In a fast-changing culture, can the GOP get in step with modern America?Here's the focus of the story:
Across the cultural landscape, the national consensus is evolving rapidly, epitomized by this year’s convulsions of celebrity, social issues and politics -- including the acceptance of Caitlyn Jenner’s gender identity, Pope Francis’s climate-change decree and the widespread shunning of the Confederate flag.What I don't accept about this is the notion that we're in a culture so "fast-changing" that the GOP's struggle to keep up is understandable. I don't agree that, on most of these issues, we're "evolving rapidly." There's been plenty of time to catch up. It's just that the right refuses to join the rest of us.
Then came Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage. As rainbow colors bathed the White House and other landmarks in celebration, the entire field of Republican presidential candidates condemned the ruling.
This uneven terrain is now a key battlefield in the 2016 campaign, unnerving red America and fueling intense debate within the Republican Party about how to navigate such changes -- or whether to adapt to the mainstream at all.
Gay marriage? Yes, we've definitely come a long way in a short time. But state after state has legalized gay marriage in recent years and the Apocalypse never arrived. A president endorsed gay marriage three years ago and won reelection easily. Didn't that give conservatives a pretty good heads-up? So why are they acting so gobsmacked after Friday's Supreme Court ruling?
And how long have ordinary Americans been signaling that prejudices against gay people are disappearing? How long have been watching Will & Grace and Glee and Modern Family (which the wife of the last Republican presidential candidate called her favorite TV show)? Did conservatives really not get enough advance warning about the way cultural attitudes were evolving?
And let's look at the other issues. Are we seriously arguing that the "national consensus is evolving rapidly" with regard to the Confederacy? Um, when did that war end exactly? And how many decades ago was the battle to overturn Jim Crow? We defeated the rebellious South and enacted civil rights legislation a long time ago -- it's just that conservatives in the South wouldn't let go of this symbol. It wasn't us -- it was you, righties.
And climate change? How long have we been talking about that? It was an old story in 2001, when 61% of American in one survey said that the U.S. should ratify the Kyoto treaty. Al Gore had written Earth in the Balance nine years earlier, the year he ran for vice president and was denounced by the sitting president as "Ozone Man." Gore won anyway. There's been plenty of time to grasp the essence of this problem. The right has just been standing athwart climate history saying "No."
The GOP has had ample opportunity to adjust to today's America. The party and its angry members have simply refused to do so. And they're still refusing.