We’re still two years away from the next presidential campaign (thank God), but the candidates are already jockeying for a place at the opening gate. Chief among them are a slew of Republican governors, who like to present themselves as practical types who get things done because they’re not from Washington.
Except for Jindal (so far), each of the others has had to deal with the issue of marriage equality in his state. Only New Jersey has the right to marry, although Wisconsin and Indiana are clearly headed in that direction. But each of the governors is spinning franctically as he tries to figure out what’s the best strategy on the issue for 2016.
The Wisconsin Republican is basically closing his eyes and wishing that the whole thing would disappear. Walker has hardly been a fan of LGBT issues in the past, but now he’s portraying himself as a bystander in a court battle. “It really doesn’t matter what I think now,” Walker said last month. (This begs the question of whether it ever did.) “I don’t comment on everything out there.”
The thorn in the Garden State ultimately gave up on fighting marriage equality. But he also insists that the marriage fight isn’t over. But he also insists that for him it was a losing cause. “When I know that I’ve been defeated, you don’t bang your head against the wall anymore and spend taxpayer money to do it,” Christie says. In other words, Christie is trying to have it both ways.
Perry, whose last presidential campaign was a cross between a punchline and a trainwreck, insists that he will make marriage equality his personal Alamo. That’s right in line with his unending string of antigay remarks.
The governor of Indiana has always been a firebreather; he decried the repeal of DADT as part of the “liberal domestic social agenda.” His opposition to a federal court ruling striking down the state’s marriage ban is totally in character.
Then there’s the governor of Louisiana, spending his political career trying to disprove that he was ever smart enough to be a Rhodes Scholar. Jindal alternates between excoriating the GOP for being “the stupid party”and doing his best to subtract from the party’s collective IQ. When it comes to marriage equality, Jindal sides with the stupids.
“I believe in traditional marriage,” Jindal says. “I realize that public opinion on this may be changing, but unlike President [Barack] Obama and Hillary Clinton, I’m not a weather vane who ‘evolves’ with the polls.”
Yes, when it comes to homophobia, Jindal is a creationist.
The split among the governors is easy to explain: it depends on whether you’re thinking about the primaries or the general election. In the primaries, the candidates will be beholden to older, ultra-conservative voters for whom far right isn’t far enough. In the general, the candidates will be seeking support from a younger electorate for whom opposition to marriage equality is a sign of bigotry.
That’s the quandry for the GOP in a nutshell. It’s so dependent on its base that any deviation from its theology is considered heresy fit for burning at the stake. But that theology is abhorrent to many voters, which means the odds of winning a national election are slim.
A lot can change in two years. There will be more states with marriage equality (in fact, it’s likely to be nationwide). The number of Americans accepting same-sex marriage will keep growing. But what’s not going to change is the GOP. It will take another big loss before they might start soul-searching.
In the meantime, prepare yourself for a rerun of 2012.