Gays, guns and God: the three G’s. They’re the trifecta of Republican campaign issues. Use one, use them all, mix in a little immigration, abortion or Obamacare, and Bingo. You’ve got a campaign.
So how are the Three G’s holding up these days? Well, to paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of their death are greatly exaggerated. But year by year, they’re losing their potency on the campaign trail. Their expiration date grows ever nearer. And it can’t come too soon.
Hating gays is definitely on the wane as a campaign issue. A few years ago, gay marriages, gay civil unions, even gay pride parades made most people nervous. Today that’s changed. Even here in conservative Arizona, 49 percent support legalizing gay marriage and 77 percent support some kind of legal recognition of gay unions.
Our Republican legislators haven’t gotten the memo. They thought they had a sure winner with their bill that would allow businesses to discriminate against gays. But the day after Republicans rushed it through the House and Senate, Arizona was all over the national media, engendering a mixture of shock and laughter in equal measure. Even Arizonans opposed the bill two-to-one, including a very vocal business community which understands that intolerance is bad for business. Gov. Brewer saw the writing on the wall and vetoed it.
Gay bashing just ain’t what it used to be.
Guns, though, seem to be as potent a political weapon as ever. We’ve witnessed multiple shootings, including horrific school murder scenes, yet the push for sane gun policies can’t seem to gain traction. But polling numbers tell a different story. The public wants increased regulation on guns and gun ownership. It’s the NRA and other well funded, pro-gun organizations that are obstructing progress by putting the fear of electoral defeat into the hearts of lawmakers.
The fact is, people are less into guns than they used to be. The number of households with guns has lessened over the years, falling from half in the 1990s to a little more than a third today. Over half of Americans say they favor stricter gun laws. When they’re asked, “Should we have universal background checks?” the number in favor jumps to 85 percent.
A time will come when legislators realize they can win votes by supporting sane gun policies. The only question is, when.
The third “G,” God, is different from the other two. It’s not about being pro-God or anti-God. It’s about whether the Republicans can continue to use a God created in their own image against their opponents. Their God thinks abortion is a sin, just like them. He hates contraception too. He may or may not hate gays since gay bashing isn’t polling so well these days. But he definitely believes man should have dominion over the earth, the environment, and women. In other words: their God votes Republican.
Acting holier than thou is a potent weapon, but it only works if you get to decide what “holy” means, and more people are beginning to question the Republicans’ use of religion as their own political bully pulpit. Their control over “God’s word” seems to be weakening. One example: Pope Francis’ Catholic church has returned to an emphasis on love and compassion over condemnation. Even some fundamentalist Christian leaders are breaking ranks, taking “liberal” stands on issues like the environment. It looks like being good stewards of God’s green earth actually may be a virtue.
In the short term, Republicans continue to use their “Gays, Guns and God” strategy effectively. It gets their base to the polls, which can make the difference in close elections, and it still pulls some undecided voters in their direction. But the country’s long term trends are working against conservatives’ outdated prejudices and preferences. That’s especially true among the young who are far more culturally liberal than their parents.