I think it’s important to learn from a cultural shift that’s happening on an issue that’s both personal and political. It’s also one that has the potential to deeply divide a political party with one side believing that accepting a perceived “new” right will undermine everything they hold dear about their political ideology while others in the party are more open-minded to the change and even support it. One might assume that I’m talking about the issues of personal firearms ownership & self-defense and how they are viewed by Democrats outside of urban centers versus those in entrenched liberal areas. Actually, I think the issue I’m going to highlight is how the Democrats could view the cultural shifts on gun ownership through lessons the GOP should be learning on the issue of same-sex marriage.
If you follow any DC-based conservatives on Twitter at all, you’ve heard of CPAC. It has long been considered an event for conservatives to gather and talk about issues that make them identify as conservatives. For a few years, under the leadership of now-NRA president David Keene, CPAC allowed GOProud–a group of gay conservatives–to be co-sponsors and attend the event. After Keene left the helm of the group that puts on CPAC, they suddenly banned GOProud.
This year was no different in terms of a formal ban on the group, but another co-sponsoring organization was given the right to use a room to host their own panel. CEI opted to do an entire panel called “A Rainbow on the Right.” Photos show that the room was absolutely packed to the gills. Most of the folks in that photo are clearly young. They are the future of the movement. Meanwhile, CPAC officially hosted a panel with the National Organization for Marriage shortly before the Rainbow panel. The same link above compares the photos. That room was nearly empty. It featured rows and rows of empty seats.
Then, today, Senator Rob Portman officially came out in support of same-sex marriage. He notes that by supporting state decisions on marriage, and by ensuring that religious freedom is respected even while civil marriage rights are expanded, it’s an inherently conservative position on the side of limited government and individual freedom. It’s no secret here that both Sebastian and I support government recognition of same-sex marriages, so we both consider this really great news.
As I looked at the this debate this morning with the visible GOProud support, the lack of interest in the traditional marriage panel, and the op-ed that is likely sending many older folks on the right into a tizzy, I couldn’t help but see parallels in the left’s desperation to cling to gun control. For example, I was surfing the hashtags for the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit recently when I learned they were having a panel on gun control. During the panel and immediately after, the only tweets I saw at all from that panel all came from the official Summit account. Reading the tweets from actual activists during the session time period and immediately following, they were all focused on the student debt and right to work panels. In other words, they weren’t even in the room. There was not a single tweet during or immediately following the panel on gun control that came from a real activist even though there was an entire panel dedicated to the topic. That shows me that they have the same kind of enthusiasm gap on their side for the gun issue. And, like the gay marriage issue dividing some folks on the GOP side of the debate, the embrace of extreme gun control by party leaders from deep blue urban areas has cost members of their party from areas outside of those enclaves votes that cost elections. When Democratic Representative Dan Boren retired from Congress, he told the press that he didn’t feel the national party scene would allow him to continue to be “a local Democrat,…an Oklahoma Democrat.”
At some point, the “traditional” sides of each of these issues within each movement will need to accept the inevitable. Whether it’s gay rights or gun rights, many people are taking the attitude that if the decisions of another aren’t hurting them, they don’t feel the need to control it.