During any national campaign, the country looks for evidence of what kind of president the various candidates would be. And as part of the exercise, we can go through all kinds of areas, including the candidates’ records, speeches, and proposals.
But it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on who presidential hopefuls surround themselves with, because this, too, offers a hint about the candidates’ intentions. The fact that Jeb Bush, for example, has hired so many members of his brother’s foreign policy team speaks volumes about the kind of approach to international affairs we can expect to see if the former governor is elected.
With this in mind, the Huffington Post ran an interesting piece this week on Eric Teetsel, who’ll serve as the director of faith outreach for Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign.
A prominent young voice among evangelicals, Teetsel was the executive director of the Manhattan Declaration, a 2009 manifesto declaring the “sanctity of life” and marriage signed by more than 550,000 people…. In June, after the Confederate flag came down on the grounds of the South Carolina state capitol in the same week the Supreme Court ruled gay marriage legal in all 50 states, Teetsel lamented on Twitter that the U.S. “traded one symbol of illiberalism and sweeping cultural sin for another.”Teetsel expanded on his thoughts after the court ruling, warning that gay Americans would experience “suffering” unless Christians point them “toward the better way.”
It’s true, of course, that candidates and their top aides don’t always agree on literally every issue, and it’d be unfair to argue that everything Teetsel has ever said or written necessarily enjoys Rubio’s endorsement.
But it’s also true that when Rubio brings on a new member of his team with a lengthy paper trail, and gives that person a prominent position, it says something relevant about the candidate’s platform.
In this case, it doesn’t take a lot of Googling to see that Teetsel has a specific kind of worldview. During a debate on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, for example, Rubio’s new staffer said the law is intended to force employers “to hire men who dress like women.” Told how offensive that is to the transgender community, Teetsel added, “What’s offensive is using the law to force an extreme sexual ideology on others.”
More recently, Teetsel wrote a piece condemning, among other things, “cohabitation.” The same piece lamented “the normalization of the LGBT ideology” which he argued is “wreak[ing] havoc on the lives of our neighbors, friends, and loved ones.”
During the fight over Houston’s anti-discrimination law, he described its proponents as “radical LGBT activists,” who were defending a “ludicrous policy.”
And now he’s on Team Rubio, partnering with a candidate who embraced his own far-right lines on issues such contraception access and marriage equality.
There’s certainly no reason to believe such a hire will hurt Rubio with Republican primary voters – just the opposite is true – but it’s a reminder that when it comes to a general election, the Florida senator may be young, but when it comes to the culture war, Rubio is committed to a regressive vision.