Government & Politics
 

GOP strategist saw gay marriage shift gaining momentum

More straights are marching under the gay rights banner. credit: Creative Commons

In light of my last post on President Obama’s repositioning in support of gay-marriage rights, I found this recent GOP strategy memo fascinating. It’s from President George W. Bush’s 2004 pollster, Jan R. van Lohuizen. Within a few years of Bush’s re-election victory – after a campaign heavy with anti-gay-marriage tub-thumping, van Lohuizen crunched the numbers and recommended that Republicans consider the following (my emphasis):

Support for same sex marriage has been growing and in the last few years support has grown at an accelerated rate with no sign of slowing down.   A review of public polling shows that up to 2009 support for gay marriage increased at a rate of 1% a year.  Starting in 2010 the change in the level of support accelerated to 5% a year.

Again: this accelerating change in attitudes is the real political watershed, not Obama’s belated announcement in support of gay marriage. If van Lohuizen’s analysis is accurate, that means as many as 3 million voters will become significantly more accepting of gay marriage between now and election day. And many of those who “evolve,” as Obama did, will be swing voters in swing states. The economy will decide their vote more than any other issue, of course. But if it continues to improve slightly, voters who aren’t totally frustrated will review other issues before casting a vote. Thus Obama’s announcement broadened the campaign agenda by inserting the contentious gay marriage debate into the mix, and he’s on the side with momentum.

Earlier, I looked at the trouble this issue will cause the GOP, especially among its fundagelical supporters in southern states. For example, the 2008 Louisiana Republican Party platform reads:

We believe homosexuality should not be established as an acceptable “alternative” lifestyle either in public education or in public policy. We do not believe public schools should be used to teach children that homosexuality is normal, and we do not believe that taxpayers should fund benefit plans for unmarried partners.

We oppose actions, such as “marriage” or the adoption of children by same-sex couples. We support the Defense of Marriage Act and support constitutional amendments to both the U.S. and the Louisiana Constitutions to ensure that marriage is limited to the union of one man and one woman.

If national attitudes are indeed trending towards gay marriage at a pace of 5 percent per year, it won’t take long before such views appear wildly out of step – not just with the nation, but with the national Republican Party.

But what about Louisiana’s Democratic politicians? We shouldn’t leave them unmentioned, even if they’ve become scarce in statewide offices. Don’t expect Senator Mary Landrieu to “evolve” on gay marriage any time soon. In fact, the issue might be a boon, because her opposition allows her to buck the national Democratic party (once again) in a way that will appeal to most Louisianians. For a long time I’ve assumed that this will be Sen. Landrieu’s last term. But if she decides to run for re-election, her continued opposition to gay marriage certainly won’t hurt her chances.

The situation for her brother, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu is much more ticklish. As a leader of a city with a large gay population that regularly appeals to gay tourists (not to mention his being a Louisiana pol who is not afraid to identify himself as a liberal), Landrieu could come out for gay marriage with little political risk. Thus far he’s been quietly opposed. Maybe he just doesn’t believe in it, based on his religious convictions as a Catholic. Either way, an experienced operator like Landrieu understands that if he harbors any ambition to return to statewide office, announced support for gay marriage would be an immediate deal-killer.

The central question I keep returning to is this: what accounts for the dramatic change in national attitudes on gay marriage in recent years? We’ve reached and passed a tipping point, but no one can explain precisely why. In less than a decade’s time, we’re seeing two presidents (Bush and Obama) use different sides of an issue – marriage! –  in bids for re-election.

Simple demographics can’t explain the trend. It’s true that most people who die today are against gay marriage, while most of those registering to vote these days are for it (or at least not bothered by it). But that can’t explain the acceleration in the poll numbers. Did popular culture bring us here –  New Orleans’ own Ellen Degeneres and popular sitcoms like ABC’s “Modern Family”? Or is our liberalized attitude just a cumulative effect of the straight community having more contact with “out” gay couples who, like them, just strive to form loving families and raise well-adjusted kids?

Tell me what you think.

Help us report this story     Report an error    
The Lens' donors and partners may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover.
  • http://www.dregstudios.com Brandt Hardin

    Religious groups and the GOP have suppressed the rights of the Gay and Lesbian community for FAR too long. It was about time a public official like Obama stood up for this human rights issue while Mitt Romney hides behind Red State Religion and his Magic Mormon Underwear. See Mitt in his sacred undergarments praying for enough money to buy this election so he can spread his bigotry and homophobia at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/05/mitt-romneys-magic-mormon-underwear.html

  • Eli

    Part of it is pop culture. Part of it is the tactical genius and inspiring bravery of the gay rights movement. Instead of exclusively focusing on securing public pledges of support from politicians, there has been a truly inspiring and effective culturally-focused movement to change the minds of friends and family. One thing that polls show consistently is that folks who have close friends and family who are gay (that they know of) are much more likely to be supportive of marriage equality. The emphasis on “coming out” to friends & family, neighbors & coworkers has been a huge factor in this inspiring change in national attitude.

  • Auch

    A few questions.

    If gay marriage is ok, why not
    polygamy,
    incest,
    or pedophilia?

    And all of aforementioned in the name of ‘LOVE’ will justify them all?

    Do the “ends” justify the “means”? at any cost?

    Are gays really being honest with themselves and others in “coming out of the closet”? Why the need for gay “pride” in the first place decades ago?

    Perhaps someone can explain why they want to shame others for their hate or homophobia when they themselves needed to advertise and promote their own “pride” well before anyone knew about gay pride?

    One last point.

    Doesn’t the medical community recommend that you,
    “Wash your hands after you go to the bathroom.”

    Yet, now there are some in the medical community that now say it’s OK to “Sleep with the waste that gets flushed down in the toilet?”; and that it’s possible to live a perfectly normal life.

  • Pingback: Obama, marriage, race, rights | a paper bird

  • Andrew G

    Auch needs to relax. Maybe there are some latency issues?? Who cares if gay people get married?? Let them discover the misery that is monogamy just like the straight people. Yawn…