Former Bush solicitor general Ted Olson is viewed by social conservatives as a vile turncoat. And as early as this week, they may be pointing to him as the man who brought on what Todd Akin calls the end of civilization.
That's because in a matter of hours, days or weeks the Supreme Court may decide to let stand the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that California's Prop 8 is unconstitutional, and gay and lesbian weddings in the country's most-populated state will begin again. Or the Court will take the challenge, in which case Olson may argue it should throw out gay marriage bans across the country, something Justice Kennedy could help ensure the Court does.
Meanwhile, this destroyer of civilization is spending a lot of time with none other than Paul Ryan. Olson had been tapped by the Romney campaign to play Joe Biden in mock debates, helping Ryan to prep for his debate with the vice president, a fact that didn't sit well with social conservatives, judging from the comments on conservative sites. Apparently, Olson and Ryan have done three sessions and it looks like they're going to debate camp together.
Rather than being shunned as a pariah, as surely the National Organization for Marriage would hope, Olson is instead valued by the Republican presidential candidate. By tapping him, the Romney campaign, no matter its odious position on gay marriage or the GOP platform's, acknowledges that a person can be a trusted conservative in good standing and still not only be in favor of same-sex marriage, but actually be among the primary figures fighting to make it legal for all American citizens.
That's not to mention that Olson has Ryan's ear in their downtime and could poison him with his radical ideas on gay equality. And already Ryan has been far too inconsistent for social conservatives' tastes on these issues, as the Romney campaign continues to scramble amid falling poll numbers. Last week Ryan said that reversing the repeal of the ban on gay soldiers serving openly in the military was "a step in the wrong direction." Really? This is a man who twice voted against repeal of "don't ask, don't tell." If you truly believe allowing gay soldiers to serve openly will destroy the military, then, like Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, you'd believe that just because it hasn't happened after one year doesn't mean it's not going to happen in 20 years -- the way, according to Perkins, no-fault divorce supposedly took 20 years to destroy families.
After social conservatives lit up with expressions of disappointment and condemnation, Ryan, the very next day, got in line with the Republican Party platform plank on gay marriage and the man who wrote it -- Tony Perkins -- and gratuitously told an audience in Ohio that "traditional marriage" and "the family" are "American values, these are universal human values." The implication, of course, is that gay marriage is anti-American, but his statement was pretty weak, with Ryan speaking in code rather than directly condemning gay marriage -- much like the references to marriage at the Republican convention.
It surely isn't happening in this election cycle and may not happen in the next one, but Republicans could be reaching the end of the line on gay marriage, and some conservative activists are even beginning to admit it.
Longtime conservative Catholic activist, Deal Hudson, in an article about Ralph Reed's attempt to galvanize the Christian right base for the election, told the New York Times that same-sex marriage "doesn't raise the temperature of the bulk of the Catholic Mass-going voters," and that "attitudes about homosexuals have changed so much over the last several years." Indeed, support for Obama is surging among Catholics, a majority of whom now support marriage equality. And polls show younger generations of evangelicals support marriage equality, as well.
That's, of course, not because of the GOP, but very much due to the efforts of gay activists and progressives who hounded Democrats and the president into not being afraid of the issue, and into taking the lead and helping to push public opinion further. If President Obama wins after he and the Democrats finally moved to support marriage equality, 2012 will have been a watershed.
Correction on Oct 1 at 8:31pm ET: An earlier version of this blog omitted the words "the repeal" from the phrase "Last week Ryan said that reversing the repeal of the ban on gay soldiers serving openly in the military was "a step in the wrong direction."