Friday, June 23, 2006

Riling the Gray Hairs

Physically 70 may be the new 50, but mentally -- and politically -- 70 is still 70. In Rolling Stone, an insightful analysis of the effects of the current same-sex marriage sleaze fest cites scared seniors as targets.

The political writer there, Tim Dickinson, does a nice recap of things well and not so well known. He also concludes that "The gay-marriage issue also plays well with seniors, whose turnout could be crucial in dozens of House races."

He quotes Dem pollster Anna Greenberg as figuring that this group could be pivotal this time. "Normally, you have 15 competitive House races -- tops. Now it could be as many as 50. We're seeing competitive numbers in districts that haven't been competitive in a decade. The GOP has a sense of urgency about maintaining these seats -- and without the energy of the base, Rove can't hope to reproduce the amazing turnout of 2002 and 2004."

On the other hand, the level of the seniors' schadenfreude is in question. The WWII crowd proved itself both anti-black rights and anti-gay rights in their turns. Many of that group are dead and the degree of the Korean War (the entitlement generation) one's bigotry is less clear.

The article figures, "If seniors turn out to oppose gay marriage, strategists say, it could tip House races to Republicans in central Pennsylvania, rural Ohio and Kentucky, and exurban districts in Indiana." Charlie Cook of The Cook Political Report says anti-SSM plays well outside of major metro areas. Yet, he thinks the time has passed to play this card effectively. "My sense was that issue was uniquely situated for 2004. You had the court decision in Massachusetts legalizing gay marriage, then you had Mayor Newsom in San Francisco. One year earlier or one year later, it wouldn't have been as big an issue as it was right then."

As long as they can milk this though, Republicans are returning to the teats of the hate cow. The consensus across all political lines is that the anti-gay and anti-SSM battles have been lost. The critical mass of self-outed gays and the zero-negative-consequences of gay marriages and civil unions have dramatically moved the nation's culture.

We are left to wonder whether there is one more twitch of this dying beast's tail. Will the Republicans benefit one more time from this particular scare tactic? It could make the difference in control of Congress and the legislative agenda.

At the least, we can hope that the silver hairs are less vindictive and conservative than their older siblings.

Historical Note: The Rolling Stone piece traces the shift from conservative politicians race baiting to gay baiting to Jesse Helms' 1984 Senate campaign. Good background here.

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