Douthat isn’t surprised by the outcome in South Carolina:
One could imagine a world where the advance of gay marriage, and the apparent failure of traditionalist arguments on the issue, inspired social conservatives to seek both a more comprehensive pro-marriage agenda and less compromised standard bearers for that cause. But for now that doesn’t seem to be happening: Instead we live in a world where the same South Carolina voters who handed their primary to the thrice-married Newt Gingrich just held their noses and voted for Sanford, who famously ditched not only his wife but also his gubernatorial duties while pursuing an adulterous affair. …
For now, at least, I don’t look at left and right and see the beginnings of a neo-Victorian moment. I see a liberalism that feels triumphant about gay marriage and complacent about the institution’s overall decline, and a conservatism that, lacking an obvious way forward, seems half-inclined to just give up the fight.
I don’t disagree with Ross on much of this – but have to add that surely this means – must mean – that the current GOP’s hostility to marriage equality is not really about the state of marriage, but about their fundamentalist inability to see gay people in relationships as equals. How can you write a column about the lack of passion behind social conservatism without noting the real passion that drives the GOP to adopt a position that would deny gay couples any structured legal rights at all?
Dreher looks to the life of John Profumo, a British cabinet minister whose career was ended by a sex scandal, as an alternative to the Sanford comeback. It would certainly make sense of today’s GOP base voters were genuinely concerned about marriage and the family, rather than convulsed with fear and loathing of gays.
(Photo: Former South Carolina Governor and U.S. House of Representatives Republican candidate Mark Sanford talks with supporters during the Charleston Area Chamber of Commerce’s Pork and Politics on April 30, 2013 in Charleston, South Carolina. Republican Mark Sanford is challenging Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch in a special election for the House seat vacated by current U.S. Sen. Tim Scott. By Richard Ellis/Getty Images)