Contributor Post Created with Sketch. The GOP, Gay Marriage, and Campaign Strategy

 

Tony Alter (CC)The GOP has been struggling to deal with social issues and the ballot for some time now. In the conservative echo chamber that is a fact that is daily denied, and the proof offered is the continual support of vocal social conservatives. They are a very vocal minority, and that is not helping the situation. It’s further complicated by the fact that in hindsight, it has been generally assumed that the only reason Barack Obama ended up with a second term was because conservative Republicans decided to stay home on election day, instead of voting for Mitt Romney. Or maybe that isn’t a complicating factor.

For some time now, political pundits and strategists have been going back and forth over precisely where liberty-minded millennial voters will land in upcoming elections. It is hoped that they will decide to follow Tea Party leaders like Rand Paul and Justin Amash, at least since these people are aligned with the GOP, if in name only. That would probably be the case if economic, foreign policy, and deficit spending were the only issues these voters cared about. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.

The fact is that while younger voters might agree with many conservative principles when it comes to fiscal and foreign policy issues, they can’t get past the social issues to choose conservatives where it counts — at the ballot box. This is something that Larry Sabato’s Center for Politics has already explored in depth. Boil it down to basics, and the bottom line is that there isn’t a majority of young voters that are for pushing social conservative issues. On the contrary, they’re largely opposed to the conservative stand.

One particular issue that annoys them is gay marriage, and that was made readily apparent on Twitter once news of the death of Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy hit the web. The suggestion I’m about to make here is not about rewarding bad behavior. It is purely about campaign strategy.

Before writing about politics, I regularly found myself working in the background of political campaigns, and a great deal of my time and energy toward the end of my time in the campaign “game” was spent on solving problems. Usually I would be doing damage control, or preventing the need to do it in the first place, but occasionally I was pulled in for sessions of crafting policy positions. In the case of gay marriage, ostensibly the conservative position in opposition to the concept is seated firmly on preservation of the First Amendment protections of the practice of religion. No matter how much anyone may wish it otherwise, the fact is that the next generation coming up is not highly concerned with organized religion. With few exceptions, churches across the nation are showing that with fewer people in the pews on Sundays. This is probably part of the reason why there is also growing support for gay marriage, even within the ranks of GOP operatives.

The bottom line remains that the U.S. is increasingly becoming an irreligious nation. As opposed to various hot button issues like gay marriage, the GOP probably should be focusing its efforts more fully on the preservation of religious liberty in general. So, what is a possible solution to the problem of alienating young voters that are generally conservative on fiscal issues? Perhaps the GOP should consider crafting a bill to grant gays the right to marry. Before anyone decides that I’ve become some sort of liberal squish, consider the underlying issues I’ve already listed. Opposing gay marriage is supposedly about protecting religious freedoms. The state does not sanctify any marriages in this country — churches do. As far as the state is concerned, the term “marriage” is a description of a class of personal contracts — a very lucrative class, since people have to pay for the privilege to enter into these contracts, and often end up paying higher taxes for remaining under the power of them. It is not about anything sacred; it is all about the money.

The GOP needs to get more millennials supporting the party, so why not introduce a bill allowing gay marriage? In addition to that, forbid child marriage, polygamy, and bestiality for good measure. Also, include a clause bolstering the already guaranteed separation of church and state, by specifically stating that the government may not force any church to sanctify gay marriage either through legislation or judicial action. That would in one step silence liberals on one hot button issue, gain untold numbers of millennial voters, and do precisely what conservatives theoretically wanted in the first place — to protect the rights of religious organizations to refuse to accept gay marriage on the basis of religious doctrine.

The only opposing argument that would remain would be overt discrimination by churches, but that is easily dispatched by pointing out that participation in a religious organization is purely a matter of personal choice. If one disagrees with a church’s doctrine, they are not bound to remain aligned with that faith. They are free to either find another church, or attempt to sway the church leadership toward their own position. Regardless, it is not a matter for the state to mediate.

The main reason we have gotten into this issue in the first place is the fact that we’ve allowed the government to remove religious organizations from a special class status, immune from claims of discrimination based on religious doctrine or religious community standards. The whole point of religious communities has been lost — creating an organization of people with similar beliefs. If one does not agree with those beliefs, by definition one does not belong in that given religious community.

Before anyone’s head starts imploding, we must not forget one important point. If such a bill was introduced in the House, it will most likely die in the Senate. Harry Reid remains the obstructionist, so no matter how much liberals may want to pass this sort of bill, it is highly unlikely it will happen. The point of this exercise is to make the point that conservatives are not in complete opposition to the issues that millennials consider important. This is filed under “actions speak louder than words.” It’s also a lesson in freedom.

