In 32 states the issue of gay marriage has come before the electorate and 32 times that electorate chose to protect marriage and define it as the union of one man and one woman. So it peeves me to no end when I read one of the cadre of supposedly conservative pundits advocating that we give up on protecting marriage, suggesting it is a battle we cannot possibly win.
“Supposedly”? This is one of the stupidest and laziest habits of the right-of-center commentariat. If you disagree with what a particular conservative believes, then you aren’t just wrong, you aren’t even a conservative. Heretic hunting is no substitute for thinking.
Shortly after President Obama’s statement of the obvious, Rasmussen showed Romney surging in the polls (at one point with a 7 point lead.) A new poll by Gallup shows “twice as many Americans say President Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage will make them less likely to vote for him than say it will make them more likely.”
Yeah. Now is the time to give up. They have us on the ropes.
Well, Obama’s declaration made me more sympathetic to Romney, only because
if when the US Supreme Court constitutionalizes same-sex marriage, I want there to be a greater chance that it will do so with the broadest possible protections for religious freedom. Obama’s coming out in favor of SSM wasn’t exactly a surprise, but the fact that he’s owning up to it makes me realize that if re-elected, he can nominate an openly pro-SSM justice to the next vacancies on the court. There are never any guarantees with these things, but as squishy as Romney is on this stuff, we know exactly where Obama stands.
As I’ve said, I hope Maggie Gallagher is right about the winnability of this issue and I, a pessimist, am wrong. Over and over, I look at the direction of the culture, and the tremendous advances SSM has made in the past 20 years, and I don’t see this turning around. Look at the polls. Do you really think young people, who favor SSM by dramatic numbers, are going to change their minds as they age, at least in numbers high enough to make a difference? I don’t see it.
I am not surprised either that trads keep winning these statewide ballot contests on SSM. But our voters skew a lot older, which means they are, in general, more likely to vote. Eventually, they are going to die. Archbold’s argument is like saying that because there is a solid constituency among voters today for the Social Security status quo, it will always be there. That’s just not so.
Same-sex marriage, as I keep saying, makes sense given what many people, including younger Republican-oriented voters, already believe. A friend of mine in his mid-30s is more by-the-books Republican than I am on fiscal and defense issues, but he is completely sold on same-sex marriage, and doesn’t understand why anybody would oppose it, absent rank bigotry. He’s a smart guy. Suburban professional, churchgoing, married with kids. I think he’s the face of the Republican future. I don’t think he worries overmuch about whether or not we’re going to have same-sex marriage, but insofar as he sees the issues as a proxy for inflexible social conservatism within the GOP, it moves his thinking and his voting. My guess he’ll almost always vote GOP in the general election, but in primary contests, the candidate who is more “progressive” on same-sex marriage will almost always get his vote, because if the candidate is right on the SSM issue, he’s probably going to be more culturally in step with my friend’s way of seeing the world.
I’ve tried to use reasoned arguments to change my friend’s mind, and we can’t get past first base on this thing. The problem is we don’t share the same view of what marriage is, nor do we share the same view of society (he’s libertarian, I’m traditionalist). He’s a good guy, and I think he sees me the same way, but if I started from his premises, I would support SSM too. I know it’s anecdotal, but his views more in line with what I’ve observed among suburban Republicans than my own views.
NPR did a piece the other day showing that suburbanites are more socially liberal than rural voters, and that his gay marriage stance could help Obama with them this fall. The report also points out, though, that support for SSM is not overwhelming among suburbanites, and besides, like most every other group, this election is really about jobs and the economy. Those who are most motivated to vote on social issues this fall are rural social conservatives, who are more likely to pull the lever for Romney. Obama’s SSM move has probably made social conservatives get over their dislike of Romney.
Anyway, I would like the Archbolds of the right to explain why they think that the electorate will always be so socially conservative on gay marriage. Why do they believe voters 35 and under are going to get more conservative as they age, in significant enough numbers to make a political difference? Tell me. Show me.
UPDATE: A reader writes:
What I find interesting is that Archbold calls you “supposedly conservative” not for appearing to support SSM, but for merely thinking we may not win this fight.
This litmus test reminds me of the nationalism that often passes for patriotism among mainstream American conservatives. Many on the right today tie their love for their country to their country being great – militarily, economically, etc.; whereas a traditionalist loves his country not because it is mighty, but because it is his. One wonders how many contemporary conservatives would have been patriots during the Great Depression or Vietnam War.
Likewise in social issues, it now appears that being conservative requires not just holding the right views, but believing they are succeeding, all evidence to the contrary be damned. Isn’t this the kind of thinking that gave us Iraq and the financial crisis? Since when is it conservative to oppose reality?