“There is a generational difference within the conservative movement about issues involving the treatment and the rights of gays — and for many younger voters, these issues are a gateway into whether the Party is a place they want to be. If our Party is not welcoming and inclusive, young people and increasingly other voters will continue to tune us out,” – the Growth and Opportunity Project report on the problems facing the GOP.
In the latest polling, 81 percent of those under 30 favored marriage equality. I was shocked by the number, but shouldn’t have been. What we can all forget is that this is the first generation who went through their childhood and teens knowing that civil marriage was an option for gay couples. That generation included gay kids and teens who, for the first time, could see an integrated future for themselves in their own families and society. I have no doubt this has made that generation the least fucked-up, sanest gay generation in history – seeing from the get-go a real and equal and dignified future for themsleves. And their greater self-confidence and self-esteem has been infectious. Their straight peers know them and their orientation and simply find it baffling that they would be denied what every heterosexual has always accepted as a given in their own lives.
That can only mean that, for the young generation, and all those who follow it in the future, the GOP’s aggressive stance and brutal rhetoric against marriage equality simply identifies them as bigots. Some may not be. But that is what they will be seen to be. The report does not advocate changing policy on marriage equality. But I think the premise that it can win the next generation simply by ignoring the question is untenable.
Which is to say, I would go a little further than the always insightful Tom Edsall, who wrote:
There is at least one crucial problem that the authors, all members of the establishment wing of the party, address only peripherally and with kid gloves: the extreme conservatism of the party’s primary and caucus voters — the people who actually pick nominees.
The over-60, predominantly white, Fox News watching, fundamentalist base cannot budge an inch on gays. Because it’s a religious and not a political position. And so it may soon be a truly fateful day for the GOP: drop the anti-gay policies or become the even angrier old white man party.
How amazing that marriage equality, once wielded by Ken Mehlman and Karl Rove as their key weapon in winning Ohio and the presidency in 2004, now threatens to kill the GOP as a national brand. With every year that passes, every attack on gays is now felt by growing numbers of their own family members, friends, co-workers and neighbors. There’s a multiplier effect here. And gerry-mandering has enabled the GOP to control the House without ever having to grapple with those voters.
If I were Karl Rove, I’d be praying for Anthony Kennedy to write the gay Loving vs Virginia. It would take the issue off the political table for good, and leave them a nice juicy judicial tyranny argument instead. But a mixed verdict – say one that allows for federal recognition of civil marriages in the nine states and DC that has them, and that mandates that civil unions with all the substantive benefits of civil marriage must be called marriage – would keep the issue alive, violate no federalist principles, and leave the GOP’s fundamentalist intransigence in place – as a dead weight around their necks as they try to stay afloat.
Watching ideologues confront reality is always entertaining for a real conservative. But it’s going to be excruciating for today’s Republicans.
(Photo: Getty images.)