It is time that we, as conservatives, remember that the true price of freedom, outside of giving one’s life for it while in service to the military, is to defend the rights of people we don’t agree with, as much as we defend our own rights. To do otherwise is hypocrisy.

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  1. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    One thing I’ll note that seems unaddressed in this essay is individual conscience. We’ve seen the state come down hard on “conscientious objectors” to SSM, a topic that comes up every so often here and there and continues as SSM gains momentum across the states.

    What’s to stop the small business owner from being punished for choosing not to participate in a wedding? At present, there’s nothing at all, and in most places the state has punished those who choose not to participate.

    Unfortunately, the prescription essentially offers a big-state solution which will invite more of the coercion we see now. The GOP might be averse to such measures, but the Progressives are not and are willing to do what they can to force endorsement. We cannot (nor should we) expect GOP control indefinitely.

    I’m afraid I can’t support a top-down approach to SSM.

    • #1
    • September 9, 2014, at 3:15 PM PDT
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  2. Paul A. Rahe Contributor

    This sounds like standard Republican doctrine. When challenged, surrender. I think that the Chamber of Commerce would like this.

    • #2
    • September 9, 2014, at 3:20 PM PDT
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  3. Done Contributor

    Rob Portman was savaged for his flip flop on the issue. I don’t see how the Republicans introducing a bill to legalize SSM would get any better of a reaction from the press, who would rightly read it as cold political calculus.

    I don’t think such a move buys any votes.

    • #3
    • September 9, 2014, at 3:22 PM PDT
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  4. Liz Harrison Contributor
    Liz Harrison

    The point I was trying to make here is that 1) we are already alienating voters with the current position, and 2) any solution would have to lie in the realm of laws specifically crafted to limit the action of government. (I included the restrictions on pedophilia and polygamy because they are currently the pet causes of the SSM activists, as in they don’t want to see those groups get the rights they’re fighting for now.) In all honesty, the true small government solution to this problem is completely out of reach right now. If one considers something like this as part of a long game strategy, the goal would be to remove government entirely from the “marriage” business. It’s too lucrative for anyone to consider that now, and the only ones really carrying that standard are Libertarians – a group that makes herding cats look like child’s play.

    • #4
    • September 9, 2014, at 3:37 PM PDT
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  5. Rachel Lu Contributor

    But it does completely accept the basic progressive narrative that progressive cultural trends always continue indefinitely, while the decline of tradition cannot be halted. Which, if true, just means that there’s nothing left worth fighting for anyhow.

    • #5
    • September 9, 2014, at 3:40 PM PDT
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  6. MBF Member
    MBF Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    You want to see the most epic example of “alienating voters” in modern American history? Have the GOP come out in favor of gay marriage. Good luck replacing those votes with “liberty minded” millenial voters that expect student loan relief and subsidized contraceptives.

    • #6
    • September 9, 2014, at 3:45 PM PDT
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  7. Done Contributor

    To take this a step further, yes young people overwhelmingly support gay marriage (including among evangelical Christians) but this doesn’t seem to be as large a barrier to entry to the party as being claimed here.

    The young have always skewed liberal as they are largely a dependent class. But millennials seem to skew further left than most because their formative years politically were during the Bush administration.

    The long and the short of it is your politics are heavily influenced by how good or poorly the nation is doing when you begin to vote, and which party controls the white house at the time. The Obama years have created a new crop of young people who skew Republican.

    Among self-reported voters who were 18 years old in 2012, Mitt Romney, not Obama, won the majority: 57 percent. Romney also won 59 percent among 19-year-olds, and 54 percent among 20-year-olds.

    youngvoters

    • #7
    • September 9, 2014, at 3:48 PM PDT
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  8. Nick Stuart Inactive

    Liz Harrison:

    I included the restrictions on pedophilia and polygamy because they are currently the pet causes of the SSM activists, as in they don’t want to see those groups get the rights they’re fighting for now.

    The unthinkable, becomes thinkable, becomes normal, becomes required doctrine. That’s what happened with SSM, that’s what will happen with minimum age to marry, polygamy, incest, and bestiality.

    Maybe you’ve missed the approbative articles for polyamory that have begun cropping up in mainstream media. Give a coherent and durable reason why not. If all standards are arbitrary, why should any of these be anything other than perfectly acceptable? Who’s to limit love? Who’re the haters who won’t affirm these couplings and serve the services that celebrate them?

    • #8
    • September 9, 2014, at 3:49 PM PDT
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  9. Nick Stuart Inactive

    MBF:

    You want to see the most epic example of “alienating voters” in modern American history? Have the GOP come out in favor of gay marriage. Good luck replacing those votes with “liberty minded” millenial voters that expect student loan relief and subsidized contraceptives.

