Spring is Coming

This has been an awful winter—the kind that makes you think that spring will never get here.

It has also been an awful political winter; as I have groused on these pages for months, we are in an extended season of crazy—a prolonged hissy-fit of finger-pointing, propaganda and outright bigotry. Sane citizens can be forgiven for wondering whether a political spring will ever come.

Interestingly, in much the same way as early green shoots are a signal that daffodils and tulips are on their way, there have been a number of polls and other indicators promising an end to our political winter.

So while Republican Presidential hopefuls keep playing to their base, it helps to recognize that that base is aging and shrinking, and that appeals resting on tired “us versus them” formulas have an expiring shelf life.  Like the snow, they’re beginning to melt.

As I noted in a recent blog post, Mike Huckabee (the “nice” Republican!!), recently attacked the President by saying something to the effect that Obama couldn’t be a “real” American, because he wasn’t a small-town Boy Scout with a father who belonged to Rotary. Hate to break it to you, Mike, but these days, very few people would pass that sort of “Americanism” test.

For his part, Newt Gingrich, who is also courting the GOP base, has suddenly become a vocal defender of traditional marriage. Newt wants to impeach President Obama for his decision not to defend the constitutionality of DOMA in court.

I hate to tell Newt this, but in the 21st Century, traditions are changing.

A new survey from Pew has confirmed what any objective observer can see: a continuing and rapid rise in support for same-sex marriage since 2009. Currently, 45% say they favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, while 46% are opposed. In Pew surveys conducted in 2010, 42% favored and 48% opposed gay marriage and in 2009, just 37% backed same-sex marriage while 54% were opposed.

And despite the current war on women being waged in Congress, Pew found that opinions about abortion have also liberalized. In 2009, for the first time in many years, the public was evenly divided over whether abortion should be legal or illegal in all or most cases. But support for legal abortion has recovered and now stands at 54%. Historically, people who support a woman’s right to choose have been far more likely to support gay rights.

Independents have become more supportive of both gay marriage and legal abortion since 2009. Roughly half of independents (51%) now favor same-sex marriage, up from 37% in 2009. And 58% of independents say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared with 47% in Pew Research Center surveys two years ago.

When you look at the age breakdowns in these and other polls, you’re left with an inescapable conclusion: if we can just hang in there until the old farts in my age cohort die off, spring really will come. And the old farts know it.

That’s why we’ve seen frantic efforts in several states without constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage—including Indiana—to insert such bans now. Homophobic legislators know the culture is changing, and fast, and they want to pass these measures before their failure is inevitable.

Before spring comes.