When’s the Shouting Start?

Over the last few months we’ve seen a steady and by any historical standard rapid Republican withdrawal from the politics of immigrant-bashing. First, the elites in the party, then the would-be presidentials and then last week basically all the hold outs among the Tea Partiers in the House. In military terms, it’s not so much a rout as the army just fading away.

I think that’s great for the country. But it does make you wonder, what happened to this being a core issue to GOP base voters last year?Did everyone just suddenly change their mind? Are GOP base voters reacting to the same very practical concerns about the party’s longterm future as party elites? Or if Hannity and Marco Rubio say it’s over, is it over? Maybe the whole thing was just overblown by the dynamics of an intense primary fight. I don’t have a really clear answer on this one other than the standard half-cop-out that I think it’s a bit of each.

But what about gay marriage? I was interested to read this piece in Politico over the weekend which noted that Republican operatives see a party switch on gay marriage as a potential major fundraising windfall. In other words, a pro-gay rights stance (or at least not as clearly an anti-gay stance) could give Republican fundraisers purchase on a whole new group of potential political givers.

As a practical matter, that seems like a real possibility. Democrats have done major fundraising among pro-gay rights and gay donors in recent years, though I imagine it’ll take quite a lot of work and change before anyone really thinks that the GOP is a better or even close to equal protector of gay rights than the Democratic party.

But if you’re a base Republican voter or evangelical Christian whose primary orientation toward politics is through the prism of right-leaning evangelical Christianity, this idea that the party is going to make the switch because there are so many fundraising dollars available is one that has to feed into every nightmare and paranoia of elite GOP sellout.

So on all these issues — gay rights, immigration and a slew of others — is there a point where the core constituencies favoring these exclusionary politics dig in their heels and say, no more? Or is the GOP base just a paper tiger? My sense is that it’s not necessarily either in that binary equation, that the whole situation is part of the disorientation of the whole party post-2012 — or from another perspective post-1998.

But I still wonder? Is that it? Does the party leadership just show the way?