Spiker's 'big tent' is being hit by winds of change

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As pickup lines go, it needs work.

“Well, the party wants to be welcoming and we’re a big tent and we want to have people of a lot of different views that are part of the party,” said Iowa Republican chair A.J. Spiker, when asked on public TV about a growing group of GOP’ers who want the party to drop its opposition to same-sex marriage.

“But what they also need to understand is that there is a gay marriage party in the state of Iowa and that is the Iowa Democratic Party. The Republican Party embraces one man/one woman marriage and embraces the right of the people to vote on the definition of marriage,” Striker said.

That’s the sort of “but” that can lead to whiplash. Welcome to our big tent, but, really, wouldn’t you be much more comfortable in the other tent? I think so.

Striker’s stance is really no surprise, unless you thought that the so-called libertarian takeover of the state GOP would actually lead to more liberty.

It reminds me of the famous quote. "Give me liberty, but only for the sort of people I personally approve of, for my own political allies, of course, and in such a way that boosts base turnout, or give me death!" Or something like that.

I think it’s pretty remarkable that a GOP chair is even fielding these questions. A year ago, it looked like Iowa was on its way to a GOP state Senate, clearing the way for a constitutional ban on same-sex unions. Another Iowa Supreme Court justice who ruled for marriage equality was poised for removal. Spiker tossed his party’s support behind that justice hunt, betting it would fire up the GOP base.

Dems kept the Senate and the justice kept his seat. Now, Republican leaders are being asked when they’re going to move on, by guys such as former Republican National Committee chair Ken Mehlman and Dave Kochel, a GOP veteran who ran Mitt Romney’s Iowa campaign, among others. Iowa Republicans for Freedom, which supports marriage rights, is a voice gaining volume. Meanwhile, at the Statehouse, the righteous in red demanding a ban have gone mute.

And when Spiker called Democrats the gay marriage party, new Democratic state chair Tyler Olson said “Guilty as charged.” It wasn’t long ago that elected Democrats tied themselves in knots ducking this issue. See Chet Culver, governor. Now, they’re embracing it.

Maybe, just maybe, folks are finally picking up on the reality that gay and lesbian couples in Iowa didn’t fight to join this institution because they wanted to harm it. They treasure it like so many of us do. Their “agenda” was the pursuit of happiness. So seeking to further bar their way just doesn’t make much sense, politically or otherwise.

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