Saving the GOP from Itself

Back in January, Virginia’s GOP Senate candidate Ed Gillespie told the Washington Times why he opposes same-sex marriage:

“My faith also teaches me that marriage is between one man and one woman. In fact in the Catholic church it’s not just a teaching, it’s a holy sacrament just like communion. I believe that as well.”

On the day that the Supreme Court let stand the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals decision overturning Virginia’s ban on gay marriage and clerks began issuing marriage licenses in the Old Dominion, Gillespie told an interviewer he has “always felt that this is a matter for the states to determine. I don’t believe that the federal government should set policy relative to marriage. I think the states should. And, obviously, given the court’s ruling, it is the law of the land today.”

I realize he’s not saying he supports marriage equality, but the shift in tone is significant. He’s making it clear it is now, for him, a non-issue, Whereas before he felt compelled to run on his opposition to marriage equality citing his religious faith, he is now indicating it has become a done deal.

As I’ve said before on this blog, the best thing that could happen to Republicans would be for the Supreme Court to take marriage off the table, as it’s now done in 11 more states (albeit by ruling not to review appellate decisions that upended state marriage bans).

Opposition to marriage equality only pays off with the GOP’s base of older social conservatives; in general elections, support for the freedom to marry now favors the Democrats. Most GOP candidates and would-be candidates know this and must be relieved that the Supreme Court (as the appeals reach their end) is giving them a pass.

More. Our friend Dale Carpenter (who once blogged here but abandoned us for The Volokh Conspiracy just because they have exponentially more readers) explains why marriage equality will not provoke the unending resistance that abortion has engendered:

I remain convinced that even Americans who fervently oppose same-sex marriage now will see a profound difference between allowing someone to marry another person and allowing someone to abort an unborn child. We aren’t likely to see protests blocking access to marriage-license bureaus or sidewalk counselors trying to talk gay couples out of marrying. Even if you oppose same-sex marriage as a matter of religious belief, you can get along in a nation that allows it in a way that you can’t really ever make peace with what you believe is killing innocent children.

Which is also why Republican politicians (no, not all, but including legitimate conservatives like Ed Gillespie) are going to be willing to let it go.

Furthermore. I just caught up with Jennifer Rubin’s Washington Post column from Oct. 7. She quotes an AP report about the reaction by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a conservative, public union fighting Republican who is seeking re-election in November and could run for president in 2016 if he prevails:

“For us, it’s over in Wisconsin,” said [Walker], whose state’s appeal was among those the court declined with a two-word order, “certiorari denied” — meaning the lower court’s ruling stands. … “To me, I’d rather be talking in the future now more about our jobs plan and our plan for the future of the state,” Walker said. “I think that’s what matters to the kids. It’s not this issue.”

The column notes that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), “the favorite of religious conservatives,” responded with a vow to introduce a constitutional amendment designed to prevent “the federal government or the courts from attacking or striking down state marriage laws.” But Cruz and his sort are becoming outliers who pander to a narrowing base. If you’ve lost Scott Walker, it’s over.

30 Comments for “Saving the GOP from Itself”

  1. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    As I’ve said before on this blog, the best thing that could happen to Republicans would be for the Supreme Court to take marriage off the table, as it’s now done in 11 more states (albeit by ruling not to review appellate decisions that upended state marriage bans).

    I wonder how “off the table” marriage is going to be during the 2016 Republican primaries. We’ll see, I guess. The “GOP’s base of older social conservatives” seems to be sending a lot of signals that for them, anyway, marriage is not “off the table” and will not be “off the table” if and to the extent that the Republican Party makes any significant move to abandon the party’s support for “traditional marriage”.

    The fight over marriage equality itself may, soon enough, be off the table in the sense that the only thing that can end it is a federal constitutional amendment, and we all know (well, maybe all of us except Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee) that isn’t going to happen.

    But the fight will shift to so-called “religious freedom” exemptions, assuming that we take Perkins, Brown, Staver and other conservative Christians at their word, and I fully expect the 2016 Republican platform to include both a statement of support for “traditional marriage” and a battle call for “religious freedom” to discriminate against gays and lesbians, and gays and lesbians alone.