    Good argument from pragmatism. If the GOP can’t win with Social Conservatives, good luck trying to win without them.

    • #9
    • September 9, 2014, at 3:51 PM PDT
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  10. Done Contributor

    And just to clarify Liz, I have no beef with cold political calculus. I do need clear evidence before I’m willing to try and turn the entire party 180 degrees on an issue as divisive as this though.

    Since the youngest voting age millenials seem to favor Republicans despite the parties stance on SSM, I don’t see the benefit to the strategy you suggest.

    • #10
    • September 9, 2014, at 3:57 PM PDT
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  11. The (apathetic) King Prawn Member

    How many votes are we really talking about here anyway? It’s not like they give out tacos at the polls.

    • #11
    • September 9, 2014, at 4:09 PM PDT
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  12. KC Mulville Inactive

    You argue that since young people don’t much care for organized religion, we should surrender the fight for religious freedom. That’s equivalent to saying that newspapers are losing money, so let’s not push hard to protect freedom of speech.

    • #12
    • September 9, 2014, at 4:15 PM PDT
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  13. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    One particular issue that annoys them is gay marriage, and that was made readily apparent on Twitter once news of the death of Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy hit the web.

    Chick-fil-A is a great example. When the twits on Twitter called for a boycott of Chick-Fil-A the company saw their sales go up, not down. If you can’t back up your Tweets with $$$’s, you probably can’t back them up with votes either.

    • #13
    • September 9, 2014, at 4:18 PM PDT
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  14. KC Mulville Inactive

    The King Prawn:

    How many votes are we really talking about here anyway? It’s not like they give out tacos at the polls.

    I also suppose we must assume that young people never change. If they have an attitude at 18, they’ll never change their minds, even after having children, raising families, starting careers, buying property … none of these life experiences affect the opinions they formed in high school. 

    • #14
    • September 9, 2014, at 4:18 PM PDT
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  15. Jennifer Johnson Inactive

    “Opposing gay marriage is supposedly about protecting religious freedoms.”

    The best arguments, I think, in favor of natural marriage are the child centered arguments. These arguments also have the virtue of appealing to anti-Marxists, since they demonstrate the deconstruction of marriage (which Marx favored). I just made up that term BTW. It means, generally, people who are opposed to communist and socialist ideas. 

    If we look back at the history of Roe v. Wade, we see similar arguments being made as what are being made here. Supposedly, the younger generation was all for abortion. But something happened in the mean time. The younger generation figured out that they might have been aborted. Now, the pro life movement is largely a youth movement. The pro abortion movement is largely an aging movement.

    I foresee the same thing happening with marriage. The younger generation will figure out that their interests are best served under natural marriage. SSM, along with artificial reproductive technologies and “easy” divorce, all exist in order to make life easier for adults. In that sense, they are no different than abortion. The younger generation will figure this out someday. Our job is to help them.

    • #15
    • September 9, 2014, at 4:20 PM PDT
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  16. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Paul A. Rahe:

    This sounds like standard Republican doctrine. When challenged, surrender. I think that the Chamber of Commerce would like this.

     My response almost exactly. My first thought was, “winning by surrendering.”

    My second thought was, “If this is this is the GOP’s problem-solving approach, it explains a lot!” Sorry Liz. Back to the drawing board.

    • #16
    • September 9, 2014, at 4:24 PM PDT
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  17. Jennifer Johnson Inactive

    How can we use the recent measures in California to show what “gay marriage” does to the idea of family? California recently did the first two of the following, and is about to do the third:

    1. It removed the terms “husband” and “wife” from the legal code. The lead legislator said that those terms are “outdated and biased.”

    2. It allows more than two legal parents for a child.

    3. It is about to allow a gender neutral option on birth certificates.

    All of these changes were made possible because of “SSM.” It did away with the nature based limitation of “two,” and it strips the recognition of sex differences from the law. Since California has gone off the rails, it seems to me that a sharp GOP marketing team could capitalize on this, making the natural marriage argument far more appealing to the average person.

    • #17
    • September 9, 2014, at 4:36 PM PDT
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  18. Randy Webster Member

    We see a lot of articles like this. It seems to me that what we’re being told is that the only way for us to win elections is to quit being conservatives.

    • #18
    • September 9, 2014, at 4:57 PM PDT
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  19. Liz Harrison Contributor
    Liz Harrison

    Jennifer:

    All of these changes were made possible because of “SSM.” It did away with the nature based limitation of “two,” and it strips the recognition of sex differences from the law. Since California has gone off the rails, it seems to me that a sharp GOP marketing team could capitalize on this, making the natural marriage argument far more appealing to the average person.

