Could the Nevada Republican platform be a bellwether of the GOP making its big tent more welcoming to women and gays? Nevada Republican Party conventioneers on Saturday adopted a platform without opposition to abortion and gay marriage - a landmark victory for party moderates who view the party as needing a more populist position to remain competitive with voters.
Though 520 delegates attended the convention, less than half turned up for the platform vote following little debate.
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In the Las Vegas Review-Journal, state party Chairman Michael McDonald called the convention a success:
"I think it was about inclusion, not exclusion. This is where the party is going," said Nevada GOP Chairman Michael McDonald on the vote to drop abortion and gay marriage opposition from the party platform.
Republican committee members said the vote came down to the U.S. Supreme Court and lower courts already weighing in on those two social issues saying it doesn't make sense for the party of "personal freedom" to involve the government or a political party in private lives.
But where do women fall on the issues of abortion and gay marriage?
Contrary to Americans' perception, recent Gallup polling shows that women are fairly split on abortion with 46 percent considering themselves pro-life compared to 50 percent of men. When factoring in political party affiliations, just 26 percent of Republicans considered themselves pro-choice compared with 62 percent of Democrats.
While Gallup finds that women support gay marriage to a greater degree (56 percent) than do men (48 percent). Once again, Republicans support the issue to a lesser degree (30 percent) than do Democrats (70 percent).
What do these numbers tell us, if they're to be believed? Perhaps, that women generally support personal freedoms by greater margins than the Republican Party as a whole - a blatant contradiction to one of the oldest tenants of the GOP. More to the point: softening on those two social issues just might make the Republican Party appealing to more women.
One platform committee member addressed the philosophical conflicts that those social issues creates within the Party's position on individual liberty and personal responsibility:
"The issue was how can we back out of people's lives," said platform committee member Dave Hockaday of Lyon County. "We need to focus on issues where we can have an impact."
Previously, the Nevada Republican Party defined marriage as between a man and a woman and ascribed to being a "pro-life" party much as the party does nationally.
But the message sent behind the platform vote sets the stage for a 2016 showdown within the GOP to either evolve on social issues that alienate women and other important voting blocks, or cede any chance of regaining ground with those voters.
Already, the religious right's flexing whatever muscle is has by voicing opposition to the next Republican National Convention taking place in Las Vegas arguing that it strips the GOP of its "family values" appeal.
“Parties have images to American voters as to who’s pro-family and who isn’t. … The base is already somewhat de-energized,” said Paul Caprio, director of Family-PAC.
But going back to those Gallup polling numbers, women do not seem to mind or fear gay marriage and its effect on the family. And women know a little bit about the American family since demographic trends show that women are, in fact, the head of four-in-10 American households. And recently, Republicans are finally taking a public and positive stance in helping to propel the acceptance of gay marriage.
"Gay marriage is the last frontier of civil rights, and it would be nice if Republicans didn't have to be dragged kicking and screaming" toward acceptance, said Mark McKinnon, a GOP consultant who once made campaign ads for George W. Bush, in an email to The Atlantic.
Despite these positive changes, the public continues to associate old-school views on social issues with the GOP - a troubling factor considering the increasing number of centrist voters. But clearly, moves such as those taken in Nevada can help the party make in-roads with new and convert voters.
Much rides on a successful 2016 presidential election for the GOP and the Tea Party movement revealed a national rift among conservatives with the religious right fighting to retain power over the establishment.
Not sure you can teach an old elephant new tricks, but don't count the GOP out just yet. Nevada might be an anomoly or the start of something exciting, bold and expansive. Time will tell.
- Erica Holloway is a Republican contributing editor for the BlogHer News & Politics page. Reach her at www.galvanizedstrategies.com.
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