southern Republican Leadership Council won’t let him hold a press conference. CPAC won’t let him speak. Steve Scheffler, an Iowa Republican delegate sends Karger an email saying he
will abort your campaign
(and here I always thought most Republicans were opposed to abortions). Karger manages to spin these setbacks into positive press, positioning himself as an underdog, a throwback to the pre-religious conservatives who took over the Republican party.
Karger stayed closeted until 2004 when he left The Dolphin Group, a political consultancy firm which worked on Republican Presidential campaigns as well as campaigns for California Governor George Deukmejian and Lt. Governor Mike Curb. When the Boom, one of the oldest gay bars in California (located in Karger’s town of Laguna Beach) was threatened with demolition, Karger stepped out of the closet and started a grassroots campaign to save the venerable watering hole, surprising many LGBTQ activists who had no idea who he was, and were slightly suspicious of his Republican politics. (Full disclosure: I have Republican friends and they are not crazy, horrible, hate-filled, racist, Monsanto-lovers. They eat organic food, give to charity and are really nice people.)
The distrust begins to shift when Karger joins the campaign to boycott the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel in San Diego for their donations to support Proposition 8, winning an unlikely ally in Cleve Jones, founder of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt and co-founder of the San Francisco AIDS Project. Karger’s Californians Against Hate uncovered the national coalitions fighting against marriage equality in California. His run for president was inspired in part by the Church of Latter Day Saints’ efforts to repeal marriage equality in California, and his concerns about Mitt Romney’s faith shaping national policy.
During his 2012 run for President, Karger engaged many Gay Straight Alliances and LGBTQ groups. In the documentary–and in conversations I’ve had with him–he expresses his desire to empower youth to strive for their dreams, to embrace opportunity. His run for presidency was a way to visibly express how far LGBT have come from when he was growing up. Along the way he really upset many Republicans while causing both Republicans and Democrats to question their political dogmas.
I met Fred Karger through the internet because he shares the same name as my stepfather, a film composer. I wrote a post about the two men, and Karger the candidate contacted me. We had lunch and visited Occupy LA. I truly admire his dogged and relentless pursuit of NOM and the Mormons, and his attempts to show how politics work.
FRED gives an inside look at a grassroots political campaign, one that upset the prevailing powers that be, while providing an engaging portrait of a man who by embracing and loving himself has has found away to integrate his political skills with his true self. It’s a sweet smart documentary that reveals so much about our country, the progress we’ve made, and the progress we’re still working on.