GOP prez contender see no marriage, hear no marriage

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore spent last week trying, and failing, to violate Article Six of the US Constitution.

Moore was, however, more successful at reminding us of the last time Alabama picked a fight with the federal government over the issue of marriage (and eventually lost).

Moore, who is positively torn up about the idea of his gay friends getting married, is waging a massive resistance movement against our nation’s higher courts, who have ordered the state to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

But don’t tell that to the frontrunners for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, who for the most part, according to POLITICO, spent the better part of last week pretending Roy Moore didn’t exist.

Screen Shot 2015-02-14 at 2.28.51 PMFor instance, Marco Rubio responded to questions about the case by pleading ignorance, quoted as saying, “The problem is, I just don’t know the details of what arguments they are using” in Alabama before repeating exactly the same argument that Roy Moore is using in Alabama: that marriage is an issue best left to the states.

Ted Cruz, in similar fashion, simply repeated his position that marriage is a states’ rights issue when asked for comment on the Alabama case.

A spokesperson for Rick Perry, who was presumably not wearing the governor’s favorite Brokeback Mountain coat, limited their response to, “This is a matter between the State of Alabama and the courts.”

Bobby Jindal, when pressed by CNN, refused to even use the word “Alabama” when asked about the events unfolding in the state.

And so on.

It should go without saying that the proliferation of the “states’ rights” meme in the conservative movement is a high-speed evolution from its position on marriage in 2006, when Republicans tried to pass a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage nationwide. Of course, that was when nearly 60% of the country opposed marriage equality. Now, nearly 60% of likely voters support it.

So it should come as no surprise that the ruckus Roy Moore is stirring up in Alabama is a ruckus that Republican 2016 contenders would rather just go away. As I’ve written before, the GOP is stuck with their base’s rabid social conservatism, at least for the foreseeable future, even as the rest of the country leaves the graying Get Off My Lawn Caucus behind on issues relating to what other people do in their bedrooms.

So for presidential hopefuls to come down in favor of Moore makes them look like a lunatic on the national level, but if they call Moore the lunatic that he is, they’ve outed themselves as a sane person and disqualified themselves from the GOP nomination.

It’s a pickle, no doubt about it  — a pickle that’s making the GOP candidates sound an awful lot like John Kerry did in 2004 when it came to marriage. In that campaign, Kerry opposed marriage equality but supported state-sanctioned civil unions. In other words, he preferred not to talk about the issue, so he punted to the states.

Not only does this mean we’re winning on this particular issue — that much has been clear for a while — but it also means that we’ve taken one of the GOP’s best cards off the table in 2016: their ability to speak in moral language on a pressing national issue. As Kerry learned the hard way in 2004, the more you sound like a lawyer when speaking to a moral issue, parsing language to avoid conveying an actual belief, the less connected you become with the electorate at large.

No one actually believes that the GOP’s “state’s rights” talk is actually about states’ rights — whether the issue is gay marriage or interracial marriage, the term has always been used as a litigious foil for the underlying belief that “those people” doing the dirty deed is icky. If and when the Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage equality later this year, that contrived argument will look even sillier.

But for now, I’m content to sit back and watch them embody a willfully ignorant amalgam of George Wallace and John Kerry. At this rate, 2012’s primaries might not have anything on this bunch.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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  • Indigo

    The demise of the GOP as an identifiable organization is well advanced. Along with it, though, is the rise of the One Party system which is already also well advanced. Even though some third party groups might arise, I suspect the future holds a scenario much like the one in Mexico where One Party [PRI = Partido Revolucionario Institucional] held sway for over 70 years and is now rebouding. The Demoplutocracy that Obama has welded into place thanks to his Wallstreetery [my coinage!] is unlikely to be displaced before the Unexpected Turn that hasn’t happened yet.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Pretending that there are anything other than cosmetic differences between the two right wing parties is a lie.

