Another reminder of the discord in the Republican Party emerged on Monday as Pat Brady, the Illinois Republican Party Chairman, resigned on Tuesday. Brady had spoken out in support of gay marriage earlier this year, but was savagely attacked by his fellow Republicans in the aftermath of his announcement.
After their defeat in the 2012 elections, many in the Republican Party thought that the party needed to change and modernize to match an electorate that was rejecting their traditional positions. Chief among the concerns cited was the Republican Party’s opposition to gay marriage when more and more people are supporting it; 53% of Americans, according to CBS News Poll. Several Republicans have called for the party to change its stance on this issue but have been attacked by the powerful social conservative lobby. Brady's ouster serves as a clear example of the issues simmering within the Republican Party between those who want the party to evolve and those who wish for the part to stay the course.
Brady expressed his support for gay marriage in January of 2013. He said of his support, "Giving gay and lesbian couples the freedom to get married honors the best conservative principles. It strengthens families and reinforces a key Republican value — that the law should treat all citizens equally."
His fellow Republicans disagreed with his sudden turn, with calls for his resignation going out at once. State Senator Jim Oberweis (R) lead an unsuccessful attempt to ouster Brady by getting three-fifths of the Republican caucus to vote against him soon after Brady announced his support. Brady would face another ouster attempt in April but that would fail as well. Brady said after the meeting, "I think there are people in the party who don’t necessarily agree with me, but the point is ... we're a party that welcomes all ideas. You don’t have to be exactly a platform Republican to be welcome in the party, and that’s the direction we're taking the party."
Even though there are some in the party like Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) who have announced their support for gay marriage, prominent social conservatives have waged a small crusade to prevent their views from become mainstream in the party. The Republican National Committee unanimously approved a measure that reaffirmed its stance opposing gay marriage after 13 social conservative groups threatened to leave the party if any inch was given on the issue.
Some Republicans have broken from the hold social conservative faction exercises on social issues. In April, the entire Rhode Island Republican Caucus in the state Senate expressed their support for gay marriage, which was soon passed. Social conservatives vowed revenge, with the anti-gay marriage National Organization for Marriage vowing to unseat the Republican state Senate Minority Leader Dennis Algiere.
As this battle plays out for the future image of the Republican Party, the various sides are attempting to make their case. Months before his resignation, Brady said of the differing viewpoints in the GOP, "It's about addition and not subtraction and if we come off as mean-spirited or angry or too dogmatic, then we don't attract people to the party."
Only the future knows if the Republican Party will heed this viewpoint.