One guest on the program was Mike Huckabee, who began his interview by threatening to leave the Republican Party if the GOP does not take a stand against the Supreme Court's decision yesterday not to hear appeals of lower court rulings striking down gay marriage bans in several states. Incensed by the decision, Huckabee declared that "I am utterly exasperated with Republicans and the so-called leadership of the Republicans who have abdicated on this issue," warning that by doing so the GOP will "guarantee they're going to lose every election in the future."
The right wasn't pleased when the Supreme Court indirectly cleared the way for marriage equality in several states this week, but some conservatives took the news worse than others. For example, take Fox News' Mike Huckabee, a former preacher, governor, and presidential candidate.
Huckabee declared this week that any Supreme Court decision is just an "opinion" until Congress passes "enabling legislation" signed by the president. High court rulings, he added, are "not the 'law of the land' as is often heralded."
None of this is even remotely accurate, but the comments were the latest evidence of Huckabee falling off a right-wing cliff. The Republican also said this week that Americans should doubt U.S. officials giving the public information about Ebola because of Benghazi.
And in case that weren't quite enough, Huckabee also this week threatened to leave the Republican Party for being insufficiently anti-gay.
The former governor added that the GOP might lose "guys like me and a whole bunch of still God-fearing, Bible-believing people" unless they become more aggressive in fighting a right-wing culture war against marriage equality and reproductive rights.
Huckabee went on to say he's prepared to "become an independent," adding, "I'm gone.... I'm tired of this."
At a certain level, this isn't entirely new. Over the course of the last 20 years, I've lost count of how many times prominent social conservatives and leaders of the religious right movement have threatened to leave the Republican Party en masse for not going far enough in fighting the culture war. There's never been any follow-through, at least not to any meaningful degree.
That said, Ed Kilgore raised a good point: "[I]t's not unusual for pols associated with the Christian Right to suggest their foot soldiers are going to get discouraged at being played for suckers by the Republican Establishment, and might stay home or stray. But Huck's making a personal statement about his own threat to book if the GOP doesn't conspicuously get back on the traditional marriage train. And he's saying it via the homophobic obsessives of the AFA, who can be sure to broadcast it near and far."
Republican officials usually ignore such threats, confident that when push comes to shove, right-wing culture warriors will stay with the GOP to prevent Democratic victories.
Still, Huckabee's ultimatum reinforces a Republican Party with an awkward dilemma. If the GOP quietly moves towards the mainstream on social issues, it alienates a significant part of the party's base. If Republicans toe the far-right line on the culture war, the GOP will continue to shrink, pushing away younger voters and a mainstream that's increasingly respectful of diversity.
To be sure, this has long been a challenge for Republicans, but with the party's demographic challenges becoming more acute, and far-right voices like Huckabee's growing louder, GOP leaders are left with no good options. Is it any wonder Republicans responded to news from the Supreme Court this week with near-total silence?