Magazine | April 8, 2013, Issue

The Party of Surrender

From RNC honcho Reince Priebus, from the senator from Swing-State Central Rob Portman, and even from the great Charles Murray, the same mournful dirge echoes through the cavernous emptiness of the Republican big tent: Give it up, losers — give it up on illegal immigration, gay marriage, abortion, and maybe Americans under 30, 50, whatever, will consider voting for you, or at any rate consider finding you marginally less repellent.

Maybe. But I’m a wee bit skeptical. As the New York Post’s film critic Kyle Smith tweeted: “Just a wild guess, but if we go all-out for gay marriage, I’m thinking the liberals will come up with another reason to hate us.”

Undoubtedly. As recently as 2000, when Vermont became the first state to legalize same-sex “civil unions,” that was the enlightened, progressive position. A mere 13 years later, to support “civil unions” is to be a “homophobe” and a “hater.” Where will received wisdom be in another 13 years?

“With gay marriage,” Charles Murray told CPAC, “I think the train has left the station” — and you don’t want to be the last guy to climb on the caboose. Yet, even among the stragglers, Republicans are at a disadvantage. On successive days, Rob Portman and Hillary Clinton declared they’d rethought their previous opposition to same-sex marriage. Portman’s conversion was mostly greeted with contempt from the bien-pensants, while Hillary was enthusiastically welcomed to the ranks everyone knew she’d always belonged to anyway. Portman apparently sincerely opposed gay marriage and now he sincerely supports it: He appears to have had a genuine “change of heart.” Mrs. Clinton, by contrast, has had a change of political calculation. But such benefits as are to be reaped will accrue to her.

Charles Murray told conservatives his own children would never consider voting Republican because “they consider the party to be run by anti-abortion, anti-gay, religious nuts.” Leaving aside the question of whether this is an accurate characterization or a glowing tribute to the sterling work of the Democratic party’s courtiers in the media, suppose the GOP’s “anti-abortion, anti-gay, religious nuts” were to become pro-abortion, pro-gay, secular, non–clinically insane. My bet is they would still lose. In Britain, the Conservative prime minister, David Cameron, has been eager to demonstrate that his Tories are not the “nasty,” “ugly” right-wingers of Mrs. Thatcher’s day. As part of his “detoxification” strategy, he decided he needed an issue that would serve as a kind of Sister Souljah on steroids, and enable him to break not just with a small faction but with a majority of his base. So he legislated gay marriage in the teeth of massive party-wide opposition. His calculation was that if enough conservatives can be persuaded to hate you, the urbane, cosmopolitan, metrosexual elite will accept you as one of their own and give you a better press. Which in turn will persuade enough of their followers to vote for you to compensate for however many of your reviled base decide to stay home.

#page#It’s not exactly working out that way in Britain, and seems even less likely to do so in America. Were “comprehensive immigration reform” to bring all 11 million members (a lowball estimate) of the Undocumented-American community out of the shadows and put them on the “pathway to citizenship,” how many would vote Republican? Two million? Three? Of the millions more parents, grandparents, and other relatives who would follow through “family reunification,” what proportion of those dependents would be receptive to whatever remains of the GOP message? Twenty percent? Thirty? By comparison with the United States, Canada and Australia have genuinely diversified immigration programs drawing from across the planet, and conservatives have had some success in wooing Chinese, Indians, and other demographics to their banner. But the retrospective legalization of a vast, unrepresentative army of the Undocumented from one corner of the globe would transform America demographically into California, the once-golden state where no Republican can be elected except a pandering celebrity squish such as Schwarzenegger who is willing to serve as frontman for the Democrats.

In the now-famous line from their diagnosis of the party’s woes in Commentary, Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner write, “Republicans, in short, have a winning message for an electorate that no longer exists.” They point out that, were America as “white” as it was in 2000, Romney would have won in November. Were its demographic composition the same as in 1992, we’d be calling him Landslide Mitt. Even all those young trendies hot for gay marriage aren’t that turned off by GOP “religious nuts”: A majority of white Americans under 30 voted for Romney — which suggests that wanting to be au courant with Lena Dunham goes only so far.

To say that the Reagan electorate “no longer exists” gives the impression it was some kind of natural phenomenon. But very few functioning societies allow a population the size of Australia’s simply to stroll across the border and settle. And, unlike gay marriage and abortion, illegal immigration isn’t even a contentious issue: The overwhelming majority of Americans, including most Democrats, are opposed to it. And yet in a two-party system the one closer to the views of the electorate is the one expected to cave.

Oh, well. Accommodationists seem to believe that immigration amnesty and “marriage equality” are the last towels they’ll ever have to throw in. But in the liberal bathhouse there’ll always be a new towel-snapper along in a minute. Free contraceptives . . . Abandonment of religious liberty . . . Single-payer health care . . .

So many trains, already lining up to leave the station.

– Mr. Steyn blogs at SteynOnline (www.steynonline.com).

Mark Steyn — Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist. That’s to say, his latest book, After America (2011), is a top-five bestseller in ...

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