A shot across the bow of Beltway Republicans on Gay Marriage Day at the Supreme Court.
Alternate headline: “Huckabee’s running in 2016.”
When asked if he believes the Republican Party will change its position and support gay marriage in a Wednesday Newsmax interview, Huckabee remarked, “They might, and if they do, they’re going to lose a large part of their base because evangelicals will take a walk.”…
“And it’s not because there’s an anti-homosexual mood, and nobody’s homophobic that I know of,” he continued, “but many of us, and I consider myself included, base our standards not on the latest Washington Post poll, but on an objective standard, not a subjective standard.”…
“If we have subjective standards, that means that we’re willing to move our standards based on the prevailing whims of culture,” he said. “I think politicians have an obligation to be thermostats, not just thermometers. They’re not simply to reflect the temperature of the room, or the culture, as it were. They’re to set the standards for law, for what’s right, for what’s wrong, understanding that not everybody’s going to agree with it, not everybody’s going to accept it.”
I’ve read a bunch of pieces lately claiming that SCOTUS striking down gay-marriage laws will actually be a gift to GOP politicians because it’ll take this issue off the table. Rubio and Paul and Jindal et al. won’t have to squirm over whether to endorse SSM, back a federalist approach to the issue, or oppose it on the merits. They can just shrug and say “The Court was wrong but whaddaya gonna do?” and move on to other business. Take it from Huckabee: That won’t happen. Abortion’s technically been “off the table” for 40 years and yet it’s still an absolute litmus test for any potential GOP nominee (and any potential Democratic nominee too). To keep social conservatives onboard, candidates will be asked to promise (a) that they’ll appoint Supreme Court justices who are committed to overturning any gay-marriage rulings and (b) that they’ll endorse some sort of constitutional amendment that would either ban SSM outright or, at a minimum, return the issue to the states. (The amendment will go nowhere but that’s beside the point here.) Think a prospective nominee won’t do some squirming over whether they should sign on to those propositions, especially given the GOP’s panic over losing young voters? Come 2016, this won’t be just about gay marriage anymore; it’ll be a test of whether social conservatives retain the same influence over the party platform that they’ve had for the last few decades. That’s why Huck’s framing this in apocalyptic “stick with us or we walk” terms. It’s their party, at least on social issues.
With respect to what’s best for other GOP pols, the simple explanation is the correct one: They’re better off if the Court surprises everyone and upholds Prop 8. Then the 2016 field can take the position that they’re personally opposed to SSM in order to placate social cons while insisting that, as good federalists, they want local voters to decide this issue for themselves. That sort of squishy middle-way stance won’t dazzle anyone on either side but it might hold the Republican coalition together by reassuring Huck and his supporters that red states will still get to chart their own course. It might also be acceptable to young voters in the sense that the potential GOP nominee won’t be standing in the way of gay marriage in states when the votes are there. But note: The squishy position won’t work if the Court does end up legalizing gay marriage this summer. In that case, taking the federalist position via a constitutional amendment will be seen as an attempt to roll back marriage rights that gays have already won. Young voters likely will find that alienating, and social cons may reason that an amendment to return power to the states on the subject simply doesn’t go far enough as a rebuke to a judiciary that’s out of control. What politicians cherish is room to maneuver, and a pro-SSM ruling leaves the GOP with less of that than an anti-SSM ruling would.
Anyway. Across the aisle, Mark Begich magically decided last night that he too is now pro-gay marriage, which makes three Democratic senators who have “evolved” in just the past 24 hours. I’m starting a pool as of right now: At what time today will the next Democratic holdout formally declare his support for SSM? I’ll take 2 p.m. ET.
Update: Interesting choice of words from Reince Priebus:
“We do have a platform, and we adhere to that platform,” Priebus said in an interview Monday on USA TODAY’s Capital Download video series. “But it doesn’t mean that we divide and subtract people from our party” who support the right of gay men and lesbians to marry.
“I don’t believe we need to act like Old Testament heretics,” he said, saying Republicans “have to strike a balance between principle and grace and respect.”