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Same-Sex Marriage and the Republican Party

A surprising call for conservatives to stop running against it

Adam Chandler
November 07, 2012

Blogging earlier today for the Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin–whose political commentary throughout the campaign often bordered on parody–immediately and surprisingly gave one of the most rational assessments on the Republican Party’s shortcomings in the most recent election.

On the topic of gay marriage, Rubin urged conservatives to depart from their long-standing practice of campaigning against the issue. She wrote:

In fairness to Mitt Romney, he never once use gay marriage to stir up his base, evidence of his innate decency and, if one is more politically cynical, the lack of political mileage to be gained from the issue. In the future, Republicans for national office would do well to recognize reality. The American people have changed their minds on the issue and fighting this one is political flat-earthism. As with divorce, one need not favor it, but to run against it is folly, especially for national politicians who need to appeal to a diverse electorate.

Conservatives don’t have to like gay marriage. But they campaign on it at their own risk. Holding onto an issue on which the federal government has precious little to say anyway is as foolish as opining on rape, abortion and God in a two-minute debate answer. Opposition to gay marriage by national officials is a political loser, which conveys to a majority of voters an out-of-touchness and lack of inclusiveness. It deprives Republicans of support from the gay community and makes it that much more difficult to reach out to young, urbanized voters.

Perhaps, it’s just the glee of rare agreement, but I found her take on the issue just hours after Republicans suffered defeat to be forward-thinking and impressive. As the election postmortems roll in, one narrative that I find logical is the idea that the GOP lost a winnable election by failing to learn its lessons from 2008.

I’ll be writing more on the Jewish vote tomorrow, but for now, I’ll echo Rubin in saying that if Republicans hope to seize a broader piece of the Jewish vote (and countless other groups) in national elections, it would be wise for their candidates to moderate their stances (and rhetoric) on social issues like same-sex marriage, which 81% of Jews support.

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.