In recent decades, the GOP has mastered getting their constituents to vote against their own economic interests. As Thomas Frank argued in What's the Matter with Kansas?, if you manage to yoke large-scale financial injustice to a boogity-boo "social issue," you'll be laughing all the way to the bank. Frequently used wedge issues in recent memory include abortion, immigration, and the shibboleth "family values," which more or less won the day in 2004.

Now, with gay marriage looking more and more like the defining civil-rights issue of our time, the right is naturally rushing to make a stand on the wrong side of history. (Right where they've been for all the defining civil-rights issues of the past century, incidentally.) An AP story quotes multiple conservative leaders in the wake of President Obama's recent refusal to defend DOMA, indicating that they expect the decision to "galvanize supporters of marriage" (that's straight marriage) in 2012. Family Research Council president Tony Perkins (above) told the AP,

"The president has thrown down the gauntlet, challenging Congress. It is incumbent upon the Republican leadership to respond by intervening to defend DOMA, or they will become complicit in the president's neglect of duty."

The story also quotes Brian Brown, head of the National Organization for Marriage:

"This raises the stakes and makes clear the executive branch is not willing to carry out its responsibility... I don't think by any stretch of the imagination the tables have turned on this issue. People in this country know what marriage is."

Is this going to work? Gay marriage was a wedge issue in 2004, but attitudes can change a lot in eight years. An August 2010 national poll conducted by CNN found that, for the first time, a majority of Americans supported a constitutional right to gay marriage; that positive trend, thank reason, seems likely to continue. This scheme might just blow up in the GOP's face.

Commentarium (9 Comments)

Feb 24 11 - 8:47pm
meh

Those kinds of tactics may be effective during good economic times, but with a 9.5% unemployment rate, it is very risky to take the focus of the message away from the economy and jobs. And if they take the risk, the GOP is going to have to justify taking rights AWAY from states at the Federal level by denying states the right to recognize whatever they want as marriage. Sounds like a trap to me.

Feb 24 11 - 9:43pm
Penny

Don't underestimate the power of social issues, even in bad economic times.

Feb 24 11 - 9:40pm
Nick

They could be discriminatory and economical by suggesting taxes on gaiety. Tickets to midnight screenings of Newsies- an extra $5 each.

Feb 25 11 - 1:33am
Publius

Yeah, not seeing either quote as an anti-homosexual marriage gambit. Looks like both are talking about the Chief Executive failing to fulfill his obligations.

Also, casting the Family Research Council and National Organization for Marriage as "Republicans" is a stretch. Lazy "journalism" but a nice try.

Feb 25 11 - 10:12am
huh?

1) Describing Obama's decision not to defend DOMA when subject to strict scrutiny as "failing to fulfill his obligations" is a strategy (i.e. "gambit") they're using to avoid just coming out and saying they don't want homosexual marriage to be legal.

2) Just how many FRC or NOM members do you think vote Democrat? There may be some, but they're in a small minority.

Feb 25 11 - 4:01am
bp

If they do make gays their issue - good. This is an issue they're losing over now. Please, nominate Palin and focus on the gays. Just destroy what's left of the sane Republican party.

Feb 25 11 - 6:49am
aaa

Where is the reasonable/responsible wing of the republican party? Why have they let themselves be hijacked by a bunch of extremist halfwits?

Feb 25 11 - 12:07pm
Kel

Opposing same-sex marriage is a nonstarter as a wedge issue, especially among younger voters. Reasonable, rational citizens are getting energized right now by the protests in Wisconsin, and the public unraveling of a clumsy, corrupt governor who can't seem to get out of his own way. By attacking citizens' rights instead of even trying to create jobs, the Republicans are handing a 2012 landslide to Obama and the Democrats.

Feb 25 11 - 8:20pm
GeeBee

If I had a God I would pray to it right now that Kel is right.