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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

It’s a Postindustrial Thing: You Wouldn’t Understand

The recent Supreme Court decision striking down a Texas law prohibiting gay sex is starting to get the law where the public already is.  Over the last several decades there has been a striking shift toward tolerance of homosexuality, as part and parcel of an overall social transformation toward a diverse, tolerant postindustrial society.
That’s America’s future and it’s a future leading elements of the GOP are completely out of touch with.  Those elements of the GOP may shake their heads at the Supreme Court decision, but they might as well shake their heads at the public as a whole.  Check out these shifts in public opinion.
According to a recently-released Gallup poll, six in ten (59 percent) think homosexual relations between consenting adults shold be be legal.  As recently as 1986, that figure was less than one in three (32 percent).  Similarly, today 54 percent believe homosexuality should be considered an acceptable alternative lifestyle, while in 1982, only 34 percent believed that.
A useful article by pollster Mark Mellman in The Hill rehearses other relevant data.  In 1977, 56 percent thought homosexuals should have equal rights in terms of job opportunities; now 88 percent believe that.  Also in 1977, just 27 percent thought homosexuals should be hired as schoolteachers and 44 percent believed they should be allowed to be doctors; today those figures are, respectively, 56 percent and 78 percent. 
This tolerance also extends to political leaders.  According to the most recent data, 59 percent would be willing to support a gay Presidential nominee (up from 26 percent in 1978) and three-quarters would find a gay Cabinet member acceptable.
Of course, anti-gay prejudice remains, as does racism.  But, just as with racism, there has been tremendous progress in the direction of social tolerance and equal opportunity.  The hard right in the GOP (is there any other kind these days?) may wish it weren’t so but it is–postindustrial values are becoming America’s values and trying to stop that change is like trying to hold back, say, the advance of modern science.
I suppose it shouldn’t be too surprising that they’re trying to do that, too.  DR highly recommends this article by Nicholas Thompson in the latest issue of The Washington Monthly, where he documents the cavalier attitude of the Bush administration toward modern science and their basically contemptuous attitude toward actual scientists.  “Scientists–we don’ need no stinking scientists” seems a fair summation of their position, as they merrily ignore the consensus of working scientists to pursue their agendas on everything from biotechnology to global warming to invading other countries to find nonexistent WMDs. 
Anti-science.  Anti-tolerance.  Have they no shame?
I think you know the answer to that one.