New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie may be getting flak from the likes of NOM for folding on marriage equality, but he’s getting behind-the-scene kudos from a group of wealthy Republicans who want the party to change on the issue. American Unity Fund, founded by hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer, is focused on moving the party away toward actual acceptance of marriage equality. Christie’s recognition of reality is exactly the type of behavior that they want to see more of – and that they will reward.
“While he didn’t get the policy outcome he was looking for, he was able to navigate this in a way that’s really thoughtful and respectful of the sentiments of a diverse community within New Jersey,” Jeff Cook-McCormac, a senior adviser to American Unity fund, told Buzzfeed. “I mean, he’s a rare guy who’s been able to appeal to people with sincerely held beliefs on both sides of this issue. The donor community are particularly looking for leaders who can unite people, and who can find a path back to winning elections.”
You won’t find Singer and his compatriots on cable news lambasting Republicans for not moving on the issue. Accounts of American Unity Fund’s work always feature the word “quiet” to describe its efforts. And the Fund is looking for an incremental change, not an overnight transformation. It has been lobbying Republicans in Congress to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). To help with its arguments, the Fund has hired Norm Coleman, a former Senator from Minnesota, and former Rep. Tom Reynolds of New York, both Republicans. (You’ll note that they didn’t find any hires from the deep south.)
“The Republican image, unfortunately, is one in which we have an empathy gap,” Coleman said. “That impacts us across the board. An issue like this, which is about being against discrimination, feeds into the long-term future of the party. It addresses one of the negatives that we are facing today.”
All of which is true, and in a rational political organization would make sense. But as the government shutdown highlighted, the GOP isn’t a rational organization at present, and the establishment types that understand the Fund’s message aren’t calling the shots. Instead, the party is being controlled by ideological purists, who see compromise as anathema to principle.
Moreover, there’s a libertarian wing of the party that doesn’t believe in government nondiscrimination protections in general. One of the chief enablers of the purists has been Peter Thiel, the openly gay billionaire who helped create Sen. Ted Cruz. Thiel is a believer in unfettered capitalism, and Cruz is a believer in, well, Ted Cruz. Neither of them is likely to be coming to an American Unity Fund breakfast any time soon.
So good luck to the American Unity Fund. .