Proponents of gay marriage, as they eagerly anticipate the Supreme Court’s examination of the issue next week, are chortling over recent polls that suggest the American public’s resistance to it is fast eroding. They pointed this week to a Washington Post-ABC News poll in which 58 percent of Americans support gay marriage and 37 percent oppose it. This is an almost exact reversal from a decade ago, they say, when polls then showed 55 percent of Americans opposed gay marriage and 37 percent supported it.
Meanwhile, establishment Republicans, who have always been ambivalent about the issue, appear ready to wave the white flag. “Quite literally, the opposition to gay marriage is dying off,” claims columnist George Will. Columnist Michael Barone reports that “at the Conservative Political Action Conference, a panel sponsored by the Competitive Enterprise Institute drew a large and approving crowd for a discussion labeled ‘A Rainbow on the Right: Growing the Coalition, Bringing Tolerance Out of the Closet.’”
All of this holds great propaganda value for the Left, which always seeks to topple a taboo by emphasizing the “inevitability” of its elimination. The name of the game is to fool ordinary Americans into thinking that resistance is futile. Never mind that 30 states have managed to ban this “inevitable” change.
Yet it is true that the gay-marriage drive is picking up speed, even if that is overstated for propagandistic purposes. Why is this happening? Because of the intensity of the media and the Democrats? That is one reason. Another reason for it, which gets much less attention, is the weakness if not outright treachery of the Republicans.
The problem isn’t just that Republicans lack the courage of their convictions on gay marriage. The problem is that they don’t have any convictions—or hold the wrong ones. Recall that prominent Republicans, such as Dick Cheney and Laura Bush, endorsed gay marriage long before Obama and the Clintons did. It wasn’t until this week that Hillary Clinton formally announced her support for nationalized gay marriage.
“What was once a front-and-center issue for rank-and-file Republicans—the subject of many hotly worded House and Senate floor speeches—is virtually a dead issue,” Politico has reported.
Mitt Romney, the GOP’s presidential nominee last year, couldn’t even bring himself to defend Chick-fil-A against Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, who said the restaurant’s opposition to gay marriage made it contrary to “Chicago values” and thus unworthy of a city permit. Romney didn’t bring the issue of gay marriage up a single time in any of the debates and generally made comments indistinguishable from Obama’s on gay rights (Romney endorsed gay adoption and told his campaign to remain mute on the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell).
This week, Rob Portman, one of Romney’s closest advisers and near-running mate (he almost selected him to be his vice presidential nominee but chose Paul Ryan instead), came out in support of gay marriage, citing his gay son whom he wishes to “have the same opportunities to pursue happiness and fulfillment as his brother and sister.”
According to Politico, Portman will pay almost no political price for this endorsement because the Republican leadership class agrees with him. Politico titled its story, “GOP elite embraces Portman gay marriage switch,” reporting: “The reality Portman’s flip-flop exposed is this: among the Republican political community, the people who actually run campaigns and operate super PACs, support for gay marriage is almost certainly a solid majority position. Among strategists born after the end of the Vietnam War, it’s not even a close call.”
Support for gay marriage within this influential GOP circle is so uncontroversial that in February, according to Politico, “a throng of top Republican politicos signed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to support a constitutional right to gay marriage. Among them were a half-dozen senior aides to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign…”
Members of the Beltway GOP elite have been cynically manipulating social conservatives for years, seeking their votes while snickering at their views. They have long pretended to care about abortion and gay marriage, even as they undercut social conservatives at every turn and pushed the “Big Tent.”
Almost a decade ago social conservatives could barely convince George W. Bush’s White House to issue a proclamation in favor of marriage during “Marriage Protection Week.” One activist said: “Our leaders had to call the White House and say, ‘You won’t even do this?’” Bush strategist Karl Rove saw get-out-the-vote value in the issue, but nothing else. It came out later that the head of Bush’s 2004 reelection effort, Ken Mehlman, was gay. Mehlman went on to lobby for passage of gay marriage in New York state, persuading a handful of undecided GOP state senators to provide the clinching support for the bill.
At the political level, the culture war has been hopelessly one-sided, with Republicans secretly and now not-so-secretly fighting alongside the Democrats on many critical fronts. As on the issue of women in combat—for which GOP capitulations during the Bush years paved the way—gay marriage is spreading not in spite of the Republicans but because of them.