Is Marriage Equality Good for the GOP?

Brian BeutlerWas Brian Beutler right when he explained, Why Conservatives Should Praise God for the Supreme Court’s Gay Marriage Decision? His argument is pretty standard. The decision allowing same sex marriage across the country has saved the Republicans from themselves. He compared it to Brown v Board of Education. He noted, “If a different Supreme Court hadn’t helped end the civil rights debate, a big segment of the country would’ve remained separate-but-equal fanatics for years and years, and driven their elected officials into that dead end with them.” He’s right about this, of course. In another couple of years, same sex marriage is going to have 80% approval and it helps the Republicans a lot to not have to talk about it.

But there is a bigger point here: conservatives are always on the trailing end of history. And the Republican Party has set up a system where they have to use these ancillary issues in order to further their primary goal of enriching the already rich and empowering the already powerful. And they really do get stuck in their own traps. But it is hard to feel sorry for them because issues like same sex marriage serve them well for a long time. And they would be lost without them.

The more important point is that, as same sex marriage becomes a thing of the past, they will simply find new things to stand against. This is Corey Robin’s very definition of conservatism: being against liberation movements. The point is always and forever that whoever are in charge at any given time are the right people to be in charge. So we always will hear things from conservatives like, “Well certainly Jim Crow was bad, but that’s all a thing of the past!” Whatever it is that people are asking for now must be resisted because freedom is a limited quantity. In fact, that’s been quite explicit in the same sex marriage debate where it was bizarrely claimed that it would harm heterosexual marriage — like there is some law of conservation of marriage.

And let’s not forget that the ultimate fall back for conservatives is the poor. LGBT rights has always been a sideshow. The true popular power of the Republican Party has been its veiled (and not so veiled) attacks on African Americans and Latinos as the moocher class. This has the advantage of being fairly straightforward. It really goes along with what conservatives believe: the rich are rich because they are better and the poor are poor because they suck. This was, by the way, one of the primary arguments for chattel slavery. Not much has changed.

So I think that Beutler is basically correct: for the Republican Party, the legalization of same sex marriage is helpful. There will, of course, continue to be culture warriors like Mike Huckabee who will pander to that consistent 20% of the population that hates everyone and everything. But mostly, the party will abandon it. But it will continue on with its usual bigotry. And it will find new things to demagogue against. Cheer up Republicans, the dream is not dead!

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

2 thoughts on “Is Marriage Equality Good for the GOP?

  1. The cultural warriors made the most out of this for electoral, political reasons (and will continue to gnaw the bones with “religious freedom” exceptions) while, as usual, not giving a shit about their genuinely religious electorate.

    After all, if the GOP had supported the legal status of “civil unions” ten or even five years ago, the moral argument for marriage equality would have lost most of its steam. They could have had their religious exclusion of gay couples, gay couples could have had the tax/legal rights of marriage. But of course none of this ever had anything to do with the rights of gay people or the feelings of staunch religious conservatives. It was about turding on both to use the latter for vote meat.

    Mind you, I’m perfectly happy the GOP never embraced civil unions, as it’s a thrilling victory for gay couples (I’m sad for those who suffered before.) But you know what the gradual loss of gay-bashing will mean to the GOP; simply re-focusing that “other” hate on ethnic minorities and foreigners. It’s not really a matter of “evil is vanquished” for me; it seems more that our really diseased society produces a lot of people with a lot of anger and it’s always going to be focused somewhere.

    • Yeah, that’s absolutely correct. Long before this Court decision, “the gays” had lost most of its power for the Republicans. Ultimately, their greatest demagogic power is against African Americans. But they could even afford to lose that pocket of hate. Because there are always an infinite number of ways to divide people into “us” and “them.” The Republican Party is really good at it. It has to be. If it weren’t, it wouldn’t exist. Because it’s policies are so amazingly unpopular.

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