Listening to Laura

Maybe Bush should try listening to his wife instead of hiding behind her skirts. Normally, I wouldn’t pay much attention to what Laura Bush says or thinks. And that’s usually because she’s usually prattling on about stuff like not believing polls.

First lady Laura Bush said on Sunday she does not believe opinion polls showing her husband’s approval ratings at record low levels.

Interviewed on Fox News Sunday, Laura Bush said she did not think people were losing confidence in President George W. Bush, despite a series of polls showing support for him at its lowest point in his five-year presidency and among the lowest for any president in the past 50 years.

“I don’t really believe those polls. I travel around the country. I see people, I see their responses to my husband. I see their response to me,” she said.

“As I travel around the United States, I see a lot of appreciation for him. A lot of people come up to me and say, ‘Stay the course’.”

Of course, if she’s seeing the same crowds her husband is seeing, they’re usually handpicked to guarantee that citizens who disagree with the Dubya are weeded out before he enters the arena. Because George is afraid to face anyone who doesn’t adore him. And apparently he’s so afraid of his own polling — which indicates that a majority of American’s aren’t enamored of him, his job performance, or his party at the moment — that he sends Laura out to deal with it while he cowers behind her skirts.

But there’s something else that makes me wonder if George is listening to Laura when she’s talking to him and isn’t scripted by his handlers. Basically, it’s this little tidbit: Laura is telling George and any other Republicans who will listen, “don’t run on a gay marriage ban this year.”

Some election-year advice to Republicans from a high-ranking source who has the president’s ear: Don’t use a proposed constitutional amendment against gay marriage as a campaign tool.

Just who is that political strategist? Laura Bush.

The first lady told “Fox News Sunday” that she thinks the American people want a debate on the issue. But, she said, “I don’t think it should be used as a campaign tool, obviously.”

“It requires a lot of sensitivity to just talk about the issue — a lot of sensitivity,” she said.

The Senate will debate legislation that would have the Constitution define marriage as the union between a man and a woman early next month, Majority Leader Bill Frist said on CNN’s “Late Edition.”

Unfortunately, I don’t think congressional Republicans are likely to listen to Laura on this issue this year for two reasons. They need this issue to appeal to an important voting block in what is going to be a rough year for them, and they’re running out of time.

It’s no secret that Republicans are courting black voters, especially this year.

The White House and top Republican officials have launched a blitz to persuade black people that their future will be better served by shedding decades of loyalty to the Democratic Party and voting Republican instead. Prominent black Americans, including a Hall of Fame football star, are Republican candidates in several high-profile races for November’s mid-term elections.

Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee, has been speaking at events hosted by traditional black civil rights groups such as the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People and the Urban League. The national committee has organised at least 50 events aimed at black Americans. Later this month, Republicans will hold their first workshops for training black candidates.

… They hope that socially conservative ideas pushed by Bush on issues such as limiting abortion and opposing same-sex marriages will appeal to many traditional black voters. They are also hoping to capitalise on the aspirations of a growing black middle class with its concepts of an ‘ownership society’ breaking free from government help and handouts.

With Democrats shifting right, it’s going to be a tough challenge for the Republicans and same-sex marriage is one of their biggest appeals to African American voters. And it works. I know from experience, as just recently I learned that someone in my family — a lifelong Democrat as far as I know — was a contributor to the Bush/Cheney ’04 campaign, and has an autographed photograph of George and Laura thanking them for their support. It wouldn’t surprise me if the gay marriage issue was one of the main reasons why.

Plus, if Deb Price is right, Republicans are running out of time on this issue because younger generations are more gay-friendly than their forebears, and more likely to support same-sex marriage or at least to oppose a constitutional ban.

Generations scholar William Strauss, co-author of “Millennials Rising,” predicts young people growing up just behind the cynical, disengaged Generation Xers will be “the next great generation.”

Fortunately, the Millennials also are a big generation. Their impact is going to hit like a political tsunami in the next decade: Even before the final four years of Millennials were born, the 2000 Census put them at 72.4 million strong, nearly matching the 77.6 million Baby Boomers (born between 1945 and 1964).

Social researchers have found that each new generation is more gay-friendly than the one before — and the oldest Millennials certainly fit that encouraging pattern.

…Other polling — in which the eldest Millennials were surveyed along with half of Xers to tell us about 18- to 29-year-old voters — likewise foretells a tipping point. Within perhaps 10 years, gay marriage will enjoy majority support nationwide because younger, more accepting voters will have replaced many of today’s 65-plus voters. Notable findings include:

Eighteen- to 29-year-olds are the first age group of voters to prefer gay marriage over other options for gay couples, 2004 election exit polls show. Asked their preference, 41 percent chose marriage for gay couples, 28 percent favored civil unions and only 30 percent said no recognition.

So, the Republicans may be running out of time on this issue, with their supporters eventually going the way of the dinosaur and a new generation of homophobes — in numbers sufficient to make the issue politically attractive — unlikely to appear. I don’t know if Laura’s been reading this stuff, but if she has it might be one reason why she’s suggesting that something like the FMA might not be the best short term strategy for the Republicans. Or long term, for that matter, if it cements the party’s association with the issue, as being in favor of constitutional discrimination.

But it probably doesn’t matter, because I doubt anyone in the party is listening to Laura. And anyway, isn’t the damage pretty much done already? Even without an amendment to the U.S. constitutional amendment, there’s now a patchwork of state amendments that same-sex couples will have to live with and challenge, and that will have to be undone by future generations — probably at great cost to many.

So even if it isn’t an issue for 2006, and indications are that it is a major item on the Republicans’ ’06 agenda, they’ve already gotten the money’s worth out of it. And as usual, in one way or another, the rest of us are stuck with the bill.

About Terrance

Black. Gay. Father. Buddhist. Vegetarian. Liberal.
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