Andrew Sullivan | Polls | Religion | Republican Party

Leaked Republican Memo Advises Quick Evolution On Gay Issues

Rainbow-elephant-1Not sure how this memo leaked, but I'm glad it did. It was dispatched yesterday from the desk Jan van Lohuizen, the respected Republican pollster and founder of Voter Consumer Research, and was destined for the desks of various Republican "insiders" and operatives. Here's the text:

Background: In view of this week’s news on the same sex marriage issue, here is a summary of recent survey findings on same sex marriage:

1. 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%).

2. The increase in support is taking place among all partisan groups. While more Democrats support gay marriage than Republicans, support levels among Republicans are increasing over time.  The same is true of age: younger people support same sex marriage more often than older people, but the trends show that all age groups are rethinking their position.

3. Polling conducted among Republicans show that majorities of Republicans and Republican leaning voters support extending basic legal protections to gays and lesbians.  These include majority Republican support for:

  1. Protecting gays and lesbians against being fired for reasons of sexual orientation
  2. Protections against bullying and harassment
  3. Repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
  4. Right to visit partners in hospitals
  5. Protecting partners against loss of home in case of severe medical emergencies or death
  6. Legal protection in some form for gay couples whether it be same sex marriage or domestic partnership (only 29% of Republicans oppose legal recognition in any form).

Recommendation: A statement reflecting recent developments on this issue along the following lines:

“People who believe in equality under the law as a fundamental principle, as I do, will agree that this principle extends to gay and lesbian couples; gay and lesbian couples should not face discrimination and their relationship should be protected under the law.  People who disagree on the fundamental nature of marriage can agree, at the same time, that gays and lesbians  should receive essential rights and protections such as hospital visitation, adoption rights, and health and death benefits.

Other thoughts / Q&A: 

Follow up to questions about affirmative action: “This is not about giving anyone extra protections or privileges, this is about making sure that everyone – regardless of sexual orientation – is provided the same protections against discrimination that you and I enjoy.”

Why public attitudes might be changing: “As more people have become aware of friends and family members who are gay, attitudes have begun to shift at an accelerated pace.   This is not about a generational shift in attitudes, this is about people changing their thinking as they recognize their friends and family members who are gay or lesbian.” 

Conservative fundamentals: “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. 

Andrew Sullivan, writing at The Daily Beast, thinks the memo is a rather big deal. He writes, only a little melodramatically:

The last paragraph is, to my mind, the most remarkable. It's advising Republican candidates to emphasize the conservative nature of gay marriage, to say how it encourages personal responsibility, commitment, stability and family values. It uses Dick Cheney's formula (which was for a couple of years, the motto of this blog) that "freedom means freedom for everyone." And it uses David Cameron's argument that you can be for gay marriage because you are a conservative.

And the walls came tumbling down.


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  1. Cute elephant! I hope it wasn't traumatized during the spray-painting.

    Posted by: Stuffed Animal | May 12, 2012 12:50:14 PM

  2. Only one small problem with this "evolution". The Republicans have virtually based their whole campaign on an underlying villification and hatred of the gays as a given fact shared by the whole party and its followers. To pull back now will be impossible. Their adherents expect the gays to be "punished" this election cycle, and will stand for no less.

    Posted by: carl | May 12, 2012 12:53:14 PM

  3. It makes perfect sense for a POLITICAL party, but the GOP is in quasi-religious. The Religious Right is a large part of the their base and they're going to hold onto religion-based homophobia like Grim Death and they expect the party to appease them in exchange for their votes.

    Posted by: Caliban | May 12, 2012 12:56:18 PM

  4. Republican fiscal policy requires the average voter to vote against their OWN financial interests in favor of corporate interests and the highest percentile of wage earners. The way they've managed to do that is to exploit "wedge" issues: God, guns, gays, and now illegal immigrants and Muslims. If they give that up people might start paying attention to what's behind the curtain.

    Posted by: Caliban | May 12, 2012 1:06:36 PM

  5. Republicans: BWWWAHAHAHAHA!

    Useless idiots.