    If we had sharp marketing teams, then maybe that would be an option. What I’ve said here is under “give them enough rope, and they’ll hang themselves.” As for California going off the rails, when have they not been there in recent years? I believe the GOP has already written the state off as useless to attempt to change, and “average people” already view what goes on there as our nation’s version of a freak show. Sorry if that comes off as harsh, but it is what it is.

    • #19
    • September 9, 2014, at 5:23 PM PDT
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  20. Merina Smith Inactive

    I would be amused (if it weren’t so sad) that those who support genderless marriage, and, as Jennifer points out, the inevitable descent to state enforced genderless life, continue to badger those of us who think being a man or a woman, or having a connection to your mother and father is important and in fact, central to life. Get with history! You’ve lost! All the wisdom is found in the youngest voters now! They tell us. And still we don’t accept the most glaring of all lies that anyone has tried to force upon us. Imagine! And then to naively suggest that some legislation is going to protect religious freedom after all that has happened. WC is correct–this “problem solving” effort is not well thought through, to put it politely. Get Jennifer on the team. The whole nation should be hearing about California seeking to destroy the idea of male and female, man and woman, boy and girl.

    • #20
    • September 9, 2014, at 5:29 PM PDT
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  21. Liz Harrison Contributor
    Liz Harrison

    Randy Webster:

    We see a lot of articles like this. It seems to me that what we’re being told is that the only way for us to win elections is to quit being conservatives.

    No. I’m saying that we need to stop defining “being conservative” as proselytizing from within the government. The hedonistic nonsense from the left costs money. So does legislating religion, which is what the social conservative agenda is. I know, terms that have been neutered of religious meaning are used in these debates, but that doesn’t change the fact that we’re dealing with two sides that are arguing for bigger government – the only difference is the belief systems (or lack thereof) behind them. Now, if you can honestly come up with a step that the GOP can take that won’t be viewed as evangelism, but can also shore up the First Amendment protections of religion, I’m happy to hear it. I’m not saying drop this argument. I’m saying we need to get back to the roots of the Constitution. The problem is that we’re arguing about keeping government out of religion, while simultaneously screaming for religious principles to be made into law. It doesn’t matter if that’s truthfully what it is. The left is controlling the conversation, they are saying that’s what we’re doing, and the average voter that is killing us at the polls is buying it.

    • #21
    • September 9, 2014, at 5:30 PM PDT
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  22. Merina Smith Inactive

    If you think we’re being killed at the polls now, Liz, just try what you suggest and you’ll really understand what it means to be killed at the polls.

    • #22
    • September 9, 2014, at 5:33 PM PDT
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  23. Bob Wainwright Member

    Liz, opposing gay marriage is not about protecting religious freedom. How would legalized gay marriage hurt religious freedom? It’s all about protecting children. Legalized gay marriage necessarily means widespread adoption of children by same sex couples. You say you want to pass a bill legalizing same sex marriage and outlawing other things like polygamy. Why not add adoption of children by same sex couples to that list of outlawed things. I’d vote for it.

    • #23
    • September 9, 2014, at 5:37 PM PDT
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  24. KC Mulville Inactive

    Liz Harrison:

     So does legislating religion, which is what the social conservative agenda is. 

    That’s utterly and completely wrong. That’s a shallow prejudice, and I’d have hoped a “conservative” consultant would have known the difference. 

    • #24
    • September 9, 2014, at 5:43 PM PDT
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  25. Liz Harrison Contributor
    Liz Harrison

    Merina Smith:

    If you think we’re being killed at the polls now, Liz, just try what you suggest and you’ll really understand what it means to be killed at the polls.

     When I thought of saying this in the first place, I was furious over two completely opposite situations. One was the liberal response to the death of the founder of Chick-fil-A, and the other was the impending death of the career of a gay man that worked as a GOP operative. The latter will undoubtedly be ridiculed and ostracized, since he decided to air the dirty laundry publicly. That is infuriating. The fact that we’re continually letting the left control the conversation on two issues that involve under 5% of the population to the point where we’re losing thousands if not millions of votes each election is mind-numbing. In the past, when I’ve been stuck on a problem like this, I’ve found that scaring the hell out of the people around me with the “nuclear option” to resolve the issue tends to make people think more creatively. Ricochet is arguably one of the best places to find that kind of talent on the web. So, this was my nuclear option on how to deal with the ridiculous notion that we can be bleeding votes on an issue that involves less than 5% of the population. We’re doing it wrong. There’s no debate over that. Question is what is right?

