Matt Haughey summarizes Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter with Kansas? as follows:
Frank uncovers how the GOP became the voice of the everyman while pushing law and policy that generally benefit the upper class most of all. It’s a vexing problem but I’ve always attributed it to language and the GOP controlling the debate. Frank goes a bit deeper and reveals a 30 year plan of campaigns that stress values, but that deliver economic law instead. So the game is to get people riled up over issues, but the GOP never actually does anything about the issues, instead concentrating on pushing laws that deregulate industries. He also goes into how the GOP exploits victimhood, since they never “win the culture war” and come off as the underdog, even though they control all three houses of the government.
Essentially, if the Republicans ever win any of the big social battles (abortion, gay marriage), that’s one less issue to use to motivate the social conservative base.
The proposed federal amendment to ban gay marriage is the perfect weapon for the Republican party: it gets the social conservatives all riled up, but it has a slim chance of ever being passed (and even then, it would take many years). Therefore, it’s a weapon that they can use to motivate their social conservative base for a long time to come, and as long as it never gets passed, they can continue to claim victim status in the culture war.
Which brings up the other big culture war issue: abortion. Getting a Supreme Court to overturn or limit Roe v. Wade is the Holy Grail, so to speak, for the social conservatives. There’s a very good chance Bush will get to nominate one or more judges to the Supreme Court in his next term. And if past nomination battles are any indication, the nominee’s (or nominees’) views on abortion will be paramount. And with a strong Republican majority in the Senate, an anti-abortion nominee stands a good chance of getting the appointment.
That would put the Republicans in a tough spot, as they would actually make significant progress on one of their big issues that they use to motivate the social conservatives. I shudder to think what next big ‘moral’ issue Karl Rove has up his sleeve.