This will probably be cold comfort for marriage equality advocates if North Carolina voters approve Amendment One next Tuesday, but there are growing signs that even as conservatives in this country are emboldened to think they can reverse Roe v. Wade or unravel the constitutional underpinnings of the New Deal and the Great Society–some of them are reading the signs and calculating that the battle against LGBT equality is a lost cause.

There is a long, strange, anger-inducing, but ultimately compelling article up at the paleocon site The American Conservative, by its editor, Daniel McCarthy, that argues the case for discrimination against gays and lesbians on marriage rights–or for that matter, much of anything else–was doomed the moment conservatives began accepting them as, well, human beings:

That’s the pot in which social conservatives are being boiled. They have made enough concessions to the reality of political life in 21st-century America—to the principle of legal equality and the need for some nondiscrimination law—that they’re left making largely unsympathetic and unconvincing arguments for exceptions. Over time they may feel compelled throw their full electoral weight behind the libertarian principle of tolerance even for intolerance as the only viable alternative to a futile authoritarianism or outright surrender to liberalism.

“The libertarian principle of tolerance even for intolerance” is, I suppose, McCarthy’s way of referring to the “religious liberty” argument of conservatives that even if they cannot impose their general view of divine or natural law on the rest of society, they should be allowed to carve out large zones of immunity from the “liberal” laws that govern the rest of us.

The piece is worth a read in terms of the internal dynamics of the Right. And if you can stomach it, check out the comments thread for some real anger at both the author and at the godless hordes who have destroyed the idyllic partriarchal family structure of the past.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.