Interesting cost/benefit question here: Would it hurt the GOP more than help them to do this? It’s not like Democrats would suddenly stop demagoging the issue if Republicans changed their platform. Regardless of what the RNC does, Hillary will remind young voters at every opportunity that her GOP opponent personally supports limiting marriage to one man and one woman. Meanwhile, some social cons will interpret a change to the official Republican platform as a formal surrender in the culture war over gay rights, a dangerous bit of alienation in the heat of a close election. My hunch is that the party has more to lose by pissing off its base in removing the “marriage amendment” language than it does to gain in attracting voters who, let’s face it, are unlikely to care much what the platform says either way. Graham’s entirely right that the amendment is pie in the sky, but that’s not the point. The point is signaling. What signal would be sent by removing it?
Another interesting question is whether there’s any substitute amendment that the GOP could propose that would make evangelicals and other social conservatives happy enough that they wouldn’t mind seeing the one-man-one-woman language go. It’s a fait accompli that the next Republican platform will call for shielding religious business owners from antidiscrimination laws (Graham himself mentions that here). Whether that proposal takes the form of a constitutional amendment or something else is just a detail. If that’s not aggressive enough, they could compromise by adding a modified Federal Marriage Amendment that merely seeks to return the issue to the states, as Scott Walker recommends, rather than to enshrine one-man-one-woman as the universal marriage law of the land. That would be less objectionable to pro-SSM swing voters while also pleasing red-staters who want their state ban back in effect. Or, if they want to really get proactive, they could up the ante by supporting Ted Cruz’s proposal over the weekend to make Supreme Court justices submit to “retention elections” periodically. That has only a marginally better chance of becoming law than the amendment Graham describes does, but it’s good populism. Even the left can find something to love in a plan that would give them a shot at booting Antonin Scalia off the Court, no?
Now I’m wondering which GOP candidates are with Graham on this. The social conservatives like Huckabee, Cruz, Santorum, Jindal, and Carson obviously aren’t. How about Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio? It’s not strictly inconsistent to say, as Jeb and Rubio (and John Kasich) have, that the Court’s SSM ruling must be respected while also supporting an amendment to overturn it. That’s a procedural question at bottom: We must follow the Court’s ruling while it’s binding but there’s no reason we shouldn’t try to overturn it. Graham’s giving up on overturning it partly because that’s not where his policy interests lie — he’s a pro-amnesty hawk, not a social issues warrior — and partly because, as a marginal candidate, he doesn’t need to worry about ticking off the Republican base. The electable candidates like Bush and Rubio do. Which way do they go on this?