Sarvis Didn’t Cost Cuccinelli the Virginia Governor’s Race, Sex Did

You don’t need to be a highly-paid, highly-respected political analyst like Michael Barone or James Carville to understand basic truths about a particular election. In fact, it might actually be better if you’re not part of the political class. Then you pretty much can’t help, but see the forest, as opposed to the individual trees on which most political types focus.

So, it was just after Democrat Terry McAuliffe was declared victor over Republican Ken Cuccinelli in the Virginia governor’s race. Polls had showed McAuliffe with a huge lead, but then Obamacare, which McAuliffe openly supported, imploded, and slowly but surely McAuliffe’s lead almost completely evaporated. Almost.

On election night, McAuliffe won by 2 percentage points. It prompted a Twitter user with the handle “@FormerDeminTX” to ask, “When will GOP candidates learn to STFU about sex? Have whatever policy position you want, but SHUT UP.”

The reference was to the social positions of Cuccinelli. Virginia has what is called a “crimes against nature” law that prohibits oral and anal sex. In the 2003 case of Lawrence v. Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court had declared sodomy statutes that criminalize private sexual activity between consenting adults unconstitutional. Prohibiting such conduct between an adult and a minor is still constitutional.

But Cuccinelli, a true believer, who would later say in 2009 that “homosexual acts are wrong and should not be accommodated in government policy,” was not about to be stopped by such details as the US Constitution. In 2004, when the Virginia legislature sought to clarify that the law did not apply to adults, only conduct involving minors, Cuccinelli — as a state senator — voted against the change.

That vote would come back to haunt him. As attorney general of Virginia, he defended the law before the Supreme Court, arguing that the law could not and would not be applied to adults – an easier argument to make if he had not voted against the formal clarification to that effect.

Sure enough, the “crimes against nature” law was struck down under Lawrence and McAuliffe was able to hang around Cuccinelli’s neck the albatross of “social conservative.” Ben Domenech at The Federalist highlights the issue in his analysis of the reasons behind Cuccinelli’s defeat:

Cuccinelli had the baggage of his past fights which the left used very well. This is true of Cuccinelli’s fights on marriage, abortion, climate, but particularly true of the issue of his defense of a sodomy statute on the books in Virginia. I doubt Cuccinelli ever realized how big of a liability this would be, but again, he’d have been better off defending himself vocally than shying away from it. Gay Republicans openly compared Cuccinelli to David Duke, and the indication that Cuccinelli wants to go around rounding up people for engaging in consensual sex was ubiquitous to any conversation about him on social media.

In fact, Cuccinelli did try to defend himself vocally. He had the opposite problem. He talked too much about sex. It was his talk about sex that got him in this mess in the first place.

Unless he had changed his position – and he had not – talking about it more was not going to help him. Far from it.

Voters weren’t interested in any defense he could offer. They disagreed with his position. A lot.

Now, maybe with another week of campaigning the disastrous Obamacare rollout would have trumped that issue with voters. Maybe. We will never know.

People may not like liberals telling them what they can and can’t do with respect to cars, light bulbs, soft drinks, and so forth, but they really don’t like social conservatives telling them what they can and can’t do in their own bedrooms.

So, now, we have yet another example of a Republican who, like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, could not stop talking about sex and thus voiced positions that alienated most of their prospective constituents, costing them very winnable races for office.

The lesson is simple. As @FormerDeminTX might say, “STFU about sex.”

 Photo credit: Gage Skidmore