Supporting the status quo on gays in the military, that is, after the repeal of the misguided Clinton-era Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell (DADT), may not help a candidate win Republican votes in states like Iowa with a large concentration of social conservatives. That said, saying, as Rick Perry does in his new ad, that “there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military, but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school” is more the mark of desperation than of sound political strategy.
Now, I’m all for kids openly celebrating Christmas and praying in schools (if they so choose — and provided they do so on their own, that is, not in prayer organized by a teacher or school official). As should all people. Heck, the “free exercise” clause of the First Amendment guarantees it. (And the “establishment” clause does not trump it.)
It’s a nice rhetorical trick to contrast the open service of gay people in the military and the open celebration of Christmas, but the juxtaposition just doesn’t work, save perhaps to remind voters of the candidate’s social conservative bona fides. In doing so, Perry is really jumping the shark. His campaign is sinking and he is making a desperate ploy to gain traction.
I doubt this tack will work. Even among socially conservative Iowa Republicans (as among Republicans nationwide), jobs and the economy are the key issues:
Almost half of Iowa caucus goers believe jobs and the economy is the most important topic in deciding who to support in the GOP presidential race. 46% of respondents in a poll commissioned by TheIowaRepubican.com ranked that their number one issue. Cutting spending finished second at 31%.
The poll provides evidence that, despite the Iowa Caucus’ reputation of being dominated by evangelicals, most likely caucus goers believe fiscal issues are far more important than social ones in choosing the GOP nominee for President. Abortion and gay marriage finished as the 7th and 8th most important topics.
Not just that, as Alexander Nicholson of Servicemembers United reminds us polling had shown that majorities of Republicans favored repeal of DADT. (Read the whole thing.)
I’m wondering who advised Perry to cut this ad. Few if any floundering politicians have succeeded at rescuing their candidacies by invoking gays. Perhaps, if the Texas Governor instead put forward a serious reform plan while hitting the incumbent on his failure to hold the line on spending and for lacking a plan to reform costly entitlements, he might find some traction among an electorate looking for a leader to fill the void left by a failed president.
FROM THE COMMENTS: SoCalRobert offers:
I don’t know who in the Perry camp thought this was a good idea but I’ve read that there were those who thought it a bad idea.
I want a candidate that grasps the position that we’re in… One that can point out that unless we stop the fiscal boat plunging over the falls, most other issues are academic.
None of the GOP front runners appear to get it. I’m starting to see writers speculating about a dark horse candidate. I hope there’s something to that.
Emphasis added. Ditto that emphasized part.