  2. posted by Jorge on

    I realize he’s not saying he supports marriage equality, but the shift in tone is significant.

    I think it’s about as significant as Mitt Romney saying he’s for gay rights in the 2012 primary. Which he didn’t do until he was confronted with a direct quote from his past.

    Given half the chance, Gillespie will flip-flop and try to make it look like he’s straddling. There is no shift.

  3. posted by Doug on

    It will also be interesting to see if the extreme right voters punish those slightly less conservative GOP candidates that want to let the issue go by opposing them and/or just not going to the polls. There is a little evidence that this is actually happening already but time will tell if that movement gains momentum.

  4. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    Dale Carpenter: Even if you oppose same-sex marriage as a matter of religious belief, you can get along in a nation that allows it in a way that you can’t really ever make peace with what you believe is killing innocent children.

    The analogy is to divorce and remarriage after divorce. Christian Scripture condemns both, and I assume that many/most Christians take Jesus seriously enough to believe that both are (as the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it) “gravely sinful”, but Christians seem to have come to an accommodation with the fact that civil law permits both divorce and remarriage after divorce.

    I think that is what will happen, eventually, with marriage equality. It will come more quickly if Republican politicians adopt a “the courts have spoken” approach than if Republican politicians engage in a long, bitter war to limit/restrict marriage equality.

    Wisconsin’s Governor Walker put it succinctly: “I believe it’s over in the state of Wisconsin.“, saying that the state will honor the court decisions and suggesting that he will not become involved in an effort to amend the federal Constitution.

    Wisconsin’s Attorney General Van Hollen fleshed it out: “We defended the state’s Marriage Protection Amendment in court. That was our obligation, and our attorneys did so admirably, regardless of whether they agreed with the underlying policy question. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the District Court’s decision holding Wisconsin’s Marriage Protection Amendment unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court has declined the opportunity to examine that decision. It is now our obligation to comply with those court decisions. I encourage everyone to respect the Court’s action and to administer the law fairly and impartially. Once the District Court formally lifts the stay, officials must apply the marriage law consistent with the District Court’s order and the Seventh Circuit’s decision.

    If Republican politicians take that sensible approach, then

    Wisconsin’s religious conservatives, as incarnated in Julaine Appling of Wisconsin Family Action, don’t agree with that position, and the temptation for Republican politicians will be to let hard-core social conservatives (e.g. Tony Perkins, Brian Brown, Matt Staver, Bryan Fischer, and so on) drag them into a long, drawn-out and bitter “massive resistance” fight.

    If the talk at the Values Voters Summit (and the statements issued in the wake of the Court’s cert denial) means anything, the initial line of “massive resistance” will be the so-called “religious freedom” exemptions (which permit discrimination against gays and lesbians, and gays and lesbians alone). If Republican politicians are dumb enough to join in, the day when “marriage is off the table” will be a long time coming.

  5. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    Ed Gillespie made a somewhat fuller statement yesterday:

    When I was chairman of the Republican National Committee, the platform called for a federal marriage amendment. And as chairman of the RNC, I stood for the platform. But I’m talking now about my policies … [and] while I believe marriage is between one man and one woman, I don’t believe that it’s the proper role of the United States Senate to enact a federal marriage amendment. … The court has ruled on this. It is the law in Virginia today, and as I do not believe that a federal law is the proper approach, then of course I accept the decision by the Supreme Court not to take up this decision of the circuit court.

  6. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    If you’ve lost Scott Walker, it’s over.

    I can’t imagine why you think that. Walker has been running away from the issue for the last year. After Judge Crabb’s ruling in early summer, for example, he dodged: “My position [for traditional marriage] has been clear. I voted in the past. It really doesn’t matter.” Walker is in a tough — and very close — race for re-election, and any indication of defiance of the Court would cost him the election.