    Posted by: Mic | May 12, 2012 1:22:48 PM

  6. while it looks good on paper, this is the height of cynical opportunism. i agree with the carl above that this might work for a political party. it will not work for the Republican theocracy. what i do welcome is the fact that, much as the R party is splintered by the Tea Baggers, this memo will surely cause more divisiveness in an already fractured party. i can't imagine the party's presumptive presidental nominee doing yet another flip on this issue.

    Posted by: deedrdo | May 12, 2012 1:22:53 PM

  7. I can't wait for the leaked Republican memo when they figure out that Mittens is a sociopath and how they plan to deal with that!

    Posted by: Oliver | May 12, 2012 1:23:01 PM

  8. Republicans, of course, would be wise to heed this memo.

    It's probably too late for this election cycle (unless Romney retracts his endorsement of NOM's pledge -- which would amount to political suicide; evangelicals and conservatives would be apoplectic). But it flies in the face of reason, for them to rely on gays as a wedge issue in the long term. It will be a losing position very soon if not already.

    Posted by: Rick | May 12, 2012 1:23:53 PM

  9. The Republicans can't evolve on this issue, they don't believe in evolution.

    Posted by: PLAINTOM | May 12, 2012 1:26:22 PM

  10. Republicans opportunists clearly scared shitless. If people are willing to forget what a bunch of assholes these guys (and crazy ladies) are just because they change their talking points, then I lose even more respect or the voting public.

    Posted by: mike128 | May 12, 2012 1:33:19 PM

  11. PlainTom is absolutely correct. The theocratic baggers are not going to budge on this any time soon. The memo advises them correctly but the dogma they get fed by their Christian Taliban leaders will not change any time soon. Tony Perkins, Herr Franklin Graham, et. al. aren't capable of evolving.

    Posted by: nick | May 12, 2012 1:35:54 PM

  12. Wow, NOM, Tony Perkins, etc. will just freak over this. I do think it is true. I don't care what just happened in NC, polls overwhelming showed that if people really understood what they were voting for it wouldn not have passed. They can continue thier lies, spins, etc. only for so much longer before it all backfires. I have NO DOUBT that gay marriage for everyone is in the not so distant future. Just hope it happens in my lifetime so my husband can take advantage of it when I die. Course, unless the courts finally override the laws, with the aging population here in Florida that will be hard. I see that soon more and more states will be presented with the option to overturn some of thier admendments and you know that sooner (hopefully) or later one is going to pass in our favor (hopefully in Maine, Washington, etc. this election cycle)and it will force the "Romneys" to rethink thier stance. I see the ultra conservatives to continue to sink the Republican party into oblivion if the Republican party doesn't wakeup soon.

    Posted by: Randy | May 12, 2012 1:36:13 PM

  13. I wonder if the GOP could *evolve* overnight, the way Obama did?

    Posted by: Alan | May 12, 2012 1:39:32 PM

  14. I love the comments about Republicans not evolving because they don't believe in evolution. ........ It's so true. What was true, is true, and will continue to be true, so help me God.
    BTW.... for those in the know. BAZINGA

    Posted by: Steve | May 12, 2012 1:41:49 PM

  15. Yes the party will budge. Religious freaks have never accounted for more than 20% of GOP votes, they're just the loudest. Republicans can read polling data. Some, like McCain, will ignore them, but most are simply going to follow the highest numbers.

    There's no way that any sane Republican is going to repeal hospital visitation or even DADT. There has been no negative impact from either, and ENDA will go through soon too. Then DOMA repeal in about a year.

    Posted by: Paul R | May 12, 2012 1:45:07 PM

  16. The problem is that they created this monster and have lost control of it completely. Trying to starve it now is pointless. GOPers take years of programming to come around to the ideals they are force fed . To think that it can be undone so easily just because their followers don't think independently is amusing. 20% of the base that is in control of the party have "religion" so they don't need facts. Studies, statistics and Polls have been discarded as biased for years and trying to reach them with reason now is just a pipe dream. These people have been voting against their best interests forever thinking new talking points will show them the light will be hysterical to watch.

