« Go back a post || Return to G-A-Y homepage || Haul tail to next post »


Don't be fooled: GOP's 2016 contenders *love* the way marriage equality is playing out

by Jeremy Hooper

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) grabbed a couple of headlines this week when he expressed a bit of outrage over the Florida judges who rightly joined countless other judges in nothing that civil rights are not a popularity contest. Rubio said in part:

“If they wanted to change that law, they should have gone to the legislature or back to the Constitution and try to change it,” Rubio said. “I don’t agree we should be trying to make those changes through the courts.
FULL: Sen. Marco Rubio laments court rulings on same-sex marriage [Politico]

And of course he issued a statement. The senator's most certainly going to run for president; he needs to put something on record.

Rubio's comments followed words from former Florida governor and legacy politician Jeb Bush (R), another near-definite candidate for 2016. Bush also stated his personal resistance and belief that marriage should be a "state decision" (something I've already pressed him on), but he overall took a softer approach than Rubio:

We live in a democracy, and regardless of our disagreements, we have to respect the rule of law,” Bush said in the statement. “I hope that we can also show respect for the good people on all sides of the gay and lesbian marriage issue — including couples making lifetime commitments to each other who are seeking greater legal protections and those of us who believe marriage is a sacrament and want to safeguard religious liberty.”
Jeb Bush Calls For 'Respect' In Marriage Debate [CNN]

But while both made it sound like they'd personally like it to go another way, the greater likelihood is that both men are actually something else entirely. Namely, I believe that both men are extremely happy with the way the decision has played out in their state. Same goes for Gov. Christie, who gave similar statements (and abandoned his appeals) in the wake of a court decision that finally brought marriage equality to his state. Same goes for just about any 2016 candidate who can now work a "my hands are tied" schtick when talking about this issue.

the 2016 Republican primary, and eventually the general election from the GOP perspective, is surely going to be teeming with talk about "Obama's America" and all the supposedly "tyrannical" things that went down. With the courts leading the charge in this civil rights fight, as they have in so many crucial civil rights fights of the past, these conservative candidates will most definitely add "redefinition of marriage" to that list of things that went down during this administration. It won't matter that many of the judges who set the ball in motion (including SCOTUS swing Anthony Kennedy) were Republican appointees. Since the President is himself a vocal supporter, and since he has geared his administration and Justice Dept. toward the expansion of equality, that darn Obama will get all the blame. "It happened on his watch and with his help!" and all that noise.

So why do I say these GOP candidates are secretly happy? Well, because now they can talk about it in an "I wish it would have been different" sort of way than with a "I will make it different!" vow. Had the question been left more open for them, the candidates would be pressed to call for all kinds of wacky proposals, all the way up to a Federal Marriage Amendment. But now, with the writing so clearly on the wall and most everyone realizing that there is no way or will to take away these rights, these GOP candidates can pretty much sum up their stances with an "eh, whaddya gonna do?" Sure, most of them, like Rubio, will couple this act with head shakes, vows to strengthen the family, and verbal commitment to fighting on, so as to give off the impression of righteous anger. But they can also silence the hardcore within their base who might still want to press them to take divisive legislative action. "Yeah, but those pesky activist judges..." they will say before moving on to something they really want to talk about. They can stop short of making these kinds of promises that their Democratic challengers could (and should) then exploit.

I even think this secret happiness is true for someone like a Mike Huckabee or a Rick Santorum, who do seem like true believers who'd create a scarily anti-us America if left to their own devices. These two (and others like them) get off on the victim routine and use it to great effect. If they make a go for it in 2016, they have a whole new way of telling "the people" that they have been robbed at the hand of the "radical gay agenda." They use to traffic in threats of what might happen if their calls for discrimination went unheeded. Now, and likely even more so when the election really gets going, the can portray themselves as prophets, and portray their troops—the very folks who fought so hard to deny us—as being the maligned, downtrodden, grossly wrong Davids whose only chance now is to put faith in candidates who will openly vow to be warriors for God. But since even these guys (or at least their advisors) know that most any marriage equality–repealing legislation they tried to put through
would be a non-starter, they too can take comfort in knowing that they'll only have to press so hard (and only rhetorically) for the distractions of the past.

While polling does still show Republicans rejecting marriage equality, that grasp is tenuous and pragmatic party leaders know the math. Plus in general election, a national candidate needs more than just partisans. They need more than just the stronghold red states. Getting past the marriage question is only going to be of benefit. Getting past it without getting their hands dirty is even better for these GOP candidates. These court battles are letting them do just that. They can highlight what they did in the past, so that they don't look "weak," and can signal their own relative unhappiness with a trajectory that they wouldn't have chosen. But then they can pretty much escape, largely unscathed.

To me, the bigger political risk on marriage in 2016 is in a Democrat who stops short of anything other than unequivocal happiness at our bettered, brighter, more equal nation.

space gay-comment gay-G-A-Y-post gay-email gay-writer-jeremy-hooper

Your thoughts

comments powered by Disqus

G-A-Y Comments Policy

Related Posts with Thumbnails