  7. posted by Kosh III on

    Personally I hope the Grand Ole Posterior fights to the bitter end and the party is shattered. Then maybe sensible people will re-create the GOP similar to the past; e.g. Howard Baker, Everett Dirksen etc.
    Look at the British Labour party which collapsed following the Thatcher election, then regained power after Thatcher and whatshisname.

  8. posted by Houndentenor on

    I hope Stephen is right and the 24/7 GOP gay-bashing is about to come to an end. I’m less optimistic but I will be quite pleased to see that happen. The reality is that gay marriage has no impact on straight people. Notice how we never hear about gays in the military any more? Because it’s not a problem (at least according to my two relatives currently serving and if there were problems Fox News would be all over them). But the religious right are true believers and show no signs of backing down on this issue. For that reason alone I don’t see a big about face in the GOP platform in 2016 (not even just dropping the issue). 2020 maybe.

  9. posted by Don on

    Here in Florida we’re in a weird place right now. Gov. Scott and AG Bondi are waffling big time. Walker and Gillespie are giving them a hard time. Their base wants them to stand astride the courthouse and shout: “Segregation today! Segregation tomorrow! Segregation forever!” but it’s getting harder and harder. Nobody is letting them hide behind non-statements like “we don’t discriminate but I believe marriage is between a man and a woman.” seriously, that is the line they use.

    And I think that is a lesson for the party as a whole. Don’t count on being able to sit this out and let it be “out of your hands.” Bondi got asked the question during her debate Monday night, the day the Supreme Court basically shanked her. She had to duck, dodge, bob, and weave. Unfortunately for her she’s looking more and more like Bull Connor. Wasting tax dollars fighting a losing fight is pretty much her legacy at this point: whether it’s Obamacare or gay marriage.

    I actually feel sorry for her. She was actually a very moderate Republican who publicly congratulated gay friends adopting prior to running for office. Conventional wisdom was she rode into the AG’s office on anti-Obama fervor in 2010 and going full TEA Party angry, a promise to sue and defeat Obamacare (failed) all with heavy doses of Jeebus! Constitooshun! thrown in for good measure.

    Molly Ivins said it best: ya gotta dance with the one what brung ya!

    Stephen might be surprised, but Equality Florida has worked hard to bring as many Republicans to our side. And has deliberately used rhetoric to make it possible for them. So much for the professional gay Left.

    • posted by Mike in Houston on

      In the good old days, you could pander to the base in the primaries then tack back to the center for the general election… not so anymore in the GOP. You have to go so far to the right that you can never fully get back to the center — and if you try, you’ll get it from all sides.

      • posted by Houndentenor on

        That’s the old Nixon strategy: Run to the right in the primary and then back to the center in the general. But now that the internet keeps every old speech (including things you thought were to a private audience) alive on youtube forever, that’s harder to pull off. Also gone are the days when candidates could promise something to one group and the opposite to the next. Some blogger is going to edit those comments together and then you’re busted.

      • posted by Tom Jefferson 3rd on

        Partly because just about anything that anyone says in a primary can easily be posted online for all the world to see….

    • posted by Tom Scharbach on

      Gov. Scott and AG Bondi are waffling big time. Walker and Gillespie are giving them a hard time. Their base wants them to stand astride the courthouse and shout: “Segregation today! Segregation tomorrow! Segregation forever!” but it’s getting harder and harder.

      Governor Walker and AG Van Hollen fought to the last ditch, and capitulated only when the choice was between caving in to the Court’s mandate or heading to jail for contempt.

      Despite Stephen’s claim that “If you’ve lost Scott Walker, it’s over.“, Scott Walker has not, in any real sense, been “lost” to social conservatives. He remains a supporter of “traditional marriage” and he careful parsed his Monday statement (“For us, it’s over in Wisconsin.“) to leave himself plenty of running room after November 5, when, if re-elected on November 4, his presidential campaign begins. He’s been silent on the issue since as far as I know.

      Notice what Governor Walker didn’t on Monday. He didn’t issue a statement asking Wisconsinites to accept the Court’s decision. He didn’t issue a statement offering any support for (or even acknowledging) gay and lesbian couples who are nor married or about to be married. He didn’t say that the fight was over anywhere except Wisconsin. And so on. He’s keeping his powder dry for the presidential primaries.

