If you are a conservative, you most likely feel like you've had a pretty shitty week. In fact, I was so concerned about conservatives, I emailed a friend of mine in the South to see if they were thinking about a secession sequel. (His answer wasn't particularly comforting.)
First, the Confederate battle flag, waved as an obstinate "fuck you" to the rest of the U.S. (for beating them in the Civil War) and a constant reminder to people of color that they are in a region of the country where white folk actually went to war for the right to own them as slaves (also known as "states rights"), is falling all over the South. It's being relegated to the dustbin of history with the same contempt as one might treat a swastika.
Aside from the symbolism of racism (and a rallying point for traitors against the United States), it is a dead flag. What I mean is, loyalists didn't get to keep flying the Union Jack over government buildings after the Revolutionary War. Germany didn't get to keep flying the Nazi flag after World War II. The South lost in their rebellion. With loss comes some restrictions. While some southerners may think the flag represents heritage, it doesn't represent anything living, active and relevant in the world today.
The flag is history, it's true. And as history, the only place it belongs is a museum.
But then, this week also saw another challenge to Obamacare, and the Supreme Court, for the second time, upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. So, despite over 50 votes in congress to try and wreck affordable healthcare, it's the law of the land. This doesn't mean conservatives won't keep trying to wreck it (they're still trying to wreck Social Security too), but it seems very unlikely that it'll end up in front of the Supreme Court again, and even less likely it'll ever be ruled unconstitutional.
And finally, today the U.S Supreme Court ruled there is an absolute constitutional right to same sex marriage.
So, in the past week, conservatives lost the Confederate flag, the same sex marriage battle and their war on Obamacare.
Now, it's not all been a wash. After all, Republicans were able to get TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership, AKA, NAFTA Part 2) passed. Of course, this was a bill Obama wanted, but many Democrats and most progressives were opposed to it. So their big win this week was also a win for Obama. That's gotta be bittersweet.
And here in Maryland, Republican Governor Hogan was able to once again punish the Democratic stronghold of Baltimore city by putting the kibosh on the Red Line mass transit project.
But let's view it another way: By losing these three battles in the so-called "Culture Wars," Republicans were able to accomplish some much-needed house-keeping before their primaries.
First, let's look at this Confederate flag issue. Many Republicans don't really like the Rebel flag. They know what it represents (racism and anti-American traitors), and they wish the issue would go away as it hurts them with the rest of the country. And this is why Republicans were able to get the flag issue addressed so quickly (something progressives had been complaining about for years but were able to make no headway over). Remember, it's a Republican governor and a Republican state legislature that is taking the flag down in South Carolina.
During a Republican party primary, presidential hopefuls would, invariably, have to dodge the Confederate flag issue or pander to a racist conservative base in order to make it through the South Carolina primary. Now, with the flag coming down, it's an easier issue for candidates dodge or shrug off. The answer, "I've long held it's a states rights issue and South Carolina's Republicans decided on the issue," seems to be the best way to handle it.
With Obamacare, should the Supreme Court have knocked out the "affordable" portion of the Affordable Care Act, Republicans would have to come up with an alternative and pass it into law really quickly (and they're not really good at getting things done in congress). And they have no healthcare plan. So while they can still campaign on fighting Obamacare, they don't actually have to do anything about it.
And finally, with the Supreme Court ruling in favor of same sex marriage, Republicans can dodge this back-fired wedge issue in primaries by blaming activist Supreme Court Justices (even though it was a conservative who was the deciding vote). This was an issue of they also had to play to in order to pander to the bigots in their base (even thought 60% of Millennial Republicans support marriage equality), but now they can minimize this issue too by saying it's settled law and time to move on.
So, while conservatives had a really shitty week this week, it may help them not sound as extremist in the Republican primaries, making it easier for them to pander to an increasingly progressive mainstream. And these progressive victories might be a bridge too far. They may just be enough to rally the conservative base in a presidential election that may just hinge on which side can turn out the vote. And small victories do have a way of making liberals complacent.
But progressives needn't worry, there are still a lot of other issues Republicans can hang themselves up on in the primaries.