Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Newt Memo

According to PowerLine (a leading conservative blog, if you aren't already reading it) Newt Gingrich met with some congressional leaders. The below were (allegedly) his talking points:

What To Make Of This?
Firstly, while I have no objective confirmation, it feels real. It's cogent. It sounds like Gingrich. The request for metrics to measure success is the kind of thing you see in high-level executive directives that someone faking it probably wouldn't have thought of. In short, this does not ping my bullshit detector.

Secondly I think it is on target (and the blog post I took it from agrees too). I think that rather than 2014 being a "defensive year" as the conventional wisdom shows, Team Obama is planning to expand their power. How can this be possible? As I laid out a few days ago: because they believe that the electorate will be so sorted by 2014 that they can run a minority turn-out campaign and get 2012-esque numbers.

For an example, let's look at the recent plays around gay marriage. Right now there's a Republican (really: libertarian) brief making the conservative case for gay marriage. This seems like a decent populist / big-tent play. Let's take a look: Here's an indicative post from
There are plenty of bad reasons to support gay marriage running around today, depending on where your priorities settle out. Yes, I could point out the increasing demographic shift which shows that younger voters support the idea across party lines more than they oppose it. But if the only reason you have to support gay marriage is a fear of losing yet another election or five, that doesn’t come across as a very sincere, heartfelt position.
Indeed--but the problem is worse than just having a bunch of guys on the 'R' side come out in favor of gay marriage. The problem is that this splits, directly, the So-Con leg of the GOP from the Libertarian leg: while the libertarians won't leave the party over the So-Con position, their agitating for acceptance will drive out the So-Cons (or, well, it might).

This, at a time when gay-rights group GOProud has been denied a chance to attend CPAC is timely and important: just as some establishment Republicans are trying to get everyone to circle the wagons in the interest of winning the next election, this issue (amongst others) drives a wedge in.

What Do I Think?
I think that the GOP has a serious problem with the gay issue (and will find other, similar issues with women's issues and so on). The problem is this: the social-conservative wing has staked out a position on gay marriage that is immovable. It can't bend--it can't budge: if it goes anywhere, it crumbles. In case you don't know, it looks like this:
  1. Gay activity is bad: the bible says so.
  2. Gay activity (at least gay male activity) is biologically harmful: it is a self-harming behavior.
  3. It is deviant
  4. It is socially destructive as it does not produce children nor raise them in the preferred 1-man, 1-woman household.
  5. Federal acceptance of gay marriage will lead to lawsuits to force churches to have gay weddings. This has already happened [ somewhere ].
  6. The gay-agenda is not about making gays "equal" but making them "superior" (i.e. a protected class) and forcing normal society to validate them.
  7. Anti-Bullying programs are about making it impossible / illegal for students to honestly speak about their religious beliefs (i.e. calling gay students deviant perverts whom God hates, presumably). This is subterfuge.
  8. Integration of gays into the American military will and is hurting it--make no mistake: the American military is different from those other militaries that allow gays (like, uh, Israel) for [ reasons ].
By the time you have gotten to #8 (or beyond) you have backed so far into a corner that there can be no real middle ground. You can't say "Hey, okay--go be gay--just don't put it in my face--" because you have defined "your face" as anywhere you can detect it (including the shadowy future where the slippery slope may lead us).

This position is facing headwinds of 73% approval from the 18-29 year old crowd. Unless those young people become more anti-gay with age (presumably, I guess, when they start paying taxes and get a real job or something) in a decade or two this is over (or, well, at least the 39% 65+ demographic will be clinging to hetero-only marriage at age 85+).

The problem with the memo, almost for each point, is this: when you have intractable positions (immigration is about closing the border first--and then--doing something about immigration so long as it doesn't give anyone here without papers a path to citizenship ... and allows the papers-please police stops) how do you do outreach?

How do you keep gays who hold Republican positions on spending and the military in the party if they can't even squint and think you accept them (beyond taking their vote)? What's the "emotionally compelling" way to communicate with groups that currently are not being reached? The better America for white old people is the 1950's--what's it look like for Hispanics or black Americans?

If the GOP is seen as being the Christian-Right party by Asians, what kind of outreach will bring them back? They voted against the GOP in larger numbers than ever in 2012 and the normal rationales--that they were bought off by Obamaphones--don't generally apply.

In any event, I'd be fascinated to see Newt's metrics for this--I presume it would start with polling--but who would you get to do it? Rasmussen? Gallup? ... Public Policy Polling? ... Hire Nate Silver? I also would like to see some response testing on GOP messaging but I think we already have: it's dismal if you aren't already voting for them.

Closing comment: there is a legitimate question as to whether the gay issue is a maneuver or just, you know, Obama's basic agenda. After all, his constituents  do want gay marriage recognized and he did integrate the military first term. This could be seen as more or less coming through for his base. I'm not sure myself--considering that the GOP seems to be mostly interested in backing itself into various corners these days I'm not sure there's a material difference anyway.


  1. I have a friend who's homosexual, and back in 2012 when Obama announced his "support" for gay marriage, my friend was pretty happy about it. Now, I think that marriage between two consenting adults should be universally allowed, but I saw Obama's announcement as a cheap political ploy that really did very little (if anything) for marital rights. That's just how I interpreted it mind you, but it actually pissed me off quite a bit, and I asked my friend why he wasn't insulted at being (in my eyes) so obviously pandered to?

    He basically said (not his exact words, just the gist of it) that he would rather take even a tiny step forward than 2 steps back, which is how he saw Romney affecting the movement for marital equality. I really got the impression that he simply wasn't going to vote for a candidate from a party that genuinely seemed to hate him. And Romney was so wishy washy I doubt he would have been some anti-gay crusader, but that didn't matter. The same guy who was called a "Massachusetts moderate" was put on par with the Tea Party, that's the GOP today.

    1. If you want to see the impact Obama's announcement made look at the black community's approval numbers for SSM before and after: meteoric. Obama coming out in favor of SSM was massive. So was his integrating the military.

      These are huge deals.

      I do not think that the Republican party "genuinely hates" gays--however, it is clear that they "seem to" (and certain factions of them definitely do by their own admission or, at least, hate the gay-sex-act and aren't differentiating much between the sinner and the sin).

      Could the GOP revise its stance? I suspect it'll have to over a decade or two but I guess we'll have to see how it plays out.

    2. How effective do you think it would be if the GOP tried attacking the lackluster nature of Obama's support? Pointing out how he didn't really do much for it his first term, suggesting that he's only using the issue to further his own political goals, that sort of thing?

      Of course a lot of people might see it as the pot calling the kettle black, given how poorly the GOP is perceived on this issue it may be impossible for them to realistically fight with Obama on it at all.

    3. I can't imagine a scenario where the GOP could claim that Obama "isn't doing enough" or isn't sincere enough. Considering that a large portion of their base wants a constitutional amendment to prevent SSM and a third of their constituency is religiously opposed to gay marriage what would the ad say? "We think you're deviants but, hey, at least we're honest about it?"

      I think you'd have an easier time selling the idea that his ORIGINAL position on gay-marriage (i.e. skeptical / luke-warm) was the political construct (to make him less threatening to black churches) and his CURRENT position is closer to his "real one" as he has unveiled it as he has become more politically powerful.

    4. I think the GOP would have a hard time defining and identifying the lackluster support of gays to the people who matter most: gays. If he's implementing decidedly pro-gay measures and pushing for pro-gay legislation, I'm not sure the gay community would (or should) care "Why?". Unless the political goals they'd plan to ascribe to Obama were somehow ultimately anti-gay, it doesn't seem like a valid like of attack since the agenda is still being implemented.