Are Republicans Learning Tolerance?

Tolerance is a virtue. And many Republicans do not practice that virtue when it comes to gay people and foreigners. It’s a big reason why under-30 voters went 66 percent for Obama in 2008. Sensing political reality, it looks like the GOP is starting to come around. They’re not there yet — not even close — but maybe one day they will be. Baby steps.

A Politico article describes the GOP’s small, tentative about-face on same-sex marriage:

It’s not like the GOP has become a bastion of progressiveness on gay rights, but there has been an evolution in the political approach — and an acknowledgment of a cultural shift in the country. Same-sex relationships are more prominent and accepted. There are more gay public figures — including politicians — and it’s likely that many Washington Republicans have gay friends and coworkers. Just as important — there’s also a libertarian streak of acceptance on people’s sexuality coursing through the House Republican Conference.

I think it was Radley Balko who pointed out that in twenty years’ time, almost everyone who today opposes gay marriage will be for it, and will be embarrassed by their former hostility. It’s a long process. In the short run, I think politics are trumping any imaginary libertarian streak:

But there’s also a political strategy at work: The economy has displaced moral issues in today’s politics. Ask most House Republicans today if they have deep convictions about gay relationships, and it hardly registers.

This lighter approach is an international phenomenon. Over in the UK, the Conservative Party is actually outflanking Labour by proposing legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.

Conservative hostility to immigration is another electoral loser, and the GOP seems to be discovering a little tolerance there, too. Sen. Marco Rubio, himself the son of Cuban immigrants, is on board with the DREAM Act, which would offer legal residency to undocumented immigrants who satisfy certain conditions (the bill is actually a mixed bag instead of an unmitigated good; more information in this podcast).

I don’t see the entire party coming around on either issue anytime soon, but it’s good that there glimmers of hope here and there. May they become more frequent.


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