Top Republican pundit Bill Kristol believes that members of his party are only considering support of marriage equality to keep up with TV shows, and to appeal to “some 26-year-old who doesn’t know anything honestly.”
In an interview on The Weekly Standard’s podcast, Kristol, the publication’s editor, argued that Republicans who reconsider their position on marriage — like Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), who flipped his view after his son came out — are “pathetic.” When the interviewer pointed to television shows like “Friends and Dharma and Greg,” Kristol said that, thanks to young people, that’s exactly what is driving the conversation:
I mean, there’s something pathetic about it. I’ve found it really distasteful. I mean I myself am socially conservative on the marriage issue but even if you’re not, just say what you believe and let the country decide…. This kind of pathetic attempt of ‘Oh my god, young people especially are liberal so let’s just rush to cater to them.’ As if they’re going to respect you if you just embrace the views of some 26-year-old who doesn’t know anything honestly. Can’t adults say young people are sometimes wrong? [...]
Gee, this TV show is popular so let’s just throw over thousands of years of history and what the great religions teach and let’s just embrace it because, hey, you don’t want to be on the other side from a TV show that has 20 million viewers. I mean, really, that’s what a serious political party does?
Kristol’s effort to squash the voices of young people is familiar; the far conservative right has made similar arguments before, even as the mainstream of the Republican party recognizes its need to appeal to young voters. In its post-election “autopsy” report last week, the Republican party specified, “we do need to make sure young people do not see the Party as totally intolerant of alternative points of view.”
It’s unlikely that marriage equality is going to go the way of The Macarena; with the support of 81 percent of people ages 18-29, same-sex marriage is no fad. Sixty-one percent of Americans know someone who is gay. Moreover, young people tend to be a weather vane on social issues — as they were during the civil rights movement and the fight for women’s equality.
And while it is true that young people are more receptive to television programming with gay characters, the evidence suggests that people are more likely to watch shows that promote values they already hold, not that they are forced to believe something thanks to what they watch. Perhaps Kristol has failed to realize that inculsivity in programming might be evidence of acceptance, not a gay agenda.