Social conservatives plot to reverse LGBT gains — good luck with that!

undoBy Lori Heine

In an earlier post, I advised that LGBT Republicans, conservatives and libertarians can ill afford to rest on the gains made in 2013.  An article in Politico suggests that prediction was correct.  In suburban Washington, several moneyed donors to religious right causes recently gathered to formulate strategy.  They intend to wrest power in the Republican Party away from those supportive of LGBT rights.

This is their response to a Republican National Committee report (pdf), issued after the 2012 elections, that stated “When it comes to social issues, the Party must in fact and deed be inclusive and welcoming.”  The report warned that if this did not happen, young voters and women would be driven away.

LGBT Americans made tremendous gains in legal recognition in 2013, most notably winning the right to legal marriage in several states.  That trend appears poised to continue, unless social conservatives can turn it back.  A major reason for LGBT progress in the past year appears to have been the struggle between tea party forces and those of the GOP’s pro-business wing.  It would seem that regardless of its outcome, the battle itself has provided room for social progress.

From a demographic standpoint, there is virtually no chance social conservatives can ever regain the upper hand in the Republican Party.  To win the support of young voters, as well as of women and Hispanics, the GOP must change its focus from divisive social issues to economic growth and greater prosperity.  The social right, however, is determined to go out not with a whimper, but with a bang.  “Plans in the works,” notes Politico, “range from aggressive super PAC spending in primaries against Republicans deemed squishy on social issues, to holding a donor conference in Normandy, France, tied to the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.”

The traditional social conservative base, though shrinking, remains zealous.  According to Frank Cannon, a participant in the recent summit who runs an organization called American Principles Project, “there is a distortion of the political views by the donor class and by the consultant class.”  One would think that the donor and consultant classes have every reason to view the electoral situation as accurately as possible, as they cannot afford to be wrong.  But such is the faith that still burns in the breasts of true believers.

The Politico article suggests that the “recent backlash against the tea party in Congress and the public could provide an opening for religious conservative leaders.”  However, that backlash came largely not from social conservatives, but from moderates – not the sort of people likely to support a resurgence of the religious right.

Tony Perkins, president of the social conservative Family Research Council and longtime antagonist of LGBT rights, is said to be sounding out a possible 2014 run for the Senate.  “A Perkins campaign would make an interesting test case,” notes Politico, “since he would be pitted against Rep. Bill Cassidy, who has been singled out as a rising star by (GOP strategist Karl) Rove’s Crossroads groups and is the GOP establishment’s choice to take on Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu.”

Social conservatives have Karl Rove in their crosshairs because he said a Republican favoring gay marriage could win the 2016 party nomination for president.  As Rove was the chief architect of George W. Bush’s successful run in 2000 and reelection in 2004, he might generally be regarded as someone who knows what he’s talking about.  Rove appears to be distancing himself from the social right and increasingly advocating more libertarian candidates for office.  His record indicates that he knows the winners from the losers.

Because the opponents of LGBT rights remain active and determined, we would be wise not to become complacent.  But though they make ominous noises and big plans, current trends indicate that our adversaries have more reason than we do to be scared.


2 thoughts on “Social conservatives plot to reverse LGBT gains — good luck with that!

  1. Chris L.

    Lori, good article. But I disagree to an extent on one point. You state, “From a demographic standpoint, there is virtually no chance social conservatives can ever regain the upper hand in the Republican Party.”

    1) I believe that to a large extent social conservatives still hold the upper hand or at least an equal hand in the GOP in most states and at the national level; and they are bolstered by what I call the CEFC (conservative entertainment and fundraising complex). I will agree that in the last year there has been less focus on socon issues, however.

    2) More importantly, though, the way that hard-shell social conservatives could increase their influence in the party would be if their level of involvement and participation relative to other elements were to increase. This could easily happen if more mainstream conservatives and libertarians cease to participate in the party processes or at a level less than the socons, thereby leveraging up the socon influence in primaries and party committees. Examples of that can be found in Texas and Virginia, where in normal people are simply walking away from the GOP as an organization and no longer participating—thus abandoning the party processes to the hard-shell socons and their obsessions.

  2. Chris L.

    On point I omitted from my previous comment: Of course, if they socons were to regain the upper hand in the party, the GOP would continue to lose elections and more importantly lose ground in competitive states. But, that does not stop the socons who are driven more by their obsessions than in an interest in constructive conservative reform via winning general elections.


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