Republicans don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.
News that the Supreme Court declined to hear gay marriage appeals in five states today is in keeping with the zeitgeist. Anyone who doubts this can look no further than the Republican Party — where prominent GOP pols are busy throwing social conservative leaders under the bus, as I type.
House Speaker John Boehner is, is for example, ignoring the public protests of the Family Research Council and the National Organization for Marriage, and raising cash for an openly gay Republican candidate. (Boehner’s decision to do this is understandable, but it’s also indicative of changing times. And it’s not the only example in the last several days.)
When asked whether or not he could change his position on gay marriage last week, Sen. Rand Paul shrugged. Around the same time, a Paul aide become embroiled in a public dispute with head of the aforementioned Family Research Council over whether or not the Plan B contraceptive qualifies as an abortifacient.
Paul may be right on the merits, but — unlike Boehner — he’s also running for president. And when one considers that Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum were the last two winners of the Iowa caucuses, this is curious. (Even if one believes Paul’s comments about birth control constitute a sort of profile in courage, the timing and venue for this policy roll-out seems ill-advised.)
These events seem to collectively signal that waning power of socially conservative organizations, and of their self-appointed leaders. For conservatives, the most optimistic way to look at this may be that the GOP is instituting a state of triage — they are shedding the technically and/or politically incorrect positions which are untenable, in order to preserve other core beliefs — such as opposition to actual abortion procedures.
A less optimistic way of looking at it is that social conservatives have outlived their usefulness. Once you start making compromises and concessions, you never stop.