Earlier this year, the Republican National Committee issued a report suggesting the party should be more inclusive, but not of LGBT people. Party leaders like Reince Priebus and Jeb Bush have suggested that the GOP continue to oppose marriage equality, but find a sugarcoated way to talk about it. Now a new report from the College Republican National Committee (CRNC) similarly suggests that the party simply not emphasize its opposition to LGBT equality so as to appear more attractive to young voters.
The CRNC conducted a survey that found that 44 percent of young voters believe marriage equality should be legal. It’s unclear if the sample was all Republicans or a more random political sample, but national polling has showed support as high as 81 percent among the same age group. About half of that 44 percent (26 percent of the whole) told the CRNC that opposition to marriage equality was a deal-breaker, even if a candidate agreed with them on many other issues.
Of course, the report does not recommend changing positions on marriage equality within the party. Instead, it suggests that if Republican candidates just keep their opposition to LGBT rights quiet, they might be able to win over young people on other issues:
It is important for Republicans to bear in mind that young voters warmed to President Obama long before his position on gay marriage “evolved,” and that there is no consensus in either party on the issue. Additionally, there is a “middle ground” approach of letting states decide the issue, a position that has been espoused by some prominent Republicans like Marco Rubio. Nonetheless, there is hardly an appetite from this generation to see the GOP crusade against same-sex marriage.
In the short run, as we wait for the Supreme Court rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8, the best course of action for the party may be to promote the diversity of opinion on the issue within its ranks (after all, for quite some time, former vice president Dick Cheney was to the left of President Obama on same-sex marriage) and to focus on acceptance and support for gay people as separate from the definition of marriage.
Where the Republican Party will run into the most trouble over this issue is when it is not winning on any of the more prominent issues, either – the economy and spending. If a candidate is compelling enough on economic opportunity and spending, they may well be able to overcome a difference of opinion with young voters on same-sex marriage.
To be clear, Sen. Marcio Rubio (R-FL) very much opposes marriage equality — that’s the position he thinks states should take when they decide. It’s not a “middle ground” by any definition of the term. And it seems unlikely that a candidate who opposes marriage equality but simply points to other candidates or party leaders who support it is going to endear any voters. It’s certainly not a tactic any candidate is likely to try anyway.
It seems the Republican Party can only fathom one possible strategy for dealing with the issue of marriage equality (and subsequently any issue related to LGBT people): avoid it. They don’t want to recognize who LGBT people or what they’re experiencing as members of society or what policies would help protect their families. Instead, they just want to pretend that their opposition to equality is a non-issue and hope that young voters simply won’t notice how they continue to campaign and legislate against civil rights.