This week a national group of conservatives met at the Faith and Freedom Coalition's Road to Majority to address what they see as a “War on Christianity.” It was attended by some of the top names floating around for the GOP's 2016 nomination, including Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.
For more than a decade Republicans have used the emotional charge of social issues to fire up their base and win at the ballot box. They never banked on it backfiring the way it has with the Tea Party turning its sights on “moderate” GOP politicians instead of focusing on liberals and Democrats as it was intended.
Now as America becomes more tolerant and Texas follows, Governor Rick Perry and state GOP Chair Steve Munisteri have had the awkward pleasure of explaining why the state GOP platform includes things like gay conversion therapy. They have the monumental task of trying not to seem like they are giving ground to the “mainstream media” or trampling conservative values while not turning off contemporary voters by such puritanical views.
Perry's answer? See below the jump…Rick Perry's answer to the outrage over his recent comparison of homosexuality to alcoholism was to acknowledge that he should have never said a word about it in the first place and stuck to his bread and butter — the economy. Bypassing the point that he's avoiding a real issue, this conundrum the GOP currently finds itself in is of its own making (take it away Jon Stewart).
In 2004, noone made Karl Rove and national Republicans use intolerance of our LGBT community (Q-munity?) to motivate their voters to pass bans on marriage equality in 11 states. And in 2008 no one made Rick Perry pen in his book “On My Honor” that those attracted to their same gender could avoid acting out just as an alcoholic could chose not to drink. The passage read,
“Even if an alcoholic is powerless over alcohol once it enters his body, he still makes a choice to drink,” he wrote. “And, even if someone is attracted to a person of the same sex, he or she still makes a choice to engage in sexual activity with someone of the same gender.”
So why the change of heart…err…tone? It could be that the shift in public opinion has been overwhelmingly against the GOP's favor. According to a new Pew survey, of the major Christian denominations in America only Evangelicals (70%) and Protestants (52%) oppose marriage equality. Overall, even those over 65 are down to the 50% mark. But, what may be most hurtful to the GOP's sustainability as a major party is that young people feel as strongly in favor of equality as evangelicals do in opposition.
For the GOP establishment charged with ensuring the party's future this has meant trying to avoid the issue altogether, but it is too late for that strategy. The Texas Republicans led by their gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott, chose to bar gay conservatives in the Log Cabin GOP from tabling at their convention and went even further by adding gay conversion therapy to their platform.
Party Chair Steve Munisteri eventually stated publically that the idea of therapy was ridiculous saying,
“And I just make the point for anybody that thinks that may be the possibility: Do they think they can take a straight person to a psychiatrist and turn them gay?”
Not everyone got the memo, State Representative Bryan Hughes went on CNN's 360 with Anderson Cooper to defend the practice as “choice.” He was concerned that that two states, California and New Jersey have banned the practice for minors and some in Texas could have their “rights” to the therapy taken away. Keep in mind that the American Psychological Association and other groups representing over half a million mental health professional groups have derided the practice as harmful, especially to children.
More than anything this demonstrates that the modern Republican party just isn't your Dad's Grand Old Party. The Tea Party has taken over and they are taking no prisoners.
Just last week the Faith and Freedom Coalition's conference highlighted the growing disparity between GOP members focused on social issues and a younger generation who focused on the economy.
William Murray the convention chair stated that marriage equality is just, “not an issue that politically can be done anymore,” anding, “It's become a Hollywood issue, and I don't know what Hollywood will promote next,” he sneered: “polygamy or sex with dogs.” The idea that what consenting adults do is somehow comparable to beastiality has even been discredited by the party establishment as extreme.
The idea that marriage equality it is a slippery slope to polygamy misses the point of equality altogether. If someone is allowed to marry the person they love of the opposite gender, than anyone should be able to marry the person they love — regardless of gender. That is the point, because that is equality.
Ted Cruz, the Tea Party's favorite for the GOP nomination was there as panderer-in-chief, rallying the troops for the War on Christianity. He said, “no time in our nation's history have we seen threats like these to our religious liberty,” adding that, “It's simple…If you're litigating against nuns, you are probably doing something wrong.”
Well, considering that the Presbyterian Church just voted to allow same-sex marriage and even most Catholics support the idea (59%), that may mean it's time for Cruz and new GOP to reevaluate their positions.
So, the GOP will continue to lose on some of the very same issues that propelled them to victory only a few years ago. And, I suspect the party leaders will continue to steer the ship back towards mainstream America, that is, as long as they are still around.
You can follow me on Twitter at @joethepleb.