Friday, February 22, 2013

Typical GOP ‘courage’

Laura Bush has shown why national Republican leaders and personalities seem to lack courage: She demanded that she be removed from the new marriage equality print and TV ads from Respect for Marriage Coalition. She’s really just a typical Republican.

While support for marriage equality in the USA is bipartisan among all voters, the Republican base hasn’t yet caught up. Indeed, the strongest opposition comes from typical Republican voters: Older, white, very religious people, men in particular. The problem for Republican politicians is that those people, and the frothing rightwing generally, are the ones who determine who wins Republican Party nominations. Republican politicians are frightened to do anything the base hates—and they hate quite a lot.

So the inclusion of three former Republican leaders in the ads, while welcome, is hardly courageous: None of them have anything to lose, as Salon’s Joan Walsh noted, “It takes zero courage to follow the crowd on a human rights issue, especially after your own political career is over.”

What then of Laura Bush’s rediscovered cowardice?

Many pundits expect that Jeb Bush will seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, and the Republican base would punish him if a member of the family—even his sister-in-law—was seen as campaigning for marriage equality. Even if Jeb doesn’t run, other Bush family members are expected to try to run for office over the next few election cycles, and the last thing this would-be political dynasty needs is a family member breaking from required Republican positions on issues like marriage equality.

So, my bet is that Laura Bush was launched into full damage control mode to protect the political futures of family members. After all, she never spoke up on the issue until she was trying to get people to buy her book—not even once when her voice might have made a difference.

Same for Dick Cheney. When Karl Rove was using gay marriage as a wedge issue to elect George Bush and other Republicans to office, Cheney, like Laura Bush, said nothing. Instead, they both waited until after they couldn’t be harmed. Bush, her book selling tour over, reverted to Republican politicians’ form and slunk back into her safe political hiding place.

So, Laura Bush apparently lacks even a tiny amount of the “zero courage” Walsh wrote about. When Bush demanded that she be removed from the ads, she also managed to kill off the tiny little bit of respect I had for a Bush. Now, I’m back to thinking they’re all cynical, opportunistic tossers.

Colin Powell is in another place altogether. The Republican base hates him because he endorsed President Obama, so they don’t really care what he says about anything. At 75, he’s unlikely to care what that base thinks, either.

I’m glad (and surprised) when any Republican politician dares to stand up to the party’s frothing base on any issue, but to do so for marriage equality is especially notable. However, the people we see doing this tend to be at the state and local level, with the leaders of the national party either remaining silent or cynically and opportunistically pandering to their frothing base (the few national Republican leaders who are true believers in the far right’s positions are another case altogether, and there are few of them).

We haven’t seen anything yet on the issue of marriage equality that demonstrates any courage whatsoever on the part of any national Republican politician, but we’ve seen plenty of mendacity. Laura Bush’s craven retreat to the “safe” Republican space is really just typical Republican “courage”. I’m still waiting for real courage—I just don’t expect to see it any time soon.

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