    Almost one hundred thousand people in Seattle stopped believing the Democrat Big Lie. So did additional thousands in Ohio, trying to preserve their union. http://labornotes.org/2013/12/2013-review-aiming-higher-labor-tries-new-angles-and-alliances

    So are teachers in Chicago, fighting agaisnt the racist Rahm Emanuel. http://labornotes.org/2015/02/chicago-teachers-take-rahm-democrats

    http://labornotes.org/2012/09/chicago-teachers-head-toward-strike-democrats-turn-their-union

    Even Obama admits it. “The truth of the matter is that mypolicies are so mainstream that if I had set the same policies that I had back in the 1980s, I would be considered a moderate Republican.” Obama,
    in an interview with Noticias Univision 23. ABC News, 12 15 2012
    http://abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision/Politics/obama-considered-moderate-republican-1980s/story?id=17973080.

    Gore Vidal explains it for those open to reason; ”There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party … and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat. Republicans are a bit stupider, more rigid, more doctrinaire in their laissez-faire capitalism than the Democrats, who are cuter, prettier, a bit more corrupt — until recently … and more willing than the Republicans to make small adjustments when the poor, the black, the anti-imperialists get out of hand. But, essentially, there is no difference between the two parties.

  • kurtsteinbach

    Equating the two parties, as people like you do, is a false equivalence attack. It’s intellectually lazy and intellectually dishonest, and you need to stop. . . .

  • kurtsteinbach

    Except for the fact that the GOP is literally tearing itself to pieces. Get some popcorn folks, the carnage over the carcass of the GOP is going to be fun to watch. . . .

  • Indigo

    Definitely. The circus is already gearing up and it’s going to be an unusually raucous one. No doubt about that. But as far as the conversation about third parties is concerned, although it is a tempting idea, the fact remains that over the past 50 years of my adult memory, the wheels on that conversation have no traction. Many people agree in theory that we need to reorganize the party system but nothing, absolutely nothing happens. Isn’t that fascinating?

  • kurtsteinbach

    To conservatives, nothing can trump their right to discriminate against people who are not like them. . . .

  • kurtsteinbach

    I am of the mind that the U.S. needs a third party anyway. The problem is that neither the GOP nor the Democratic party is going to tear itself apart and allow the other side to control most of the elected positions in the next few elections. The obvious outcome of this need is that eventually one party would violently (rhetorically speaking) tear itself at least into two pieces. I see the GOP tearing itself in two. One party will be the conservatives, including the Tea Party and Dick Cheney/Karl Rove wings, and the other will be the former more moderate party that used to have near reasonable people like Bob Dole. Who will get the donor lists and the elephant and other goodies, will be left to the Courts. However, this is already happening. By the way Indigo, the current GOP Presidential nominee clown car is already full of circus monkeys, and they are already throwing $hit at each other. Next, they will start throwing and spreading the $hit throwing around to the rest of the country. Relax, get some popcorn, and pull up a chair because the circus has opened. . . . LMAO!

  • kurtsteinbach

    LOL! I’ve felt this way often lately. That, I a liberal, who often wants the lunatic Tea party conservatives to just STFU and go away already, am actually egging them on as much as I can and hoping that they don’t shut up. . . . In fact, I am loving the irony of Booby Jindal’s comment that the GOP needs to stop being the stupid party, and he is right now in the running to be stupid idiot #1 of the GOP. Finally, the conservative State’s Rights argument has always been about their being granted the privilege or right to legally discriminate against people they don’t like. Ah, so much irony coming from the Reich Wing Nut Jobs that I cannot stop ROTFL!

  • Badgerite

    Yeah. State’s rights. That’s the ticket. Was it Moore or another judge who ordered that no marriage licenses be issued at all. Why, that’s just a “policy choice”. No animus there.