      Monday’s ruling in Wisconsin has more-or-less been a repeat of DADT repeal, a non-event. Marriage licenses are being issued statewide at this point with no fuss, the newspapers around the state are editorializing that marriage equality is a good thing, and nobody (except for Julaine Appling and her ilk) seems to think that the sky has fallen. But then, Wisconsin is a “purple” state that last voted Republican in the presidential election of 1984, and public opinion on marriage equality has definitely turned around since 2006, when Republicans pushed through the anti-marriage amendment that is now (at least temporarily) defunct.

      Don, I hope that you and Jorge will soon be free to marry in Florida. Let us know when you guys tie the knot so that we can all congratulate you. It takes a special kind of person to do what you did — go public in such a visible way, taking on the responsibilities of speaking to groups across the state and so on. Floridians owe you their thanks.

      • posted by Don on

        Thanks, Tom. Jorge and I have been on a roller coaster ride for the marriage vows. At first, we were the designated couple for a political “rush to the courthouse” marriage. But that window seems to be closed. No need for spiking the football. We will likely roll out just like Wisconsin is now when the day actually comes. Our plans now are to quietly get it done 6+ months after it’s legal so we can plan a ceremony with family/friends in a more normal fashion.

        Unlike so many other “public” struggles where you are the face of a movement, this one has been very different. No harassment. We have had people walking up to us on the street, recognizing us, and congratulating us. The number of Hispanic people ages 60-80+ who have stopped us on the street to tell us they support what we are doing has been amazing.

        One guy was pushing 60, a janitor in Jorge’s high rise, who told him “I’m so happy you are doing this. Because of you, I can marry my partner soon.” Whodathunkit?

        Our local “Appling” organizers have been truly bizarre. It’s such a tiny contingent that is clearly dwindling that there isn’t much they can do about it. A small group of Hispanic catholics with clearly very little education. I feel sorry for them because they really don’t understand what’s going on. They live in a black/white world where religious leaders tell them what to do to get into heaven. And then they go and do it.

        I’m very hopeful that our new pope may help us “say goodbye to all that” in the coming years. The fact that he’s even entertaining such a discussion is amazing!

        • posted by Jorge on

          I’m very hopeful that our new pope may help us “say goodbye to all that” in the coming years. The fact that he’s even entertaining such a discussion is amazing!

          Is there something you have heard that I didn’t? I only caught a small piece of what they are talking about.

          He wants the attendee bishops to speak freely what they feel their connection with God is telling them to.

          He had then sit through a couple celebrating 50+ years of marriage tell them about their views of Christian married sexuality–they think sexual intimacy is the only difference between marriage and any other Christ-centered relationship. It was a creepy line for me because it sounded very Catholic, in both a cultural and a religious sense. Oh, and they got applause when they told of their friends’ response to their gay child bringing his partner for the holidays.

          The road Pope Francis is traveling on heralds a change to conform to a path I think the Church has already laid out years before. You can see this in the way he seems serious about reforming the Vatican’s ban (something whose need is a little more obvious but is very difficult to do). I think I feel some of the fear of change. But the Pope believes that the Church is in danger of losing its moral authority if it does not re-align its priorities.

  10. posted by Mike in Houston on

    I’m not sure I would go so far as to say Ted Cruz & company are “outliers” as he consistently “wins” any Tea Party / Religious Right sort of straw poll and as long as that “narrow base” largely controls the primary process even for (ahem) so-called moderate (and by their standards, completely unacceptable) GOP candidates.

    Saint Ronny wouldn’t make it past the Republican nihilist base that’s in charge today — they don’t even follow his 11th commandment anymore!

    • posted by Houndentenor on

      From my vantage point of Texas, Ted Cruz speaks for the GOP base. I never hear him say anything different from what I have been hearing Republicans say for years. How exactly is he an outlier unless one thinks the country club set in suburban areas of blue states are still the core of the Republican party. That’s simply delusional.

