But in the long run, we’re all out of office anyway

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.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com