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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Homophobia Wedge Turns Against the GOP

2 women in relationship protest in favor of marriage equality
There's been a wave of Senate Democrats announcing retirement lately, with South Dakota Sen. Tim Johnson being the last. That all these announcements are happening at once is not coincidental -- the party has asked people to make their intentions known now, in order to avoid surprises closer to 2014 the elections.

Another wave of announcements has come from the Senate lately -- and it could be the result of similar election strategizing.

Washington Post:

Then there were 10. No, wait. Nine.

In the past month, the rapid rise in public support for same-sex marriage has left Supreme Court justices perplexed and some political veterans, such as Hillary Rodham Clinton, struggling to keep up.

But there may be no better measure of this historic change and its disorienting speed than what has happened among the Democrats of the U.S. Senate. They are often representatives of an urban party in rural places. That makes them the zebras of Washington’s little world: perpetually vulnerable, sniffing the wind.

As recently as the last election, 17 of those Democrats did not support same-sex marriage. By this week, however, the number was smaller.

And getting more so by the day.


Granted, not all of these are up for reelection. In fact, people like Jon Tester and Claire McCaskill just won their latest races last year. But others like North Carolina's Kay Hagan are red state Democrats up for reelection in the 2014 cycle. They could just clam up and play it safe, but they aren't. And that could be because Democrats have decided it's a winner. What Republicans had used as a wedge issue against Democrats is now being turned against them. Marriage equality can peel off voters from the GOP.

After all, it's absolutely certain that it will cost candidates like Hagan votes from certain populations. But the calculus has obviously shown that she'll gain more than she loses. And maybe not on its own, but as a package of wedges that are turning against the GOP, including minorities and women. With two high profile Supreme Court cases making news, now is just the most obvious time to play this particular wedge. But beyond timing, there are other reasons.

"Supporting same-sex marriage will help their campaigns' coffers," reports NationalJournal, "red-state Democrats could get financial help nationwide to help fight potential blowback in their conservative states (McCaskill and Tester face reelection in 2018, while [Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia] and Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska, another Democrat who recently came out in support of same-sex marriage, are up again in 2014). Over the past decade, gay-rights advocates and groups have proved themselves to be major players in fundraising cycles, whether it’s state races in New York or the flood of financial support for President Obama after he reversed his position."

If that seems a little cynical, let me point out that this is exactly what you hope will happen when you send an organization a donation. Good news; grass roots lobbying works. You have to believe a lot of Republicans are doing the same math and determining that the voters they'd gain by supporting marriage equality won't make up for the voters they'd lose from their base. This makes sense for two closely related reasons; it's a fact that Republicans are far more bigoted on this issue, so conversions are a lot harder for voters to buy. People will switch to a Democrat over the issue, but Republicans have just burned too many bridges. The battle lines have been drawn -- by Republicans, to the Democrats' advantage.

For whatever reason, Democrats have obviously decided that supporting marriage equality is good politics -- even in red states before reelection campaigns.


[original photo by Jef Nickerson]

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