What Happens When You're the Tail End of the Elephant?

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If you caught ABC's This Week Sunday morning, you caught a couple of conservative pundits expressing some level of support for gay marriage. Mary Matalin says unwed mothers are a bigger threat to the social order than gay marriage:

People who live in the real world, say, the greater threat to the civil order are the heterosexuals who don’t get married and are making babies. That’s an epidemic in crisis proportions. That is irrefutably more problematic for our culture than homosexuals getting married.

Never mind that this is like saying that apples are more problematic for our country than oranges, since there's no family arrangement among loving, consenting adults that's going to lead to the downfall of our civic order. The real sea change is that Matalin is signaling that she's not that excited about opposing gay marriage, especially when there are women — bad, bad, naughty women — who need her special brand of discipline.

Even more surprising was George Will saying, "Quite literally, the opposition to gay marriage is dying. It’s old people." In other words, George Will is signaling a change in conventional wisdom. Now it's not conservatives who oppose gay marriage, it's just those old fogeys who are about to die, so just ignore them.

I'm interested to see how this plays out in Tennessee. As you might recall, MTSU back in October found that most Tennessee voters voted "values." And the example the WPLN story on the poll gave was a young guy who was voting specifically because he opposed gay marriage.

There's been a lot of talk within the state about how well the fiscal and social conservatives will be able to work together — if they'll play nice, or if the supermajority status of the party will allow cracks in the Republican veneer to show through.

But it seems to me that conservative voters in Tennessee have another layer to this problem. For them, it's not just about whether their ideas are going to win out at the state level, it's that the national party has decided that some tried-and-true popular conservative ideas can't win nationally. There is no silent majority who wants to keep gay people from getting married, no silent majority who is fine with hearing all about all the weird unscientific ways women's bodies work and making law based on that. Hell, nationally, Republicans are even back-tracking from creationism.

So what benefits will Tennessee glean from being a Republican supermajority in a moment when the Republican party is in crisis? As a state, we're filled with the kinds of Republicans that national Republicans evidently don't want to be any more. That would seem to be a problem for all Republicans. Are we going to end up with Dixiecans, like the old Dixiecrats, who really are their own thing — and not always to the benefit of the national party that shares their name?

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