Tuesday, April 28, 2015

SCOTUS, same-sex marriage, and the electoral viability of the GOP

By Richard Barry

It is axiomatic that the GOP will need to expand its base with younger and non-white voters if it hopes to capture the White House any time soon. The problem, of course, is that any movement towards positions that appeal to these constituencies risks alienating the party's older, whiter, and more culturally conservative base.

Nate Cohn at the New York Times argues that one development that could work in the GOP's favour is a Supreme Court ruling supporting same-sex marriage.

With the legality of same-sex marriage being argued on Tuesday, the court could allow Republicans to abandon an unpopular position without abandoning their principles or risking a primary challenge. History would effectively be bailing out the party.

He compares this to the end of the Cold War, which, some would argue, assisted Democrats, long considered weak on national security, by helping take the issue off the table.
This year, if the Supreme Court rules that same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional, the court could free Republicans from defending a policy that makes it far harder to confront their generational and demographic challenges.

My sense is that Mr. Cohn is giving the Republicans far too much credit. I would also suggest that the comparison with the Cold War doesn't work. 

A Supreme Court ruling will surely signal that the battle by same-sex marriage advocates has been won, but this will simply make the issue more contentious for the many who will refuse to accept defeat. In other words, I think the issue will be even more difficult for Republicans to manage than if SCOTUS hadn't ruled to support it (assuming they do). 

And I do not imagine the Republican base will look kindly on any candidate who says that the Supreme Court has decided the matter, so let's move on. If the Supreme Court sanctions same-sex marriage, it will make opponents demand it be talked about incessantly, and in the most energetic ways, thus exacerbating the GOP's "generational and demographic challenges."

Unlike the end of the Cold War, which really was an end, this will be the beginning of something new and important, and a culture war marker of epic proportion, which the Republican base will not let go easily.

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  • Another problem is that the Democrats are still -- despite enormous evidence to the contrary -- thought to be weak on foreign policy. Also: Clinton won in 1992 because of the state of the economy. That's it.

    As for same sex marriage, I think Cohn is missing the larger issues. I talked about a related thing a lot after the 2012 election regarding immigration. Many pundits thought that Republicans should get immigration reform "off the table." But what good would that do for Republicans when anything they would do would clearly have been done kicking and screaming.

    You are completely right that the Republicans will keep talking about this stuff. And now they have their "religious liberty" laws to protect bigot bakers everywhere!

    By Blogger Frank Moraes, at 1:03 PM  

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