At any other time, this statement would be wholly unremarkable. In the thick of a GOP presidential primary, though? Right after the the hottest hot-button social issue of ’em all has gone nuclear? When Mike Huckabee’s vowing some sort of second American revolution in defiance of the Court’s ruling?
“I believe that marriage, as the key to strong family life, is the most important institution in our society and should be between one man and one woman. People who disagree with the traditional definition of marriage have the right to change their state laws. That is the right of our people, not the right of the unelected judges or justices of the Supreme Court. This decision short-circuits the political process that has been underway on the state level for years.
“While I disagree with this decision, we live in a republic and must abide by the law. As we look ahead, it must be a priority of the next president to nominate judges and justices committed to applying the Constitution as written and originally understood…
“I firmly believe the question of same sex marriage is a question of the definition of an institution, not the dignity of a human being. Every American has the right to pursue happiness as they see fit. Not every American has to agree on every issue, but all of us do have to share our country. A large number of Americans will continue to believe in traditional marriage, and a large number of Americans will be pleased with the Court’s decision today. In the years ahead, it is my hope that each side will respect the dignity of the other.”
Contrast that with this bon mot from Bobby Jindal today in Iowa:
“The Supreme Court is completely out of control, making laws on their own, and has become a public opinion poll instead of a judicial body,” the 2016 contender said in a statement.
“If we want to save some money, let’s just get rid of the court,” Jindal added.
The last bit was probably a joke, but given how desperate to impress social cons Jindal sometimes seems, it’s hard to be sure. As for Jeb Bush, his statement’s even more restrained than Rubio’s but the two enjoy an important point of commonality, notes BuzzFeed: Both Floridians seem to concede that the fight against gay marriage is over and that the party should focus on protecting religious liberty from antidiscrimination challenges going forward. No more empty chatter about marriage amendments, no Huckabee-esque bluster about how the Supreme Court can’t make law or whatever. The closest either of them get to suggesting that gay marriage might yet be undone is Rubio hinting, very vaguely, about future Supreme Court appointments, but that’s pie in the sky. It’s unlikely in the extreme that even a conservative Court will revisit today’s ruling anytime soon. He and Bush are waving the white flag here and nudging the party to pivot to defending religious Americans’ right of freedom of association. I’m not optimistic that the GOP will win on that either but at least that fight isn’t a clear-cut political loser in a country where upwards of 60 percent of adults and considerably higher rates of millennials are now solidly pro-SSM.
Plus, needless to say, as the two most donor-friendly candidates in the field, Bush and Rubio know full well which way the GOP establishment’s opinion runs on this issue even if few members are eager to talk about it publicly. Rubio went to the mat on immigration reform at great political risk to ingratiate himself to the amnesty fans in the Republican donor class. How stupid would it be, at a moment when he and Jeb are competing to woo billionaires, to fart away all that hard-earned goodwill by alienating them on gay marriage now? Scott Walker, one of the party’s other most conspicuously electable candidates, learned the hard way what happens when you put up a fight on SSM with GOP moneybags:
But the reaction to Walker’s likely candidacy has been cooler in another key city, New York, where he has struggled to make inroads among the powerful and monied financial community — in part because of his strident opposition to same-sex marriage and his positions on other social issues. One billionaire hedge fund manager got into a long argument with Walker over same-sex marriage and then pulled his support because of it, said a Republican familiar with the meeting…
“Sometimes you can say something and people think you don’t mean it, and sometimes you can say something and people think you mean it,” said one Republican who has seen this tension play out. “When Barack Obama said he’s against gay marriage in 2008, people didn’t think he meant it. But when Scott says it, people think he means it. This is a very big stumbling block for him on Wall Street.”
Rubio’s not going to make that same mistake, and Jeb, a creature of the establishment from birth, wouldn’t ever have dreamed of it. Interestingly, the fact that they’re both tacking a bit further towards the center on the court ruling leaves Walker with extra room on the right to try to impress conservatives by coming out more forcefully against today’s decision. That explains why he proposed a Federal Marriage Amendment in his own statement today. Brendan Bordelon notes that Walker had stayed ambivalent about gay marriage in his public statements as governor over the past few years, recognizing that it would only cause him headaches when he was already well positioned to make a serious run for the GOP nomination. Now, though, with hardcore social cons like Huck and Jindal pounding the table and centrists like Rubio and Bush wondering “can’t we all just get along?”, he’s got lots of room on the center-right for a compromise position. Yes, he says, we should dump this Supreme Court ruling — but no, we shouldn’t ban gay marriage straightaway, as previous versions of the Federal Marriage Amendment demanded. What Walker wants is an amendment that would re-empower state legislatures to make the rules for their individual states. That’s his way of signaling to righties that he’s deeply opposed to SSM while also signaling to swing voters that he’s not so deeply opposed that he’d try to stop them from having SSM in their own state if they really want it. When in doubt, you can’t go wrong with federalism.
Exit question: Which rival candidate will Huckabee and Jindal spend most of their time flogging as a sellout? Probably Walker, right? Beating up on Rubio won’t hurt him with the center — if anything, it might help — but beating up on Walker might convince enough center-righties that Walker’s really a squish at heart that they’ll gravitate rightward.