Late last night, Andrew Sullivan at The Dish posted an amazing document circulated by Republican pollster Jan van Lohuizen. The memo says that polls indicate that people's opinions on gay and lesbian rights issues are shifting very quickly, and that unless Republicans become more tolerant very quickly, they're at risk of alienating themselves from voters:
Support for same sex marriage has been growing and in the last few years support has grown at an accelerated rate with no sign of slowing down. A review of public polling shows that up to 2009 support for gay marriage increased at a rate of 1% a year. Starting in 2010 the change in the level of support accelerated to 5% a year. The most recent public polling shows supporters of gay marriage outnumber opponents by a margin of roughly 10% (for instance: NBC / WSJ poll in February / March: support 49%, oppose 40%).
Sullivan points out that the most amazing part of the memo comes in the talking points guidelines, which suggest reframing gay marriage as a conservative issue:
As people who promote personal responsibility, family values, commitment and stability, and emphasize freedom and limited government we have to recognize that freedom means freedom for everyone. This includes the freedom to decide how you live and to enter into relationships of your choosing, the freedom to live without excessive interference of the regulatory force of government.
Of course, a memo is not policy. We've already seen a remarkably subdued Republican response to President Obama's statement on marriage equality—despite a few scary headlines about a war on marriage, Fox News did not spend nearly the amount of energy on gay marriage that they did in 2004, when Bush was talking about an amendment—but I have a hard time picturing some of these teabagggers swallowing their bigoted bile and self-loathing long enough to talk about tolerance and acceptance. Do I think this will happen? Absolutely, it will eventually have to happen. It will probably have to happen pretty soon. But I don't think the Republicans will be able to embrace gay rights in this election cycle. For example, it's already too late for Romney to turn around on this issue.