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Now With Alex
updated 4/2/2013 3:21:59 PM ET 2013-04-02T19:21:59

Republican leaders struggle to evolve its party's values.

Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk announced his support for same-sex marriage Tuesday, becoming just the second Republican from the upper chamber to back marriage equality. The GOP’s evolution on the issue is happening slowing and, in some parts of the tent, not at all.

Editor of The Nation Katrina Vanden Heuvel said on NOW with Alex Wagner Tuesday that the Republican Party “is at risk of committing political suicide. It’s a values-challenged party; its lost its way in evolving with the time.”

Joy Reid filled in for host Alex Wagner on Tuesday. Watch her full discussion with the NOW panel about the Republican Party’s problem with antiquated values.

Video: Despite gay marriage becoming ‘personal,’ Republicans reluctant to evolve on the issue

  1. Closed captioning of: Despite gay marriage becoming ‘personal,’ Republicans reluctant to evolve on the issue

    >>> i'm joy reed in for alex wagner, joining me georgetown university prefesor and msnbc political analyst , michael dyson . katrina sarandon hufl, editor at the nation, and msnbc contributor patrick murphy . and columnist at the hill and msnbc political analyst , karen finney. kansas congressman tim hul op-ed called the war on motherhood. arguing that redefining marriage to remove parents of both sexes from the equation would further the destruction of the family. it was accompanied by this cartoon showing the signs -- what, and ever, substituted for figure leaves on a man and woman. last week a conservative radio host , rick whiles actually suggested that the north korean nuclear threats are the result of same-sex marriage. and southern baptist convention president fred leuter did anything but rebuke him.

    >> could our slide into immorality what is unleashing this madman over here in asia to punish us?

    >> it could be a possibility, man, i'm not that, strong in prophesy, but i would not be surprised that there's not a connection there.

    >> no, he's not that strong on prophesy. meanwhile in a reversal of the rob portman effect, arizona congressman ma'am salmon said the fact that his son is gay does not change his view of same-sex marriage.

    >> i don't support the gay marriage . i'm just not there as far as believing in my heart that we should change 2000 years of social policy in favor of a redefinition of the family.

    >> herein lies the conundrum for the republican party . as the leadership tries to change brand for purposes of politics, it's running up against the unchanged values of members and constituents, while the rnc autopsy report called on republicans to be more welcoming and inclusive regarding the rights and treatment of gay americans, there are many republicans like those i've talked about who are unwilling to reconsider their views, even when those views are politically toxic. in iowa, 16 republican state lawmakers are threatening to defund a community college for holding an anti-bullying event. because it's for lgbt youth said we can't give taxpayer dollars to people or groups who pervert the bible and teach our youp to engage in dangerous behavior. on issues like gay rights , these are deeply-held established beliefs. and the base will not evolve overnight. it might not evolve period. and social conservatives argue that they should not need to change. rick santorum told politico, we are not the libertarian party , we're the republican party . if we had candidates in the last two presidential elections who weren't ashamed of the positions they had on these issues and played offense instead of listening to the same people who now want to abandon the issues, we would have been successful. but many lawmakers have, without any shame expressed their positions. from santorum himself, remember man on dog? to todd legitimate rape aken. or any of virginia transvaginal-probe mandating republicans. these are issues that a growing number of americans find offensive. but since they are a set of values highly unlikely to change any time soon, the question is whether the republican party is willing to leave the people who hold those beliefs behind. and i want to get right to our panel. i'm going to start right with the man who has got the seminary degree, the reverend dr. michael eric dyson . isn't this the big problem for the republican party , we not talking about political positions that the people are taking when you're talking about the republican base, you're talking about their religious beliefs , their doctrine.

    >> their dogma.

    >> the republican party is going nowhere if it's asking their base to change, right?

    >> they're horrible politicians and are worst exegeters of the text. it's rancid, ridiculous, reactionary, any other big word you can use to show it's out of touch. it's no relationship to jesus . i give three cheers for sin, i see people like this coming to jesus . we've got to come up with a progressive understanding of religion that allows people to be human beings before god. if we say god respects human beings as human beings , regardless of your sexuality, that you're a child of god , that's the fundamental principle of these men are missing, mostly men, but some women are missing. there ain't one biblical verse that refers to sexuality in the bible. that's because jesus knew it was about feeding poor people , it was about resurrecting those who were dead. it was about calling lazarus to come out. maybe god was telling him to come out. lazarus, come out of the closet. the reality is they got to deal with that.

    >> yes, you were talking with the new testament, a lot of bible-leaning christians across the board, karen, they are coming from the old testament, where there is overt anti-gay rhetoric or at least that you can interpret to be there. they're saying this is the unchanging bible. we're not going to change just do get some republicans elected.

    >> here's the problem that i have with that. i always relate this, my mother is white my father's black. i always relate it back to interracial marriage . my own grandfather, who was white, told me that miscegenation of the races was against the rules of god and he said, don't take it personally. and i said i'm a person of course i take it personally. part of the problem very much to what the reverend was saying is that these issues have become personal. we know people who are gays and lesbians . you don't want a child that you know to be bullied simply because you may disagree with gay marriage . but you certainly don't want to see a child beat up. i think part of the challenge for the republican party here is on the one hand they're clinging to this old testament doctrine and frankly, i would say misreading it, as i felt like my grandfather was misreading the bible there. but also then recognizing that the rest of the world is changing. we don't treat people like that any more. i mean the idea that you know my parents, it was illegal for them to be married 45 years ago sounds crazy to people. 45 years from now the idea that we were treating gays and lesbians like this is going to sound, i pray, crazy.

