John Laird: Wrong side of history: humiliating, but you're never alone

By John Laird, Columbian Editorial Page Editor

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Snickering Democrats would be wise to contain their delight as Republicans continue nursing self-inflicted wounds. Politics is cyclical and — just as I have learned to never mock another man's hilariously errant tee shot until after I hit my own down the fairway — gloating can backfire if it's poorly timed.

The broader truth is that Democrats and all of America would benefit from Republicans reclaiming their mojo and mounting a greater challenge to the dastardly liberals. Americans usually don't make much progress under single-party domination. A robust two-party system makes the parties and the nation better.

However, on the popular issues of immigration and same-sex marriage, Republicans continue lurching toward the wrong side of history. They will survive there, and surely will find plenty of company. But it won't be fun.

Ideological purity is one thing, but when subsequent generations scoff at you and judge you to be just flat wrong, well, your bullheadedness becomes inconsequential at best and, at worst, just silly.

On immigration, conservatives have painted themselves into a corner from which there is no escape. Choice One: Keep opposing amnesty and further anger the Hispanic electorate. This is the demographic group that extended more than 70 percent of its votes last year to President Obama. It's also the fastest-growing segment of the population.

Choice Two: Support amnesty, which might put the GOP on the right side of history. But supporting amnesty also would boost the number of new Democratic (Hispanic) voters. Again, we're not talking about ideological purity. We're talking about running good candidates, wooing voters and heeding the advice of John "Elections! Elections!" McCain.

Sadly for the GOP, there is no Choice Three. Good luck, Reince Priebus, with your paint brush.

On gay marriage, Republicans likewise have just two options. Choice One: Keep opposing same-sex marriage, and further alienate young voters who overwhelmingly support it.

Choice Two: Support same-sex marriage, again falling on the right side of history. But that would drive away evangelical conservatives who already are threatening to defect because of the GOP's recent flimsy attention to traditional values.

One possible GOP strategy on these two prominent issues is to simply stop talking. As Rush Limbaugh confessed on Thursday about gay marriage: "This issue is lost." And maybe Bobby Jindal was right: It's time to "stop being the party of stupid."

5 arguments, all lost

Limbaugh surrendered, I suspect, because the five most frequent arguments against gay marriage have fizzled:

1) It might lead to polygamy. (You're kidding, right? That straw man is not the issue before us.)

2) It might lead to bestiality. (Still kidding, right? Fido is not flattered. He's batting those eyelashes because of a nervous tic.)

3) Thousands of years of tradition have supported heterosexual marriage. (As the Washington Post editorialized: "That reasoning stinks of the faulty logic used to justify the persistence of all sorts of discrimination.")

4) Regarding homosexuality, many conservatives, supposedly, "love the sinner but hate the sin." (Using that logic, it would be OK for celibate gays to marry, right?)

5) Marriage is for procreation. This one is a real rib-tickler. Last week at the Supreme Court, lawyer Charles Cooper tried in vain to defend California's Proposition 8 by using the procreation line, forgetting that some folks marry far beyond their baby-making years. Justice Elena Kagan lectured him: "I can just assure you, if both the woman and the man are over the age of 55, there are not a lot of children coming out of that marriage." Best sit down, sir, and stop making a fool of yourself.

Rush is right about this issue; his Dittoheads have lost. The only question about legalizing gay marriage across America is: When? No, wait. There's another question: How long will Republicans keep swerving toward the wrong side of history?