GOP has a generational problem

While some conservatives are stomping their feet like spoiled children over the inclusion of GOProud at CPAC, Erin McPike explains that legislative action like repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” could mean problems for GOP with the next generation of voters:

In the Republican Party, the fracture over issues concerning homosexual individuals revealed itself more clearly in the vote for repeal of the 17-year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that prevented gays from serving openly in the military.

Of the eight Republican senators who voted for repeal, five are among the youngest in the upper chamber - and they’re not all moderates.

Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, John Ensign of Nevada and Richard Burr of North Carolina maintain relatively conservative voting records, despite some of Murkowski’s recent votes. They are 53, 52 and 55, respectively.

Their colleagues Mark Kirk and Scott Brown have been lumped into the more moderate wing of the party, but they, too, are some of the youngest GOP senators. Both are 51.

Melissa Kennedy, press secretary for Log Cabin Republicans, said that gay issues generally are generational.

“Nearly all young service members supported the repeal of DADT because it simply doesn’t matter to them what anyone’s sexual orientation is and many happen to know and are friends with gay people,” she said.

Kennedy added, “In terms of the recent Senate vote, as we know most U.S. senators are old and many of the Republicans are from a generation that are clinging to old-school thoughts of a time long ago. However, Log Cabin Republicans are always happy and eager to engage those members as we agree on 90 percent of the issues facing this country.”

Jimmy LaSalvia, the executive director of GOProud, another Republican organization supportive of gay rights, agrees.

“Conservatives and Republicans in general aren’t any different than anyone else in America,” he said, adding, “over the past number of years we’ve seen more and more gay people come out and live their lives openly and honestly.”

For that reason, LaSalvia said that younger generations of Republicans are becoming increasingly familiar with issues affecting homosexual Americans. Older generations, he noted, generally don’t have the same experience of having as many contemporaries who are openly gay.

In his statement announcing his vote for repeal, Burr presented his decision as a result of generational change.

“Given the generational transition that has taken place in our nation, I feel that this policy is outdated and repeal is inevitable,” he said.

Post-vote, there is more evidence that gay issues may continue to show fractures and changes within the GOP: several prominent conservative groups have announced that they will boycott the largest gathering of conservatives in the country, CPAC, in Washington this February, due to GOProud’s participation.

I’ve been saying this for awhile now, that this next generation of voters - specifically those 40 and younger - are much more socially tolerant than the previous generation. And if conservatives and Republicans cannot realize that stories like this do not shed favorable light on their movement since voters are simply not concerned about social issues these days, then they will lose support amongst younger voters.

You may disagree with homosexuality and refuse to accept it, but these crusades are pointless now as opposition to gay marriage is steadily falling and nearly 60% of Americans supported ending the ban on gays in the military. Focusing on issues that can bring together conservatives, and even libertarians, should be the goal over the next two years.

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