In an interview on Tuesday evening sure to upset the conservative grassroots, Florida Governor Rick Scott said that the Republican Party needs to de-emphasize its opposition to the LGBT agenda.
“We need to figure out how to come together as a country and include the Republican Party,” Scott said. “We all need to come together,” adding, “It’s the law of the land.”
There are deep constitutional problems with Scott’s response.
Princeton professor and conservative intellectual Robert George has argued several times that surrendering to activist judges on cases like Roe v. Wade or Obergefell v. Hodges undermines constitutional government as understood by statesmen like the Founders and Abraham Lincoln.
In one article, George quoted Lincoln, who said “The Constitution has erected no such single tribunal, knowing that to whatever hands confided, with the corruptions of time and party, its members would become despots. It has more wisely made all the departments coequal and co-sovereign within themselves.”
The Supreme Court, like any other branch of government, can act unconstitutionally. Nine unelected elites in black robes sitting in a grand building have no greater legitimacy than the states or the Congress or the President.
When Governor Scott, or other Republican politicians who would rather ditch same-sex marriage as an issue, acknowledge Obergefell as the “law of the land,” they enable further disruption of the constitutional order the Founders so wisely designed.
The problems with Governor Scott’s position on Obergefell do not stop with there, however. Instead of discussing a conservative social agenda, Scott said that the party needs to focus on other issues.
“I’ll tell you what, the Supreme Court has already made a decision,” Scott said. “In my state, we’re focused on jobs.”
This is, of course, the party leadership’s preferred electoral strategy. In an “autopsy” report on the 2012 election, Republican analysts argued, “When it comes to social issues, the Party must in fact and deed be inclusive and welcoming. If we are not, we will limit our ability to attract young people and others, including many women.”
Party leaders traditionally associated with the Washington establishment or moderate wing of the party have since latched firmly onto the autopsy’s central thesis that the GOP needs to better emphasize economic ideas and ignore social issues. Based on his comments, it would appear Governor Scott has become just the latest Republican leader to do so.
However, the rank-and-file grassroots of the Republican Party disagree with Scott and other politicians who stick with this truce strategy, especially rolling over and deferring to judicial supremacy on Obergefell. At the Republican National Convention, the day before Scott’s interview, the delegates approved one of the most socially conservative platforms in party history.
When the interviewer ask Scott what he thought of the platform’s refusal to recognize the legitimacy of Obergefell, Scott simply responded, “I haven’t seen that.”
Pandering to the social left and betraying both the conservative base and the fundamental principles of conservatism will not help Rick Scott or any other Republican who hopes to benefit from such rhetoric. In fact, the American people will only be pushed further and further away from the GOP as the party slowly abandons the principles of statesmanship that made America great.
The Republican Party once stood for the high ideal of ordered liberty. When GOP leaders like Rick Scott decide to turn their backs on this history, they betray the party and philosophy they pledged to uphold and advance.
Michael Lucchese works for the American Principles Project.