  • The “states’ rights” argument about marriage is, in a way, a dodge — or at least a shallow, knee-jerk response. If marriage to the person of one’s choice is a fundamental right, as the Supreme Court has held in a number of decisions going back well over a century, then it falls under the federal Constitution and states are bound by the Constitutional guarantees of those rights, even though traditionally the rules governing marriage have been left to the states. Even then, those rules must reflect a compelling government interest in stipulating who may and may not marry. So far, no state has come up with one in regard to same-sex marriage.

    I’m not counting the 6th Circuit, nor the district court decisions in Louisiana or Puerto Rico, since none of those decisions dealt with the Equal Protection question.

  • UncleBucky

    “We’ve reached the point where it’s a fair question to ask of their
    candidates, “Is it your position that the United States of America
    should dissolve itself utterly? Or that state law should be supreme over
    the U.S. Constitution, contrary to Article III and centuries of laws
    and Supreme Court decisions?” ”

    Bravo. And not take babble-talk replies until we get a clear answer.

  • UncleBucky

    D’ya think that Jindal, Cruz, Rubio and Perry are really running interference for Jebbers?

  • Bill_Perdue

    The same is true for both
    parties in terms of wars of aggression, pauperization of workers and ending
    racism, misogyny and racism.

    That’s why, in any
    given election, 50 to 60 percent, roughly speaking, sigh, hold their noses, and
    participate in the electoral scam.

  • Things may go differently now, but interestingly Alabama has a history of flouting federal rulings, until dragged repeatedly into court or until the National Guard shows up.

    Everybody remembers Alabama Gov. George Wallace standing in the doorway of the state university to oppose racial integration. But Alabama’s government also ignored the Loving v. Virginia ruling and for three years (until 1970) kept its ban on interracial marriage. And even after that, they got away with having some probate judges (their equivalent of county clerks, basically) continuing to refuse to grant licenses to mixed-race couples. Plus it wasn’t until the year 2000 they finally voted to remove the ban from their state constitution.

    Hell, every time some civil right decision came down, Alabama’s response has consistently been “Fuck no. Make us.”

    I actually do believe there will be continued litigation as some Alabama probate judges continue to defy the overturning of that stat’s ban on gay marriage. And for the foreseeable future, probably also the state government, if they refuse (as they’ve threatened to do) to recognize the legally-enacted same-sex marriages.

    But yeah… at the national level, I think the GOP is finally seeing the inevitable end results of their Southern Strategy and secessionist-coddling. We’ve reached the point where it’s a fair question to ask of their candidates, “Is it your position that the United States of America should dissolve itself utterly? Or that state law should be supreme over the U.S. Constitution, contrary to Article III and centuries of laws and Supreme Court decisions?”

  • Indigo

    Because “nice people” don’t talk about such matters. Amazing, isn’t it? The not-one-of-us system of Republican values and judgments is facing a profound challenge. Can it survive? I hope not but I’m willing to bet the Republicans are going to make a serious effort to drag the United States into a mud-slinging festival the likes of which we haven’t seen since Al Smith ran for the presidency in 1928.

  • For Republican politicians “rights” are only important when it comes to the right-wing’s belief that they have the right to discriminate against anyone they don’t like. When it comes to actually defending the rights of the state, or even the individual, they are only on the side of the corporation. Somehow rights have become pay to play.

  • sane37

    Rebranding won’t help.
    People know what’s under the label.
    Changing it won’t change the moral ineptitude of the basic republican platform.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Rebrand or face losing is the lesson of the massive swing in favor of marriage equality.

  • The_Fixer

    Jeez, we seem to be seeing a pattern here. Whenever anyone is on the wrong side of history when it comes to people’s rights, suddenly, we have to be concerned about “state’s rights.”

    I thought the people have the rights, and the state has the obligation to see that those rights aren’t violated?

    Funny how Republicans these days are so bad when it comes to civics knowledge. I guess they’re right – our educational system has failed. At least in Red states, anyway.

  • caphillprof

    Here’s my feeling about so-called states’ rights: the economic basketcase of KANSAS.

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