Another Conservative Flip-Flop. Yawn.

For about ten minutes, I thought Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, was going to be a surprisingly principled candidate for president, thus upending my impression that, these days, conservative Republicans’ idea of a public philosophy is to say whatever the base wants to hear.

Perry raised my eyebrows by sticking up for New York state’s right to adopt gay marriage, even though he and Texans might not like it. In July, Perry said this in a speech to Republican donors:

Our friends in New York six weeks ago passed a statute that said marriage can be between two people of the same sex. And you know what? That’s New York, and that’s their business, and that’s fine with me.

“Wow,” I thought: “Could it be? A pro-federalism Republican who actually means it?”

Nah. As Mike Riggs nicely points out in, the governor did a backflip on July 28, landing himself firmly in the camp of fair-weather federalism. Pressed by Tony Perkins of the anti-gay Family Research Council, he lent his support to a federal constitutional ban on same-sex marriage—which would, of course, prevent New York or any other state from adopting it.

Reading the transcript brings no clarity. Perry is right to say that a federal constitutional amendment must be approved by three-quarters of the states, and therefore “respects the rights of the states” as a matter of procedure. But there’s no way to square his support for the amendment as a matter of policy with his statement elsewhere in the same interview that states should compete with each other, or with his statement in Aspen that Texas and New York should be allowed to go their separate ways.

Even more bizarrely, he claims in virtually the same breath that “to not pass the federal marriage amendment would impinge on Texas” by having “marriage forced upon us by these activist judges and special interest groups.” Got that? States should be allowed to compete. Except when they don’t all make the same choices.

It’s impossible to make any sense at all of this hash. But Perry’s point isn’t to be sensible; it’s to sound like a true-blue federalist without actually being one. And that, indeed, has been the strategy of supporters of the anti-gay-marriage constitutional amendment since literally Day One, when they announced that their amendment would strip authority from activist judges, even though, quite obviously, its real effect was to strip power from the states.

It’s quite easy to write an amendment telling federal judges to stay away from gay marriage. (“Nothing in this Constitution requires any state or the federal government to recognize anything but a union of one man and one woman as a marriage.” QED.) But, as Perry’s tail-chasing makes clear, the real goal here is to exploit the label of federalism, not to respect its meaning.

5 Comments for “Another Conservative Flip-Flop. Yawn.”

  1. posted by Houndentenor on

    You obviously didn’t know much about Rick Perry or you would have read his “states rights” position on gay marriage with the same skepticism that I did.

  2. posted by Wilberforce on

    It’s the standard republican flip flop. States rights, except when the state does something we don’t like. Small government, except when a giant nanny state is needed to shore up our investments. Fiscal responsibility, except when we need to cripple government by driving it into debt. Strict morality, except when we’re in the mood for a new trophy wife.

  3. posted by BobN on

    You can’t flop if you never flipped in the first place.

    There are two classes of people who took Perry’s single-sentence reversal of years of anti-gay-at-every-opportunity seriously.

    1) Very, very dim people

    2) People who needed to fill a few column inches (or pixel counts) with blather and faux “controversy”.

    I would have thought Rauch would fall into neither. After all these years of engagement with the right on gay rights, how he could think there was any there there, even for a second, is beyond me. Let’s hope it was the latter possibility, rather than the former.

  4. posted by David in Houston on

    Teabagger nutjobs like Perry (Bachmann, etc.) know history will most likely repeat itself if they can’t stop it by passing unconstitutional laws such as DOMA, and a Constitutional Marriage Amendment. Interracial marriage was forced on the country by the Supreme Court, nullifying the remaining bans that states had in place. There is no reason not to believe that the S.C. will make the same ruling regarding DOMA and state-supported same-sex marriage bans. There is no rational LEGAL basis to support discriminating against gay citizens. This is why Perry is talking out of both sides of his mouth. He believes that states should have the right to decide their own marriage laws. But not if it goes against his religious beliefs. To hell with the separation of church and state. This is coming from the same political party that espouses “a smaller, less intrusive government” and “getting the government out of people’s lives”. It’s the height of hypocrisy. Why anyone would be surprised by this is anyone’s guess.

  5. posted by pgbach on

    And let us not forget that “federalism” is a much more complex constitutional construct than the 10th-ers suggest. Federalism is not merely about the relationship between the Federal government and any individual state government. The biggest part of federalism is about the relationships between the various states, e.g., the full faith the credit clause.

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