Newt Gingrich recently announced that he has had a change of heart. No, no, not any new extramarital affair that I’m aware of. In an interview with Fox News recently, Gingrich came out with this remarkable statement:
“I think this is a very complicated human problem and Republicans need to take a deep breath and understand we need to deal with the human side of this equation…”
The problem being referenced here is marriage equality. Now at first I was almost impressed. This long-standing bastion of the conservative Right taking into perspective that gay people are people too, with legal rights that need to be respected? But of course, I spoke too soon. Here’s the follow-up to that last statement:
“…We want to defend marriage in its classic form between a man and a woman. I don’t accept that there’s an alternative.”
Great, so are conservatives working to possess a greater understanding of this issue, or do they need to maintain the ridiculous status quo they’ve been satisfied with thus far? The reaction from the Republican Party was interesting in that it was so muted. The one strong response I did see was surprising to me, in that it is so unfounded. Gregory T. Angelo, leader of the Log Cabin Republicans, responded to Gingrich’s recent statements by declaring their importance due to the political liability versus profit that Gingrich stands to face.
Personally, I call bull on that one.
Gingrich has everything to gain, and not much to lose, considering how blindly attached the far right followers are to their leaders. He hasn’t exactly proven himself to be so selfless in the past. Take, for example, the infamous Greek cruise he indulged in with his wife Callista during the last presidential primary season, or the time he requested an open marriage from then-wife Marianne? Again, I argue that he did have something to gain by his statements. On the sidelines, there is his family life, and on the front stage, there is the survival of the Republican Party.
Like some other prominent Republican leaders, Gingrich has friends and loved ones he would just as soon keep in the closet as threaten his political career. Take, for example, a pair of gay friends who were able to wed in Iowa or the strained relationship with this half-sister, Candace Gingrich-Jones. She works at the Human Rights Campaign and openly stated support of President Obama during the 2012 election. It wouldn’t hurt to have these bonds strengthened a bit by public statement. Family is supposed to be the building block of your Party, right Newt?
Oh, and the glorious Party. While the conservative Right has consistently and repeatedly acted in a homophobic and backwards manner, here you have one of their longest tenured members apparently going against the grain. It might look like a great risk, but it’s not. This is a Party that has alienated huge blocks of the voting public, made them feel un-American and downright unwelcome, and it has cost them big-time. It was obvious to Democratic strategists that welcoming and inviting these spurned groups together could yield a powerful force for change. The Republicans missed their chance at this in the last election, and are desperate to take back some of those valuable votes now.
Bottom line is, he is trying to seize on the opportunity to make himself LOOK like the good guy to people who would otherwise never take him seriously as a politician, much less a human rights activist. He is trying to more smoothly do what Romney attempted to do during his entire presidential campaign: disregard all past evidence to the counter, go with what seems popular, and make himself appear to be the one guy who is willing to have an open dialogue.
This is a convenient position to hold. Will he try the usual shape shifting and backtracking on this issue when it becomes politically inconvenient for him? Or when the Party again sees these voters as less valuable than they actually are?
This is a man who voted for DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), and doesn’t regret it to this day. This is a man who once compared same-sex marriage to paganism—because a marriage between two men or two women is heretical and immoral, but an open marriage? Not an issue.
The Republican Party has a lot to lose right now, becoming increasingly at risk of finding itself trapped in a bygone era with a shrinking base. Gingrich has something to gain, both personally and politically, and I believe his statements are based in a strategy to accept homosexuality and same-sex marriage as reality (which they are) and understand it so that they can better fight it. This is a prime example of the classic cognitive dissonance we see exhibited by Conservatives: same-sex marriage is a human rights issue that must inevitably be dealt with, while simultaneously saying that the issue has no right to exist in America’s moral landscape and that even the concept is evil/pagan/alien to them. Either it’s inevitable and we work toward equal treatment, or it’s a moral impossibility that has to be acknowledged so as to be choked out. It would be a great day and a revelation to see Gingrich’s statements come from a place of human empathy instead of for an underlying conservative agenda.
Image source: Politix