For years, the Republican Party has been a weird alliance of wildly disparate groups you’d think would not be able to coexist. Yet somehow, the culture warrior/theocratic/”American Taliban” wing (Pat Robertson, Mike Huckabee, Ken Cuccinelli, E.W. Jackson, etc.) has managed for several decades now to share the same “tent” as the Wall Street/pro-business/corporate welfare/Chamber of Commerce wing (pre-2012 Mitt Romney, the Bush family, Bill Bolling, etc.), the “neoconservatives” (John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Don Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, etc.), the “libertarians” of various stripes (I’d argue that most Republicans, like Ron and Rand Paul, who claim to be “libertarian,” actually are not really libertarian on social issues at all), and even the Tea Party (right-wing extremists and populists like Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, Steve King, etc.). Of course, there’s overlap between many of these factions (e.g., McCain is a “neoconservative” and also a pro-crony-capitalist Wall Street Republican, with occasional overtures to the extremist wing, such as his insane/desperate pick of Sarah Freakin’ Palin as his running mate in 2008). Still, it’s kind of amazing to me that this party has held together as well as it has, given the fundamental contradictions between its different components.
Well, here in Virginia, we may now be seeing a Republican schism, if not a splintering, over a key “social issue” – namely, gay marriage (and LGBT equality, more broadly). What brought this to the surface in recent days was Attorney General Mark Herring’s announcement that Virginia would no longer defend the anti-gay-marriage (“Marshall-Newman”) amendment in court. On the Democratic side, this announcement was greeted overwhelmingly with praise and celebration (with a few, predictable exceptions, like corrupt/homophobic “Democrat In Name Only” Del. Johnny Joannou) On the Republican side, though, the reaction has been all over the place, from foaming-at-the-mouth rage to pro-forma condemnation to “meh” to actual support for what Mark Herring did. A few examples.
1. Foaming-at-the-Mouth Rage: Predictably, raging homophobe and theocrat Del. “Sideshow Bob” Marshall went NUTS, talking about “a Pearl Harbor attack on the people of Virginia” and ranting that “the advocates for this are the gay, lesbian, BISEXUAL and transgendered…well the bisexuals have to have at least one of each to be satisfied.” Marshall was joined by 30 fellow GOP delegates in condemning what Mark Herring said (although interestingly, there are 36 other GOP delegates who did NOT join “Sideshow Bob”). In addition, “Sideshow Bob” was joined by the even-more-extreme-if-that’s-humanly-possible Sen. Dick Black, who ranted, “I don’t know what the difference between a dictatorship and this is.” Finally, Marshall and Black were joined by…let’s just say, some of the more excitable, less moderate voices in the Virginia right-wing blogosphere, some of whom even raised the prospect of impeaching Mark Herring (LOL, as if THAT is going to happen!) and generally spoke in apocalyptic terms about the end of the rule of law, chaos, anarchy, and god knows what else (gays rampaging in the streets?). It would be amusing if it weren’t so disturbing in its rabid, anti-LGBT bigotry.
2. Pro-Forma Condemnation: I’d put Mark Obenshain in this category, along with RPV Chair Pat Mullins, both of whom basically stomped their feet a bit, talked about how they were “disappointed” at Herring’s announcement, about how it has “the potential to deprive Virginians on both sides of this important issue of the legal scrutiny the matter clearly merits,” blah blah blah. OK, so who knows what people like Obenshain and Mullins really think, deep down, in their heart of hearts on this issue. But politically, they had to throw SOME red meat to their far-right-wing, theocratic base. And they did…sort of. But other than that, my guess is they won’t actually do anything about it.
3. “Meh”: In this category, I’d put the 36 GOP delegates who did NOT sign “Sideshow Bob” Marshall’s letter, along with mainstream Republicans like Brian Schoeneman (who basically argued that Herring was within his rights to do this, whatever one thinks about the issue being debated) and Bill Bolling (who stayed out of it completely, as far as I can determine). Note that you also didn’t hear anything on this from the Chambers of Commerce, the NOVA Technology Council folks, and other non-theocratic, pro-business Republicans. Bottom line: they really just aren’t interested in this issue anymore, would prefer that it went away, and would (for the most part) be perfectly fine if there were full marriage equality (although they might not want to say so openly).
4. Outright Support for What Herring Did: Here, we’ve got conservative and libertarian-inclined bloggers like Mason Conservative, who explained why “Mark Herring Is Right,” and how he’s even “glad Herring is forcing us to deal with this.” Wow – actual sanity and reason from the right! 🙂 In this same category, we’ve also got Republican blogger D.J. McGuire, who argued strongly that “Mark Herring was well within his mandate to do what he did, that Herring clearly “has an obligation to both the Federal and the state constitutions,” and that on the merits, “adjusting and expanding marriage (for that is what same-sex-marriage advocates wish) would be beneficial.” Wow – MORE actual sanity and reason from the right! 🙂
So, there you have it: a splintered Virginia GOP on this issue, and also on Mark Herring’s announcement. Personally, I’m loving it, as the GOP is long, looooong overdue for a reassessment of its antiquated, backwards views on LGBT equality and other “social issues” (e.g., immigration, a woman’s right to choose). This past week, here in Virginia and nationally (see Mike Huckabee’s lunacy on women’s out-of-control libidos, etc.), we witnessed the long-present (and long-suppressed) schisms in the GOP coming to the surface, big time. Let’s just hope that this continues, that the GOP jettisons its theocrats, bigots, and other extremists, and that the once-great Party of Lincoln (and Eisenhower, etc.) recovers its past sanity.