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Rachel Maddow Thinks the Right Is Laying Low on Prop H8 -- What's Going On?

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This originally appeared at No More Mister Nice Blog.

I was wondering about this on Wednesday, and last night Rachel Maddow addressed the question: What are the righties doing in response to the gay marriage ruling? Her conclusion: their response has been surprisingly muted. And she's not sure why.

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Maddow:

... Did you notice any big press conferences today in Washington, anti-gay marriage Republicans inveighing against this marriage ban being overturned? No. Nothin'.

...Where's the Republican Party? Karl Rove, where are you? What happened to your gay marriage as your great wedge issue? Where's the Republican Party making political hay out of this to run on in November?

... Perhaps the most telling indicator of where Republicans are on this is that today the National Republican Senatorial Committee -- the committee to get Republicans elected to the Senate in this year's elections? -- they blasted out a mass e-mail ignoring the Prop 8 ruling, and instead railing against Obamacare, ignoring yesterday's giant favorite Republican wedge issue news in favor of old news that passed months ago.

A state ban on gay marriage has been ruled unconstitutional by a federal court for the first time in American history, and the crusading protectors of marriage in the Republican Party, who love to run on this issue, instead are hiding.

Maddow does acknowledge a few expressions of outrage (Gingrich, DeMint, Santorum) -- but there's been a hell of a lot less than you'd expect. (And by my favorite measure of calculated right-wing anger generation -- the front pages of the Drudge Report and Fox Nation -- this really isn't the big story right now. As I type this, Drudge's lede involves Putin, fer crissake.)

So what's going on? Maddow's guest on this, Jonathan Alter, had a few theories:

The first one would be the conspiratorial theory, the stealth theory -- that they're waiting to trap President Obama into endorsing gay marriage, and then they'll pounce on him, all right? So that could be sort of one option.

...It's possible the tea party folks also see it as a distraction from what they consider to be their core mission of destroying President Obama. So, if they don't think that this is their best bet, according to their, you know, their calculation of bringing him down, then they'll save their ammo -- they like that word, "ammo" -- for other kinds of issues.

And you have to remember, if you look into the DNA of this tea party movement, it was not started by social conservatives, but by libertarian economic conservatives.... They have quite a number of members who are, but that is not at the core of their movement, and they are driving things in the conservative wing of the Republican Party.

My feeling is that we're looking at a different kind of "stealth."

A few days after Scott Brown won, an analysis I read -- I wish I could remember where -- gave a very sensible explanation for what happened. When Bible-thumpers visibly dominated the GOP (as during the entire era of Bible-thumper George W. Bush), moderate white suburbanites in the Northeast and West were lost to the party, because they hate the moralizing. But when Republicans stopped being associated with God-bothering, swing voters took another look. (Republicans who seem moderate do win in Massachusetts -- most governors in Massachusetts have been Republican in my lifetime -- but it's true that Bay Staters have been very blue in presidential and congressional elections until Brown came along.)

In any case, I think the folks at GOP/Wingnut Central have sent out word that the response to this should be muted. I think Murdoch and Ailes know they shouldn't push it too hard. They want suburbanites to be swingable, or even radicalizable (the stereotypical teabagger is supposed to be a formerly apolitical person, or maybe even an ex-hippie turned quiet householder, who's now just horrified by all this socialism.)

So, yeah, I think they're playing possum.

The Christian right undercurrent is hiding in plain sight, however -- as Maddow noted in another story on last night's show, there's a lot of anti-abortion extremism among this year's crop of GOP Senate candidates (although can Sharron Angle, Rand Paul, and Colorado's Ken Buck be said to be more extreme than Tom Coburn, who's been in the Senate for a while and who has said abortion providers should be executed?). I think we'll hear what these people want on "values" issues right after the election -- but, for the most part, not until then.

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UPDATE: Over at Rumproast, Betty Cracker reminds us of another Republican who's awfully quiet on this issue:

Even Palin declined to tut-tut the destruction of the family when spoon-fed a line by Sean Hannity during her bizarre appearance on his show earlier this week. She claimed she hadn’t had time to read the ruling. Since when has ignorance ever stopped Palin from opining ?

Betty thinks the president could actually deploy his nuanced/convoluted position on this issue, which is not unlike average Americans', and let right-wingers overextend themselves attacking him. I have my doubts about that. Much discussion follows.