What’s Left Of The Left?

Barry Friedman and Dahlia Lithwick wonder what issue liberals will trumpet after marriage equality:

Abortion, the death penalty, gun control, economic injustice, all that stuff was fraught enough to make you just want to triangulate. Abortion clinics don’t poll well. Good grief, even access to primary health care polls poorly. And those issues are as popular as plums compared with the rights of death row inmates and freedom from religious coercion … Now that gay marriage is looking like a check in the win column, it is precisely the right moment to ask: What does it mean to be left anymore? Is there even a left left? Or just a center that calls itself left because it is always standing next to the dude labeled “right” in the photographs?

First off, a quibble. Not all those in favor of marriage equality are on the left. We just look that way because the right has become a faction of religious fundamentalism. Second, these questions are somewhat premature; Enten expects that the fight over marriage will last for many decades in the South:

All the southern states except for West Virginia have in place a constitutional ban against same-sex marriage. All the southern states – except for Arkansas and Mississippi, where support for gay marriage is somewhere between 20% and 30% – require state legislative action before overturning a state constitutional amendment against gay marriage.

The fact that state legislatures will be required to act changes the entire equation for the south. All the southern legislatures with a constitutional ban against gay marriage also feature Republican control of at least one house of the state legislature. In most cases, Republicans control both houses with plenty of room to spare and no sign that control is going to switch anytime soon. All of the states that require going to the legislature demand super-majorities (60%+) and/or at least two consecutively elected legislatures to approve an amendment for it to reach the popular ballot.

What this basically means is the same-sex marriage debate is not even about what the majority of the people thinks in most of these states. Republican legislators control the action. That’s the whole game.