Since 1980, evangelicals and devout Catholics have been a core part of the Republican Party's base. But for the national party, interacting with these folks has been the equivalent of a collective cheap date. They were folks for whom the party did not need to expend any capital, or take any risks. Oh, we have seen some national party platforms with great written positions on important social issues-- but we have seen virtually no victories. In fact, we have not even seen a half-hearted effort.
When the U.S. Supreme Court-- which has a Republican majority-- refused to review the matter of gay marriage, it became apparent that the avalanche of judicial activism on this issue was probably not going to be halted. It was against this tragic background that Mike Huckabee accused the Republicans of abdicating on the issue of gay marriage. He made an open threat that he was going to leave the party.
He later directed party leaders and elected officials to "grow a spine" on the issue.
I fear that Governor Huckabee's efforts might be futile. The national party is controlled by people who believe that the social issues ought to be a low priority. In fact, they believe that they need to walk away from the social issues in order to succeed.
But if Mike Huckabee were to launch a third party or independent run for the presidency, it would be a major problem for the Republicans. And if the GOP drives away its base of orthodox Christians, that will also be a major problem for the party. The vast majority of these voters are blithely unaware of the low regard with which national party leaders view their issues. But when they see the national party "cave" on the matter of gay marriage, they will rightfully question whether they should stay with the Republicans.
We need to see some major successes. We need to see gay marriage stopped in its tracks. We need to see Roe vs. Wade overturned outright. We need to see some other social and cultural issues prioritized.
I have described here why gay marriage represents a massive Republican failure, both on the national scene and here in the state of North Carolina.
Phil Berger, Sr. and Dan Forest are now talking about measures that can be taken on these matters. It was a poignant scene in Rockingham County when 500 people turned out with Berger to support a magistrate who was forced out of his job over the gay marriage issue.
All those people need to be represented on issues like gay marriage. They need leaders who are willing to verbalize and fight for the substantive reality and importance of traditional marriage as an institution; and who are ready to go to the mat. They need a party upon which they can rely.
Unfortunately, they won't find those things if they look toward the national Republicans.
I don't know if Huckabee will truly leave the party, or if he is blowing smoke. Truth be told, he has come to his realization about the party a bit late, just as I did. It will be interesting to see what the impact will be if he follows through with his threat.