When New York's legislature voted last year to make same-sex marriage legal, it took four courageous members of the Senate's Republican majority to put the measure over the top. Conservatives were outraged, and yesterday was their chance to exact vengeance at the polls. The question now is whether they will end up shooting themselves in the foot.
One of the four Senate Republicans who'd supported gay marriage, James Alesi of Monroe County, decided not to seek reelection. The other three--Mark Grisanti of Buffalo, Roy McDonald of Saratoga, and Stephen Saland of Poughkeepsie--faced serious primary challenges. Grisanti won big but the other two races remain too close to call.
Here is the problem of the Republican Party in a nutshell. Instead of accepting that some Republicans might support same-sex marriage--something not just good but inevitable--conservative activists want to purge those who strayed from party doctrine. But in attempting to purify the party, they risk wrecking it.
New York is heavily Democratic, and Republicans in the Senate cling to a 32-30 majority thanks largely to gerrymandering. If McDonald and Saland are rejected by the party faithful, their replacements might in turn be rejected by the much more liberal electorate that turns out in November. Then the Democrats would have both houses of the legislature as well as the governor.
Republicans cannot forever depend on ideological purity, voter suppression and the backing of white men while lagging badly among women and minorities. In the long run, this is a strategy for failure. It's still unclear if New York's Republican primary voters Thursday cast ballots that will rescue the state's GOP from such a fate.
Pictured above: Republican Senator Stephen Saland represents the 41st Senatorial District which covers Columbia county and most of Dutchess county.