    • #25
    • September 9, 2014, at 5:43 PM PDT
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  26. Liz Harrison Contributor
    Liz Harrison

    KC Mulville:

    Liz Harrison:

    So does legislating religion, which is what the social conservative agenda is.

    That’s utterly and completely wrong. That’s a shallow prejudice, and I’d have hoped a “conservative” consultant would have known the difference.

     Yes, it’s a shallow prejudice. I apologize if I didn’t make it abundantly clear that it is how it is perceived by the average voter, thanks to the messaging from the left. I know the difference, but that doesn’t help much when it comes to dealing with the average voters that are bombarded daily with the message that the crazy conservatives are trying to force their “religion” on everyone.

    • #26
    • September 9, 2014, at 5:46 PM PDT
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  27. Liz Harrison Contributor
    Liz Harrison

    Bob Wainwright:

    Liz, opposing gay marriage is not about protecting religious freedom. How would legalized gay marriage hurt religious freedom? It’s all about protecting children. Legalized gay marriage necessarily means widespread adoption of children by same sex couples. You say you want to pass a bill legalizing same sex marriage and outlawing other things like polygamy. Why not add adoption of children by same sex couples to that list of outlawed things. I’d vote for it.

     We are not winning that argument either. Even with all the craziness in California, the left is still managing to march out “experts” on child psychology that are happily saying that children aren’t harmed at all by families with two dads or two moms.

    • #27
    • September 9, 2014, at 5:49 PM PDT
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  28. Brad T. Inactive

    Marriage is a right?

    • #28
    • September 9, 2014, at 5:54 PM PDT
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  29. Rachel Lu Contributor

    Merina Smith:

    If you think we’re being killed at the polls now, Liz, just try what you suggest and you’ll really understand what it means to be killed at the polls.

     Actually this post is kind of funny, because I think what Liz means is: if millions of conservatives will give up the things they hold most dear and come around to her way of thinking, then we’ll be able to enact her plan, and win over a handful more Millennials at the polls. Possibly just enough to push us into winning-coalition territory. The first bit is obviously rather important, which is why she’s trying to sell it here.

    The thing you have to understand, Liz, is that the compromise you suggest, wherein the traditional understanding of marriage (embraced by almost every civilization through history, definitely including the founders of the Constitution) is permitted but not in any way endorsed by government, is a total chimera. No such world can or will exist. In order to perform its basic function of protecting property and parental rights, government must recognize something like marriage, and endorse some sort of familial norms. Everyone (definitely including social conservatives) wants the state’s involvement here to be as minimal as reasonably possible, but again, if you think protecting property and parental rights fall in any way under the state’s purview, then marriage is on some level the state’s business.

    We live in an age in which family norms are being hotly debated on every side. If the traditional view of marriage is denied any kind of normative status, it will end up being persecuted. How do we know? Because that’s already happening on a significant scale, and our enemies no longer bother to hide their interest in intensifying the effort. The progressive left has no interest in your version of neutrality. Almost nobody does, outside a tiny sliver of libertarian types. Your idea of neutrality is not “lucrative”, it’s just fanciful and hollow.

    As I like to say: we social conservatives are in the middle of a hot hand-to-hand battle for the survival of our civilization, and libertarians like Liz are standing at the sidelines yelling, “drop your weapons! Look! I brought umbrellas!” Your suggested “protection” is just completely inappropriate to the circumstance at hand. It’s total surrender, and social conservatives all know it.

    • #29
    • September 9, 2014, at 5:55 PM PDT
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  30. Rachel Lu Contributor

    Liz Harrison:

    Merina Smith:

    If you think we’re being killed at the polls now, Liz, just try what you suggest and you’ll really understand what it means to be killed at the polls.

    So, this was my nuclear option on how to deal with the ridiculous notion that we can be bleeding votes on an issue that involves less than 5% of the population. We’re doing it wrong. There’s no debate over that. Question is what is right?

     Oh, but that’s completely wrong. It involves 100% of the population. Everyone is affected deeply by the marriage issue. That’s why we care so much about it.

    The correct approach at this juncture is to soft-pedal the homosexuality issue for awhile, but come on strong on other elements of the marriage/family agenda where we have more chance to make headway. Note, I don’t say surrender the homosexuality issue. Just talk about it a little less for now, *while also* talking a lot more about other aspects of the collapse-of-family and collapse-of-culture issues. I think social conservatives can be brought to understand that simply hitting the SSM note over and over isn’t the best play right now. But here, we can take advantage of the fact that they see the big picture while Millennials definitely don’t.

    • #30
    • September 9, 2014, at 6:01 PM PDT
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