What better way to honor the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. than to get a bunch of white men together who believe the wealthiest people in this country (in whose number most of them count) are the group most discriminated against. Of course, today’s GOP being what it is, that’s exactly what happened Monday night at South Carolina’s Republican debate. (Although in what passes as a nod to the civil rights leader, Mitt Romney boldly supported disenfranchising anyone ever convicted of a felony.) The clock is ticking down to the Romney coronation, and after the South Carolina primary on Saturday, debates will likely be coming to an end unless Romney cares to debate his earlier positions.
Even by current Republican standards, South Carolina is conservative, so the candidates have been tripping over themselves trying to find the furthest right fringes. And if the free-for-all had a song, it would be the Wedding March. Except for Ron Paul, who is contrarian enough to believe that a campaign for votes isn’t a popularity contest, the four remaining candidates have been piling on their marriage bona fides. Romney mentioned his opposition to marriage equality during the debate, and more tellingly, earlier in the day ventured into a conference of Christian leaders to genuflect before them. Among his bedrock principles–which for Romney means he won’t forsake them for at least 24 hours–is belief in “traditional” marriage.
“This president has tried to pave the path for same-sex marriage to spread across the country,” Romney argued. “My view is that we should defend the defense of marriage act and that we should have a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman.”
If Obama has been the torchbearer for marriage equality, it’s been a pretty damp match that he’s carrying. But Romney has taken to attributing all kinds of false beliefs to the President, and this is likely to be another he’ll be trotting out regularly during the general election campaign. He’s also taking to boasting about the endorsement from Jay Sekulow, head of the American Center for Law and Justice, a religious right group that has been on an antigay tear for decades.
Meanwhile, Rick Santorum is hoping to capitalize on the love he’s getting from another group of religious right homophobes by positioning himself as the only true non-Romney. At the same Faith and Freedom Coalition meeting where Romney groveled for votes, Santorum tried to stiffen the spine of evangelicals who are willing to throw in the towel and admit Romney’s the inevitable nominee. “America is a moral enterprise, not an economic enterprise,” Santorum said. “Don’t compromise on what you know is best for this country.”
Santorum’s wife, Karen, also jumped into the fray Monday, to complain that gay activists have “vilified” her husband. Apparently, we aren’t supposed to criticize hateful comments and should confine our displeasure to not inviting the Santorums to our Oscar party.
Opting out of the Monday circus altogether was Jon Huntsman, the former governor of Utah and the least crazy of the GOP candidates. (It’s a low bar, we know.) Huntsman ended his campaign and endorsed fellow Mormon Romney. Huntsman’s withdrawal answers the question: If a moderate falls in the GOP forest, will anyone hear? Based on voter turnout, the answer is a resounding no.