When you think of Republican values, two issues that probably come to mind first are banning homosexual marriage and blocking access to abortions. However, the Nevada GOP has taken a drastic step away from these core stances. At the state’s Republican Party convention, delegates voted to drop both “traditional” marriage and abortion from the official platform, reports the Las Vegas Review Journal.
As surprising as it was to see the GOP back down from two of the most contested social issues in the country currently, what made the decision even more surprising was the relative lack of debate on stripping these topics. With little fanfare, hundreds of delegates raised their hands to approve the new platform.
Granted, the change does not necessarily mean that conservatives have changed their personal opinions on these issues. Indeed, most Nevada Republicans indicated that they remain pro-life and opposed to gay marriage. Nonetheless, Nevada Republicans agreed it was time to back off pursuing legislation on these issues. “[The revised platform] was about inclusion, not exclusion,” said Michael McDonald, Chairman of the Nevada GOP. “This is where the party is going.”
If it sounds like a strategic move, it probably is. Republicans have been forced to acknowledge that the Supreme Court has sided against conservatives on abortion and gay marriage, making their causes a losing battle. Lyon County resident Dave Hockaday, a member of the committee that rewrote the Nevada party’s platform, said, “We need to focus on issues where we can have an impact.”
Most likely, the court of public opinion factored into the decision as much as the Supreme Court. With the majority of Americans now approving of same-sex unions and protecting a woman’s right to choose, that puts Republicans on the losing side come election time. By erasing mention of these topics from the official platform, candidates can feel free to distance themselves as they see fit. Many candidates will probably choose to take a stance against these issues if it plays well to their constituents, though. Either way, downplaying these ideas will certainly help Republicans to reach out to those voters who identify as socially liberal and fiscally conservative.
Even if it’s just symbolic at this point, it’s an interesting shift for Republicans to make. In recent years, the GOP has seemed to double down on these issues, hoping to appeal to its conservative base by making gay marriage and abortion primary talking points. If Republicans, like those in Nevada, start to see these as losing strategies, we may see more states take similar steps back and rebrand itself as a party of “personal freedoms.” As Hockaday reiterated, “The issue was how can we back out of people’s personal lives.”
Obviously, there’s still a lot of work to do to protect gay and reproductive rights. One state deprioritizing attacks on these institutions is far from a complete victory. However, seeing one state wave a white flag on these issues is a reassuring sign that Republicans are rethinking whether waging these attacks are worthwhile in the first place.