We are constantly told by the consultant class that the issue of marriage is a big loser for Republicans. If you listen to the talking points from almost every elected Republican official in recent days, you will hear them say that the whole issue is a “distraction” from the real issues. Simply put, they believe the Democrat talking points that they are on the wrong side of the issue, and desire to ignore the fight for traditional marriage altogether, lest it be an albatross around their necks.
However, beyond the public show of bravado regarding gay marriage, it is actually the Democrats who are scared about the electoral consequences of their position on the issue. After all, North Carolina just became the 32nd state to pass a marriage amendment, and it did so by a large margin (especially considering the inclusion of civil unions in the amendment). As the Hill reports, Democrats outside of dark blue states aren’t exactly jumping on the “right side of history” bandwagon:
Sens. Jon Tester (Mont.) and Claire McCaskill (Mo.), the two most vulnerable Democratic senators, have declined to endorse Obama’s call for the legalization of gay marriage.
Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Bob Casey (Pa.) and Bill Nelson (Fla.), Democrats who have easier races but in states that could become more competitive by November, have also backed away from Obama’s stance.
They all represent states with constitutional amendments or laws banning same-sex marriage.
Keep in mind that Obama won Florida, Pennsylvania, and even North Carolina. Then again, the marriage amendment passed in California during a terrible year for Republicans. It’s also revealing how the states that banned gay marriage did so with the approval of the voters, while those that legalized it did so at the behest of the politicians. Even in Maryland, the bluest of blue states, voters are on the verge of completing a successful referendum petition to strike down the law recognizing gay marriage. Proponents of gay marriage are not too confident they will succeed on the ballot in November…in Maryland.
Democrats, including Obama, are clearly nervous about fully embracing a gay marriage agenda. They will trot out contrived polls and talk tough, but ultimately, they are observing the only authentic polling data – the votes at the ballot. We live in a country where most issues are split 50-50, or at best 55-45. There are few issues that have enjoyed 60-70% in the majority of states. Democrats privately understand this; Republicans refuse to take heed. That’s why so few of the prominent elected Republicans even released a press statement lauding the vote in North Carolina. To the extent that they are forced to issue a statement, they mumble some rapid boilerplate about marriage being “between a man and a woman, but let’s go back to talking about the economy.”
Let’s not get into the fact that those who are eager to run away from social issues are usually just as alacritous to cave on fiscal issues.
Instead of speaking with moral clarity on the issue for at least a few minutes, Republicans have scowled at reporters for daring to ask them about this issue during one of the few weeks that it has achieved prominence. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus was upset that David Gregory made him discuss the issue for an entire 8 minutes! All of these Republicans that refuse to be “distracted” with the issue, clearly feel uncomfortable discussing an issue that has won in 32 states by overwhelming margins. Call me naive, but if I were running a campaign and saw 61% oppose even civil unions in a must-win state, I would air at least one ad in that state showing Obama say “I always planned to endorse same-sex marriage before the election.”
We all agree that we need to focus on the economy throughout the 2012 election; however, we must not eschew our bedrock values, especially when they are under assault by Obama. Marriage is not a distraction; it is an issue we should embrace, especially when we are swamping them at the ballot box. If we cede the ground to the left on this, it will lead to the self-fulfilling prophecy of Republican consultants – a view that, at present, is not grounded in reality.
Cross-posted from The Madison Project