Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory
By Steve Deace
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
-Sir Isaac Newton’s 3rd Law of Physics
While I believe both Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock are fine men, I understand and even support efforts not to repeat the mistakes that made them two of the most high-profile casualties of the 2012 election campaign. Both men lost U.S. Senates they should’ve won, and while the treatment of neither for the remarks they made was fair, they also both shoulder responsibility for their own defeats as well.
However, learning from their mistakes does not mean repeating them from the inside-out, and that’s exactly what it looks like Congressman Justin Amash of Michigan is doing.
By all accounts, Amash appears to be a fine U.S. Congressman. He practices a level of transparency with his constituents that demonstrate he understands what civil servant means. A rare quality in this day and age of the ruling class.
In 2012 he joined Jim DeMint as one of just five members of Congress to receive Freedom Works’ “Freedom Fighter Award” given to those with a perfect score on the limited government group’s scorecard.
Meanwhile, the Family Research Council only disagreed with two of his votes last year, one in favor of medicinal marijuana (not a big deal to me one way or the other) and one against a ban on sex-selective child killing. Amash has supported several pieces of pro-life legislation in the past, but felt – rightly or wrongly – that this particular piece of legislation was as flawed as federal hate crimes legislation.
Also worth noting is that Amash voted in favor of stopping the Obama justice department from undermining the Defense of Marriage Act, because that’s a good segue to where we’re going next.
With long-tenured Democrat Carl Levin retiring next year, Amash would like to be the next U.S. Senator from the great state of Michigan (Go Blue…sorry, we are in the Final Four so please indulge me for a second). After a decade of economic decline, Michigan does currently have a Republican governor and a Republican state legislature, but hasn’t gone GOP in a presidential election since 1988. It hasn’t had a Republican in the U.S. Senate since Spencer Abraham 13 years ago, and only two in the last 35 years.
Despite West Michigan where I grew up being one of the staunchest conservative strong-holds in the Midwest, most of the rest of the state has been trending blue for decades thanks mainly to its culture of forced unionism. But now with right-to-work on its way in Michigan, and the dismal historic trend of the party in presidential power during their second midterm election, Amash is one of several Republicans sensing opportunity in 2014.
But based on what happened last weekend he not only won’t be seizing that opportunity, but just become the reverse of Todd Akin/Richard Mourdock.
What I write next is not about the substance of the marriage issue itself. I’ve written that article several times. If you want to know why I’m for marriage and you should be, too, it won’t take you long to search our archives to find out. What I write next is simply political analysis.
One of my 10 Commandments of Political Warfare is “never, ever abandon your base unless they are morally wrong.” Abandoning your base in politics is akin to self-immolation or suicide. Just ask Presidents Romney and McCain.
A Republican in Michigan has no chance to win a state-wide election unless he can first turnout his base en masse. Rick Snyder was able to do this to become governor in 2010, although he’s been a disappointment to conservatives on several occasions once in office. Mitt Romney wasn’t able to turn out his base in Michigan last fall, and lost the state by 9 points despite winning independents. Why? Because overall turnout in the state was plus-10 Democrat. Obama turned out his base and won Michigan, Romney didn’t and lost.
The base of the Michigan Republican Party cares deeply about the limited government and prosperity issues Amash has been excellent on. But it also cares deeply about marriage. Less than 10 years ago the state passed one of the most principled pro-marriage amendments to its state constitution in the country, and is one of only two states (along with Virginia) to ban recognizing any type of same sex relationship contract as legal. And this amendment didn’t just squeak by, either. It passed statewide by 19 points with 2.7 million votes, which were about 300,000 more votes than George W. Bush got in the state that year.
Yet it appears Amash still has a ways to go to convince Michigan conservatives (and obviously some Democrats who voted for marriage and John Kerry in 2004 as well) he cares as deeply about marriage as they do.
Last week Amash had a revealing exchange with Gary Glenn, the head of the Michigan chapter of the American Family Association. It was revealing for what it did and didn’t reveal. On one hand the limited government Amash was for expanding the welfare state to include homosexual couples, but on the other hand he wasn’t totally clear about his position on the issue of marriage itself. Confucius say man who straddles the fence for too long eventually gets his nether regions caught in it.
Regardless of what you think about the marriage issue itself, politically what Amash is doing here is, well, dumb. He is abandoning his base without any hope of making up for those lost voters in a general election should he get the GOP nomination.
Because the people that vote against marriage always – repeat ALWAYS – vote for big government statism, too. Replacing God with government always includes both growing government control over our person and property and destroying morality simultaneously.
There are probably a few more Michiganders against marriage now than there were back in 2004 when the state’s marriage amendment passed, but most of those folks weren’t going to vote for Amash in a general election anyway because they’re liberals who have evolved on this issue. If you’re an anti-marriage libertarian, you were already going to vote for Amash. On the other hand, the percentage of people in Michigan who will overlook Amash’s fiscal conservatism to vote for him because he’s against marriage is slim and none. If they want someone against marriage, they’ll just go ahead and vote for the liberal that will give them the rest of Santa’s goodies as well. Demographics dictate Amash cannot – repeat CANNOT – expand his electoral footprint this way.
But what Amash will do if he continues on this path is alienate his own base, adding his name to the graveyard of failed Republican U.S. Senate candidates in Michigan dating back to when disco was still cool.
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