Long View Logic
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It’s the ultimate “we told you so.”
Yesterday, the Rev. Jason McGuire, executive director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, and the organization’s founder/senior lobbyist, the Rev. Duane Motley, re-released a June 2011 open “letter” to Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos in which they warned that a “pound of flesh” would be taken from the GOP in the 2012 elections if same-sex marriage came to pass in New York.
“Historically, one of the strengths of the Senate GOP has been its ability to stand together for the good of the conference. Whenever Republicans attempt to split the social and fiscal conservatives, there is a price to pay,” the duo wrote at the time.
“For too long Republican leadership in New York has patronized the pro-life, pro-family voter. If Senate Republicans want this vote tomorrow, it must be earned today.”
“The final line in the sand for the conservative-leaning Republican voter is same-sex ‘marriage’. Cross this line and Republican Senate candidates can expect challenges in 2012 that will not end at the September Primary.”
With yesterday’s announcement by Sen. Roy McDonald – one of four Republican senators who voted “yes” on gay marriage last summer, enabling its passage – that he won’t actively campaign on the Independence Party line after losing the GOP primary to his more conservative challenger, Saratoga County Clerk Kathy Marchione, McGuire is declaring victory.
And it won’t stop here, he warns.
Two more “yes” voters – Sens. Mark Grisanti and Steve Saland – both of who won their Sept. 13 GOP primaries (or, in Saland’s case, eked out a victory) – will face continued opposition from so-called “values voters” in the November general election, McGuire pledged.
McGuire said the NYCF PAC did not get involved in the Grisanti race during the primary, but will now engage on behalf of “pro-family candidate” Chuck Swanick, the former Erie County legislator who lost his primary bid for the Democratic line to attorney Mike Amodeo, but remains on the November ballot on the Conservative Party line.
(Yeah, I know, it’s weird. That’s Western New York politics for you).
And if the result of this revolt from the right is more Democrats in the state Senate – or even a Democrat-controlled chamber that will undoubtedly pass all sorts of liberal legislation McGuire and his allies abhor…well, he’s OK with that. For now.
I find this approach confounding. But McGuire chided me for my linear thinking. “This is a cultural thing,” he said. “You’re living in a political world.”
“There has been a long slow decline (in the Senate GOP,” McGuire explained. “It’s not a winning strategy to continue to let them get away with it. There’s nothing that’s non-negotiable any more. If the price is right, they’re gone.”
McGuire said the turning point for him had come during a conversation with a “senior senator” last year as anti-gay marriage protestors fought for space in the Capitol’s hallways with pro-marriage advocates while the Senate Republicans deliberated for days behind locked doors,
“He told me: ‘Your people will vote for us no matter what. Until you take one of us out, we’re going to ignore your issues. We’ve got more to fear from the wealthy gay advocates than we do from you guys.’”
“Up to that point, we had worked with them closely,” McGuire said. “But they seemed to believe it was based on the fact that we Republicans and not on their values. We have to demonstrate that it’s the values…I’m looking at a long game.”
Very long. Try: A generation.
In the June 2011 letter, Motley and McGuire wrote about how their “kinship” with the Senate Republicans has become “strained” in recent years, with last year’s passage of same-sex marriage marking a potential point of no return.
The relationship between New York’s small but tenacious religious right and the Senate GOP actually started going off the rails long before Skelos allowed the gay marriage bill to come to the floor.
As Democratic enrollment in New York grew, the Senate Republicans recognized the need to move to the center or die.
In 2002, they passed the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act, otherwise known as SONDA, which advocates had been trying to move in the GOP-controlled chamber for three decades.
(The passage was the result of an election year deal that led to the endorsement of GOP Gov. George Pataki by the state’s largest LGBT organization, the Empire State Pride Agenda, even though both sides vehemently insisted there was no quid pro quo, since that would be illegal).
In 2007, they approved then Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s push to include state aid for embryonic stem cell research in the budget, angering pro-life advocates in the process.
In 2010, they provide sufficient votes to pass no-fault divorce in New York and also allow adoption by unmarried partners – moves seen as undermining “traditional” marriage by conservatives.
These are just some of the actions taken by the Senate GOP to which McGuire and Motley objected in their letter, adding:
“This kind of performance does not win Catholic, Evangelical, Orthodox Jewish, Tea Party or other conservative voters to the Republican Party, and has led to some of the splits the party has seen in recent years in the 23rd Congressional District, the 2010 gubernatorial race and most recently the 26th Congressional District.”
As a result of what they perceived as the Senate Republicans’ collective defection, conservative activists like McGuire have changed their approach.
Instead of supporting the GOP conference as a whole, they’ve targeted races where they believe their limited resources will have the biggest impact. McGuire said he has asked supporters to give directly to candidates whose ideologies match their own. His organization has ceased to issue voter guides, and instead is focused on in-person communications at churches and rallies.
Interestingly, this case-by-case approach is the same one adopted by the LGBT advocates after their wholesale backing of the Democrats’ short-lived re-taking of the Senate did not result in the passage of same-sex marriage in 2009.
The pro-gay marriage movement switched gears and started targeting “no” voters – Democrats AND Republicans – in an effort to re-make a Senate more amenable to their case.
Thanks to a number of factors – including lingering resentment from the Senate coup and the expulsion of former Sen. Hiram Monserrate after his conviction on a misdemeanor charge of assaulting his former girlfriend – the gay marriage lobby was successful.
Of course, they got a big boost from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who, it should be noted has adopted a case-by-case endorsement strategy for the Senate, too.
|Print article||This entry was posted by Liz Benjamin on September 28, 2012 at 11:04 am, and is filed under Republicans, Same-sex Marriage, State Senate, Uncategorized. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|
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