Could Gay Marriage Split the GOP Going into 2016?

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After stunning the country by refusing to hear same-sex marriage appeals on Monday, the Supreme Court essentially legalized the practice in several states where lower court rulings were waiting in limbo. Conservatives worry that this de facto ruling could lead to a serious fracture in the Republican Party.

The first Republican to lash out against the party is former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, one of the potential frontrunners when it comes to the 2016 presidential elections. He took to the American Family Association’s radio show “Today’s Issues” to issue a threat to party leadership.

“I am utterly exasperated with Republicans and the so-called leadership of the Republicans, who have abdicated on this issue,” Huckabee said. “If the Republicans want to lose guys like me and a whole bunch of still God-fearing and Bible-believing people just go ahead and abdicate on this issue. And while you are at it, go ahead and say abortion doesn’t matter either because at that point you lose me.”

Huckabee went on to say he would have no problem dropping the (R) from his name and going independent if Republicans decide to drop the issue of gay marriage from their national platform. “I am tired of this.”

The Great GOP Split

Huckabee’s comments highlight a political split that has been evident for several years in the Republican Party. Many party faithful think it’s time to leave these social issues behind, seeing them as lost causes that are only serving to hold the GOP back. Others insist that social issues are the foundation of conservatism, and that a Republican Party unwilling to stand against liberal takeover is not much of a representative.

It’s an issue with no easy fix. Clearly, the tide is turning when it comes to national opinions on gay marriage. A recent poll showed that 56% of Republicans under the age of 40 support equal marriage rights for gays and lesbians. On the other hand, Huckabee may be right when he says that Republicans risk losing social conservatives if they abandon the fight. Either scenario could see the GOP struggle to win national elections, which is what makes the situation so frustrating.

For now, the Republican Party’s official position is in favor of defining marriage as between a man and a woman. However, there is a gulf between what happens to be written in the bylaws and what is being said in public. Even Michelle Bachmann, a Republican politician who has spoken out vehemently on conservative social issues, has said she believes it’s a dead topic. “It’s boring,” she said earlier this year.

In the end, a fracture of some significance may be inevitable. The conservative youth movement is focused on libertarian principles, largely abandoning the social conservatism of old. The Tea Party, likewise, is much more focused on taxes and immigration than it is a message of faith and traditional values. It is perhaps sad to see the Mike Huckabees of the party be relegated to the backburner, but electability will inevitably be seen as more important than ideological adherence.

And if the split leads us to a multi-party system in the years to come, perhaps that’s not the worst thing for the country. If there’s one thing we could definitely use on a national level, it’s politicians willing to stake out their own territory. The further we move from monolithic, “platform” politics, the closer we’ll be to a true representative democracy. And the closer we come to re-affirming state’s rights when it comes to issues across the board, the better off the country will be.