CalPundit advocates making gay rights a major campaign issue:

Support of gay rights carries political risks for both parties, but I think there’s only one relevant question: which party will it hurt more? I think it’s pretty obvious that Republicans have more to lose here, and events of the past couple of months have made that even more obvious. Democrats, though cautious, are comfortable with the issue, while Republicans from George Bush down desperately want to avoid it. Shouldn’t that tell us something?

From the standpoint of pure electoral politics, notwithstanding any moral/ethical/philosophical issues, it seems to me that coming out in favor of “gay rights”–which I take to mean support of gay marriage and the like–is a losing issue for either party. While doing this may make perfect sense in certain metropolitan areas, it doesn’t on a national scale. Why? Because elections are decided by 1) energizing your base and 2) attracting the middle.

If the Democratic nominee were to espouse gay marriage, for example, as a major campaign issue, he would energize part of the Democratic base. But he would really energize the Republican base. They’d turn out in droves to make sure the Democrats lost. Further, most non-ideological Americans are either 1) agnostic on the issue, 2) slightly pro-gay rights but not actively for it (or they’d be energetic Democrats, not the middle), or 3)slightly culturally conservative but not enthusiastic on the issue. So, at best, it would be a wash with the middle-of-the-roaders and would energize GOP turnout.

Which would be fine with me, come to think of it. I hereby join Kevin in a call for the Democrats to make this THE CENTRAL ISSUE of their campaign.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. John Lemon says:

    As a pretty good Republican, I agree with your analysis here. However, I actually do favor gay marriages. The reason is (1) because my Republicanism is rather libertarian; and (2) it would help marginally with some of the health insurance mess.

    In any event, this should be a local issue. Whatever happened to federalism?

  2. James Joyner says:

    Heh. Presidents usually run as a combo of sheriff and school superintendent.

    And I reluctantly agree on the issue of gay marriage, although my post was “notwithstanding any moral/ethical/philosophical issues.” But I definitely wouldn’t lead with that in the platform:)