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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Old Wine In Old Bottles

Struggling to find some political purchase between now and November 7, Republicans from George Bush on down are rushing towards hysteria in response to a New Jersey Supreme Court ruling that would require state recognition of legal benefits for same-sex couples. The decision pointedly did not mandate gay marriage rights; indeed, the majority opinion went out of its way to say that’s a question for the state legislature. But nevermind. Campaigning in Iowa, Bush said: ““Yesterday in New Jersey, we had another activist court issue a ruling that raises doubts about the institution of marriage.”GOPers no doubt hope the renewed specter of gay marriage will bestir social conservatives to forget about their many grievances with the Bush adminisrtration and the Republican Congress–not to mention the negative feelings they share with Democrats and independents about the corrupto-ganza in Washington and the mess in Iraq–and dutifully troops to the polls to save the bacon of many an endangered incumbent. More specifically, Republicans think the issue could now help them in two of the three states on which control of the Senate likely hangs–Tennessee and Virginia–where gay marriage constitutional bans are on the ballot.I’m guessing that the fine folks at the RNC are particularly happy with themselves for anticipating the New Jersey decision by lying about Tennessee Senate candidate Harold Ford’s position on gay marriage. Ford is now having to spend time and money in ads making it clear he opposes gay marriage–and in fact, has said he’d vote for the state ban.It will be interesting to see if social conservatives fish in one more time in the murky waters of the GOP’s tired efforts to exploit cultural fears over the bogus issue of gay marriage. Aside from their well-earned skepticism of empty Republican promises to turn back the clock on gay and lesbian rights, Christian conservatives are no more enamored of the general Bush record than most other voters. The latest drive to make gay marriage a national political issue is a classic example of trying to pour old wine into old bottles. It’s a very sour wine at this point, and I’m hoping it finds no buyers.

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