Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) has joined the many Republican leaders who believe that the party should stick to its social conservative positions on issues like marriage equality but sugarcoat its language to sound more accepting. In an interview with David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network, Bush suggested that social conservatives, like evangelical Christians, were essential to the party’s success, so the GOP should “not abandon principle”:
BUSH: I think we could focus on all our disparate parts, all of the points of disagreement that conservatives have and never win again. My general thought is that the focus ought to be on how you get fifty plus one, not how you win amongst forty-five. And that’s kind of where we are where everybody has a view that’s slightly different than one another and certainly social conservatives are a huge part of a winning coalition, which means that we have to change our language to be inclusive but not abandon principle. That’s not as hard, I think, as people make it out to be.
In other words, the Republican Party should try to fool moderates with inclusive rhetoric while continuing to cater to conservative positions. This is a tactic the party has largely failed at accomplishing since such ideas were proposed in its 2012 autopsy earlier this year. Party leaders like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) have been championed for occupying a “middle ground” on LGBT issues, but despite his support for allowing states to figure out same-sex marriage for themselves, he opposes both marriage equality and nondiscrimination protections. At a retreat in April, the Republican National Committee nearly unanimously approved a resolution opposing marriage equality that was based entirely on anti-gay junk science.
Republicans may continue to peddle the idea that they’re not as anti-gay as before, but their actions speak louder than their words.