    • posted by Doug on

      Mike Huckabee is definitely on the Cruz bandwagon too.

  11. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    It appears that we can add West Virginia to the marriage equality ledger. Attorney General Patrick Morrisey issued an opinion today that the 4th Circuit’s ruling was binding on the state, and Governor Earl Ray ordered state agencies to to comply with the ruling. Marriages are expected to begin early next week. I think that brings us to either 27 or 29, depending on how Nevada and Idaho shake out in the next day or so.

  12. posted by MR Bill on

    Via. “Anti-gay groups hate Democrats, but if there’s anything they hate even more, it’s gay Republicans. Therefore a coalition of anti-gay activists today issued a joint letter calling for a “tactical vote” against homocon House candidate Carl DeMaio and a vote for the incumbent Democrat, Rep. Scott Peters. “

    • posted by Mike in Houston on

      Somehow, Stephen will make this be the fault of “progressive gays”…

  13. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    It looks like things have settled down in Nevada. According to the AP, the 9th Circuit Court issued an order this afternoon stating that its ruling striking down Nevada’s gay marriage ban is “in full force and effect”, and ordering a trial judge in Las Vegas to adopt its ruling ASAP. Officials in Las Vegas and surrounding Clark County said they would begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples one hour after the trial judge acts.

  14. posted by Tom Jefferson III on

    Mike H. — has threaten to leave the Republican Party, if it refuses to continue the fight against marriage equality.

    I have suspected that a significant minority of people like Mike and others may become involved in some type of third party movement (i,e, the American Independent party or the Constitution party or the Prohibition party), which might be enough support to gain some local or regional traction.

  15. posted by Kosh III on

    “Mike H. — has threaten to leave the Republican Party, if it refuses to continue the fight against marriage equality. ”
    Good riddance.
    This reminds me of the split in the Labour Party in 1979 when Tony Benn and Michael Foot, both very left, took over the party, more moderate MPs formed the Social Democrats and Labour was “in the wilderness” until Tony Blair in 97.

    OF course it’s all the fault of Obama, Clinton and leftist fags.

  16. posted by Aubrey Haltom on

    I get the feeling that I’m an outlier in this matter. But I think with the absence of a SCOTUS decision – wherein the justices vote for all to see – we in the lgbt community will exist in a legal vacuum, of sorts. Even if equality is achieved through the lower courts overturning all amendments/bans.
    I think a SCOTUS ruling is requisite to American society accepting this community as constitutionally equal. Sans a ruling, there will be a perceived asterisk to our legal equality that other minorities have not had to face.

  17. posted by Tom Jefferson III on

    Well, if you do not think that other downtrodden segments of American society don’t have a ‘asterisk’ next to their legal equality, you need to do a bit more reading on American history.

    In the 1950s when the U.S. Supreme Court declared that separate but equal was unconstitutional, progress (even within the public school setting) was VERY slow and bitterly fought and even today, not exactly a magical utopia of equality.

    • posted by Aubrey Haltom on

      I would agree with you wholeheartedly that Topeka v Brown was not the resolution of all racial issues in this country.
      I was only trying to express the thought that without SCOTUS actually ruling against these amendments/bans there will always be the sense that the issue was never quite settled.
      I have lived in TN, in TX and in Louisiana. I have family, friends & in laws who are definitely red state citizens.
      But there still is a certain respect given to a SCOTUS decision – even those that are vehemently disagreed with – that this community might not have. IF SCOTUS Ducks any ruling & lets the lower courts handle this issue.
      My comment was not meant to imply that any other minority community has had it easier. But that even today a SCOTUS decision carries with it a weight & value – culturally speaking – that doesn’t exist without said ruling.

  18. posted by Tom Jefferson III on

    Patrick Buchanan left the Republican Party to takeover/ruin the Reform Party back in 2000, and then, briefly his own third party, but he pretty much gave up doing much politically, beyond being a well paid talking head on TV.

    It it theoretically possible that enough of the ‘hard core’ religious right within the GOP could help a third or fourth party gain some traction at the local or regional level.

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