    >> before i want to point out, mark kurt, the republican senator from illinois has just become the second republican senator to come out in support of same-sex marriage. joining rob portman . both from swing states .

    >> the old testament has been misinterpreted as well. the old testament is being misinterpreted. it's mostly about strangers and not being not hostile to those outside of your circle. i wanted to jump that in there.

    >> i don't have a seminary degree, but i was in altar boy of the year in 1987 . so i would say not only is it unchristian how we're treating our gay brothers and sisters , it's unamerican. because the constitution is very clear -- that we treat everyone equally. that the equal protection clause , that's in two amendments, fifth amendments and the 12th amendment , 14th amend. that's important, but also the fact that it's 48-2, that's mark kirk and rob portman . that's two. there's 48 democrats in the senate, they're fighting the good fight . they're trying to stick up and say we're all equal. there are men and women dying for our country, like they've died for generations for our country, that happen to be gay and they should not in 2013 , be treated differently. and it's wrong and it's immoral and if people are out there listening and are quiet about it, they're part of the problem.

    >> this party is at risk of committing political suicide . it's a values-challenged party. it's lost its way in evolving with the times. it is also the case that 60% of young conservative evangelicals support same-sex marriage. but what i find fascinating is as the party is at war and it's so delicious to hear the right-wing base attack the elite of the republican party , guerary bowers said something very interesting the other day, threatening the elite. the republican party has been built on two pillars, the corporate business establishment and the christian right christian right base. that base is threatening to pull out and saying to this republican elite -- that you're cut social security , your economic agenda ain't going to go down too well in this country without our wedge issues, which no longer play as wedge issues.

    >> you've made a good point by gary bowers, the former presidential candidate ant evangelical said if we gave voters an accurate portrayal of our ideas, that we want to cut the growth of social security and the values issues would be more popular than the economic agenda of the current republican party . he points out that this is actually factually true as opposed to maybe the mix of what he said. the republican party is built on an evangelical pillar. in the exit polls in 2012 , mitt romney got 78% of evangelical white, evangelical voters, higher than the percent that democratics got for hispanics and the share of voters that romney got who were white evangelical , 43%.

    >> here's the problem that base is shrinking and all the rest of us, there's more of us, politically speaking from a plain numbers issue and the other pillar traditionally of the republican party is the business community . you have business leaders coming out and saying we need immigration reform , it's good for business. you know we're for gay rights , because it's good for business. you know so part of the problem i think the republican party is having, this is why it's tough to be a big-tent party.

    >> it's at war. it's fracturing.

    >> but i think there are enough, as patrick says there are enough good people who get that this is wrong. but they don't yet have the courage to speak out. this has been the problem in the republican party for the last four, eight years. a lot of these guys knew that a lot of the stuff that was going on was wrong. but they wouldn't stand up to rush limbaugh . and they wouldn't stand up to raince priebus.

    >> when i look at what the republican party is doing even in regard to race, immigration and stuff, you're catching up to stuff 50 years ago. you want us to applaud you for saying the civil rights bill is a good thing? come on. the reality is that right now, given what katrina just said, the evangelical piety has another element and tradition, a tradition that says god is on the side of those who are oppressed. there are a lot more people on the side of the people who are oppressed who understand god is, too than those who think that god is for the elite businessman.

    >> there's a reason that we're seeing not only these anti-women laws in states and women vote, they don't want to go back to the '50s, they want their autonomy to be mothers, in the workforce. look what they're doing with the voter i.d. laws, they know what they're doing. this is not out of the blue, this is calculated, well-funded campaign to keep the very demographic, which is emerging and rising in the american electorate away from the booth.

    >> retrenchment is sort of the core of what conservatism is about. sameness of the issues, the culture wars that they're losing on issues of women having their proper place in the home, having children, they're losing on issues of gay marriage what do you do about the core of the republican base? the people who like my huckabee is saying are tired of being left at the altar, tired of being taken to the dance, but not wedded. four million voters karl rove estimated came out for george bush in 2004 . these guys didn't used to vote. in the '60s and '50s, very religious people used to stay away from the polls. it's republicans who brought them in, it was a strategic choice to bring in evangelical voters for political purposes, they can't just walk away from them.

    >> and that's why john kerry lost because of ohio and the evangelicals. look at the young evangelicals, katrina is right, 60% of them are for marriage equality . 62% of catholics for marriage equality . republican party , against marriage equality . they are wrong on these issues, the problem is they had sowed the seeds of the tea party and now they are fruits of their labor are now coming to roost and that's why they're losing campaign after campaign. and they're not even taking their own advice. when you look at the rnc autopsy that they came out and said we got to reach out to immigrants. what did they do? they called them wetbacks. they got to reach out to women. they banned abortion in north dakota and arkansas. we got to reach out to the lgbt community . let's all be silent when a major supreme court case happened last week.

    >> losing is going to be proved to be stronger than the love of god. getting locked outside is going to get deeper than any ten commandments or any kind of religious traditions they can put forth. the fact that they're going to be locked out and that they are behind step will prove to be the greatest conversion factor for that republican party .

    >> and one iron-clad rule we have to establish on the panel, nobody listens to raince priebus, it doesn't matter.

    >>> republicans in places like north dakota and arkansas channel their inner bricklayers, building a state-by- state legislative wall to restrict abortion rights , we'll try to deconstruct the war on choice, next on "now."

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