    Posted by: Mickey | May 12, 2012 1:46:20 PM

  17. Too little too freaking late. This may have swayed a few votes 5 days ago, or a week in the vote in NC. This would have been actually very helpful, but now that they see the backlash from that bill passing, and the enraged opposition of it, they organize rethinking what they believe? While good news, excuse me for being a cyinical-bitter punk in responding with this:

    You need to tell your party what to think based on how others think? That alone, makes this whole fiasco laughable, but that this couldn't have appeared days ago when it could have been usefull simply disgusts me.I'm usually more up beat and optmistic about these things but excuse me for being unwanted in my own home state.

    Posted by: Cocoa | May 12, 2012 1:47:33 PM

  18. I didn't know that coprolites (fossilized animal dung) could evolve. I thought that was the preserve of one celled organisms or higher.

    Posted by: StevyD | May 12, 2012 1:58:39 PM

  19. Obv. gop will lose this. The party looks and in many ways belongs to the past.

    Posted by: Matt26 | May 12, 2012 2:11:23 PM

  20. If all Republicans were dead with stakes driven through their hearts and buried at the crossroads by night, I would still wear garlic around my neck to protect myself !

    Enough said.

    Posted by: JackFknTwist | May 12, 2012 2:13:58 PM

  21. One thing to remember, only 30 percent of the people in North Carolina voted. That means we never heard from 70 percent of them.

    Posted by: Peter | May 12, 2012 2:17:34 PM

  22. @PaulR
    I believe you are correct.

    Posted by: NullNaught | May 12, 2012 2:25:10 PM

  23. As a voter who has historically favored Democratic positions and continues to do so, I predict that this memo is a longer-term Republican strategy that operates on multiple levels. To be clear, the following is not necessarily my own personal view, but what I believe their strategists are thinking:

    1. They see the writing on the wall. They will lose support on this particular wedge issue from their fundamentalist constituents, but they will die off eventually as the younger generations replace them. So they stand to lose more from failing to adapt.

    2. The choice is to pay up now, or to pay a much heavier price later. The longer they wait, the harder it will be for them to claim legitimacy and the more cynical the calculation will appear (not that it isn't already).

    3. It is a way to limit the influence of the Tea Party racists and the Christian bigots in their midst. The ultra right-wing elements of their party have gained too much control, and they have delayed wresting it back because it has been so convenient and addicting. Republicans do themselves no favor by remaining loyal to the fringe--the political center is a much larger piece of the electorate. Making that ideological shift will hurt in the short term but it is necessary for long-term survival.

    4. They see the history of GLBT equality in much the same way as the progression of racial equality. At one point they realized that continuing to espouse racist positions in public would be political suicide, and they see the same happening with gay rights. That doesn't necessarily mean racists stopped voting Republican, or that their internally held views changed. They calculate (probably correctly) that the anti-gay bigots will still continue to vote Republican because they have been so well-conditioned to hate everything the Democrats do.

    5. Abandoning gay rights as a wedge issue forces them to find the next divisive subject and focus on that as a way to gain power and distract voters from their true agenda of global economic domination.

    6. The Democrats have their own problem with African-American homophobia. If Republicans wait too long to change, there's the possibility that liberal black Democrats like Obama will be able to get black evangelicals to shift and accept gays faster than the Republicans can adapt, at which point the GOP will look especially pathetic.

    Posted by: atomic | May 12, 2012 2:29:54 PM

  24. "...not because it's the right thing to do, but because it's necessary to keep our tax cuts."

    Posted by: Anastasia Beaverhausen | May 12, 2012 2:43:32 PM

  25. Obama and his inner circle knew what they were doing when he came out in support of marriage equality, full-on in an election cycle. It's truly an idea whose time has come.

    Posted by: My 2cents | May 12, 2012 3:01:56 PM

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