As the tide continues to turn against conservatives on a number of issues including marriage equality, it is interesting to watch how Republican politicians wade against the rush of public opinion. Increasingly, the answer appears to be: don’t change, but say nothing and pretend it doesn’t exist. The latest exhibit? Scott Walker stonewalling about his position on marriage:
But where is Walker on the issue now? He is up for re-election in just five months and he is considering a presidential bid in 2016.
“I don’t comment on everything out there,” he responded. Except he usually does, especially on a hot-button issue like this one.
Walker bristled when it was suggested he was refusing to answer the question. “You can print whatever you want, but I did not decline comment,” he said.
OK, let’s try it one more time. Is the governor — like some other conservatives — rethinking his position on same-sex marriage?
“No,” Walker said. “I’m just not stating one at all.”
It’s not the first time. After Todd Akin and other Republicans contracted foot-in-mouth disease over reproductive issues and rape, the conservative response wasn’t to rethink their misogynistic and theocratic positions. Instead, they held communications seminars to help their candidates talk about the issues in a more delicate way. When that failed, they simply started urging their candidates not to talk about those issues at all.
This is a phenomenon unique to the right side of the aisle. I can’t think of any major issues of the day on which Democratic politicians consistently embarrass themselves, need to attend talking point retreats, and ultimately simply avoid comment. That’s partly because national polling tends to favor Democrats on nearly every single issue, and partly because the Republican Party is beholden to an extremist base increasingly at odds with modernity itself.
Still, for a political party defined by aggressiveness and moral certainty, the decision to hide and clam up when asked simple questions about major issues is both funny and disconcerting. It’s up to the press to keep up the pressure to get real answers.