The New York Times reports on the happy outbreak of moderation in some other states in the U.S., if not in Arkansas.
Republican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin doesn’t want to talk about fighting fiercely against same-sex marriage. In Virginia, a Republican Senate candidate says the Democrat has it wrong in calling him a foe of abortion and ready availability of contraception. In Colorado, a Republican Senate candidate against Sen. Mark Udall has reversed his support of a “personhood” amendment, because it’s so unpopular with voters. Senators in North Carolina, Alaska and Colorado have joined efforts to overturn the anti-contraceptive Hobby Lobby ruling.
These are, of course, purple states. Obama carried or made a run at carrying these and other purple environs.
“Udall is running his entire campaign on social issues,” said Brad Dayspring of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “All they talk about is birth control, ‘personhood,’ abortion.”
So will many other Democrats this fall. They aim to match President Obama’s feat in 2012, when the incumbent used topics such as same-sex marriage and contraception as weapons to offset his vulnerability on the economy. That they would even try while facing the older, whiter, more conservative midterm electorate shows how thoroughly the politics of social issues have turned upside down.
Remember the “Silent Majority” and other Republican plays for the so-called “values voter”? Bill Clinton triangulated into the middle of them. And the world changed.
As the Times notes, welfare has been overhauled (not enough for people like Tom Cotton). Both parties aren’t sufficiently afraid of crime to prevent discussions of more lenient sentencing. Dope is OK now, at least legal marijuana is. The majority of people aren’t married. They grow more accepting every day of gay people and their desire to form families.
Democrats profit politically — among young voters, college graduates, single women, blacks and Latinos — from the sense that they welcome these cultural shifts while Republicans resist them.
“That’s why people are voting for us these days — not for our economic prowess,” said Mark Mellman, a Democratic pollster. “They all reflect an underlying attitude. It’s openness, it’s tolerance, it’s respect for others and who they are.”
A recent Pew Research Center study highlighted how the Republican base diverges from majority opinion and experience. Members of a category Pew calls “steadfast conservatives,” mirroring Tea Party Republicans, attend church more often than any other group. More than half of them have guns in their homes, compared with one-third of the population over all.
Only 18 percent of staunch conservatives say society should accept homosexuality, compared with 62 percent overall; 16 percent believe society is “just as well off” if people have priorities other than marriage and children, compared with 50 percent over all; and 28 percent favor legalization of marijuana, compared with 54 percent over all.
The problem in Arkansas, of course, (and throughout Dixie) is the higher percentage of “steadfast conservatives” among the overall population. And like the segs of the 1960s, the changing world has made them cling even more fiercely to these social issues.
Find me an Arkansas Republican who supports abortion rights, contraception, medical marijuana and more lenient prison sentences and I’ll find you a rare bird likely to be shunned at party caucuses.. (Well, there is one newly minted Republican, Little Rock City Director Stacy Hurst, with no previously obvious core beliefs in evidence during 12 years on the City Board. She recently adopted GOP membership for its financial fat-cat supporters to run in a liberal Democratic House district and vows to depart from the GOP pack — at least until legislative voting time comes around. )