by Matthew Rusling

U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to legalize gay marriage could galvanize rank-and-file Republicans to vote in the 2016 presidential elections, but that won’t be enough for the Republican Party (GOP) to clinch the White House as it needs to reach out beyond its base.

The Supreme Court made history last month in a landmark ruling that legalized gay marriage in all 50 U.S. states, reflecting an overall leftward shift in the U.S. but roiling many conservative Republicans and their leaders, such as former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

Huckabee, the GOP presidential candidate and darling of social conservatives, said he would not “acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch.” New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who announced his plans to run for president last week, also criticized the Supreme Court’s landmark decision.

While the high court’s decision will galvanize rank-and-file conservative Republicans, the GOP cannot depend on its traditional voters — typically older, white men — to win the election, and as such it needs to do more to reach out beyond its base, experts said.

“The Supreme Court’s same sex marriage decision will rally the base, but not help Republicans extend its coalition,” Brookings Institution’s senior fellow Darrell West told Xinhua. “It needs to figure out new ways to expand its base. Unless it makes some significant policy changes, it will be difficult to do that.”
Ironically, several of the party’s rising stars do not fit the party’s profile of older white men, such as presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a Cuban-American, as well as Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, whose parents hail from India.

Despite much soul searching and calls to reach out to minorities and single women since losing the presidential elections in 2012, the GOP has done little to reach out to groups that typically vote Democratic.

Still, Republicans do have one advantage, which is a diverse spectrum of political and social ideologies within the party. Indeed, while there are social conservatives in the party, there are also fiscal conservatives — those who favor conservative economic policies but may be liberal on social issues.
“We may not look as diverse as the Democrats but in terms of ideology, we’re far more diverse than the Democrats are,” Republican strategist Ford O’Connell told Xinhua.

“So that could create an advantage with independent voters, who may not see eye to eye with some wings of the party but may identify with others,” O’Connell said. “While Independents are leaning slightly toward Democrats on social issues, (Independents) are in total disagreement with (Democrats) on economic issues.”

The GOP is not likely to dump its own conservative values, but the more socially conservative side of the party is going to have to realize that they can’t be divided in the elections against what they consider the establishment portion of the party, because they’re going to need each other to win, O’Connell said.
“They’re going to have to be more unified when it comes to winning elections for the rest of the Republicans,” he said.

Some experts and critics of the Supreme Court ruling said that while many Americans — especially youth — believe the court’s decision is only about same sex marriage, it could have repercussions.
Critics said in the worst scenario, churches could lose their tax-free status for refusing to perform a same-sex marriage on religious grounds. Such scenario, however, could rally groups such as Libertarians to cast their votes for Republicans, experts said. Enditem


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