Doug Mataconis argues that the GOP same-sex marriage war is over, and that Republicans should be grateful for it. A lot of them in fact are, as evidenced by their tacit acceptance of this week's various judicial rulings (and non-rulings).
Looking at this issue purely as a matter of electoral politics, this would seem to be the smart move for Republican politicians who want to appeal to voters outside of the party’s socially conservative base. While opposition to same sex marriage may have helped Republicans in the past, such as in the 2004 election, it now seems clear that this is no longer a viable strategy.
Polling has now firmly established that a majority of Americans support granting marriage rights to gays and lesbians, for example, and that support is only likely to grow over time. Additionally, the forces opposed to same-sex marriage have not had an electoral victory since North Carolina voted to ban same-sex marriage in April 2012. Since then, three states have voted in referenda to legalize same sex marriage, one state (Minnesota) rejected a referendum that would have banned same-sex marriage, and six states have legalized same-sex marriage through the legislative process. Furthermore, polling has shown that a majority of young Republicans support same-sex marriage notwithstanding their party’s official position on the issue. Were it to continue to oppose same-sex marriage, it would only be a matter of time before the GOP found itself out in the cold alone on an issue that most Americans consider to have already been decided.
At the very least, that will hurt the party’s efforts to reach out to younger voters, minorities, and other groups outside of the traditional Republican base that it is going to need to win in 2016 and beyond. If the GOP were to modify its position on this issue, there would of course be push back from the right such as what we’ve seen from social conservative groups who are openly campaigning against Republicans who have endorsed marriage equality. In the long run, though, the GOP would be much better off if it didn’t have the millstone of opposition to same-sex marriage around its neck, and in some sense that is what many Republican leaders seem to be recognizing in their silence in response to yesterday’s news.
I'd argue that Mataconis is wrong, for one simple reason: immigration. A lot of the same arguments that he correctly and logically points out for same-sex marriage can be applied to immigration: states are taking action on it, it's the demographic future of the voting public, there have been a lot of victories on it that favor the left, and support for a national immigration policy is broadly popular. The main difference is that there's no SCOTUS decision possibly forcing a national immigration plan.
But in that case, the GOP has opposed it at every turn and demonized it at the specific level in order to delay any federal action for as long as possible, and have done so for years. It's openly costing them the Latino vote, especially in Presidential elections, but the far right of the GOP doesn't particularly care, and in the short term they've been successful on splitting off some Dems from it as a result.
The right will try this on same-sex marriage in 2016.