To no one’s surprise but Andrew Sullivan’s, George W. Bush has decided to ride the anti-gay backlash that seems to have developed as a result of Lawrence v. Texas. (Not that Bush isn’t compassionate, you understand; he wants us all to be nice to gays, no matter how sinful they are.*)
I’m sure this decision was adequately focus-grouped, and that therefore it will be helpful to Bush in 2004. Longer-term, though, I’m not so certain. Pete Wilson’s immigrant-bashing worked perfectly for him in 1994, but had the side-effect of turning the California state government over to the Democrats in 1998, seemingly for keeps.
Here’s some basis for hope: the CBS News/New York Times poll showing only 40% of all adults supportive of gay marriage, with 55% opposed. But among the 18-31 group, the figures were more than reversed: 61% in favor, only 35% opposed. (With a total sample of 3000, there should be enough 18-31s to make the numbers meaningful.) Support for gay marriage is a declining function of age, like support for legalizing cannabis.
It’s possible that some of that is age effect rather than cohort effect; boomers were a lot more supportive of cannabis when they were 18-31 then they are now, and the same sort of process may work on issues of sexual liberty. But I wouldn’t bet on it. And George W. Bush just did: not for himself, but for his party.