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On Gay Marriage and Marijuana, Young Republicans Are Breaking Ranks with the Establishment

by: Genevieve Cato

Thu Mar 13, 2014 at 09:00 AM CDT

At the Conservative Political Action Conference this year, many young Republicans representing a new generation of thought in the GOP pushed back against standards of social policy in their party. Reflecting the findings of a poll by CBS News and the New York Times, many young attendees saw the arguments against same-sex marriage and legalization of marijuana as divisive and even wasteful of government and party resources.

As the GOP struggles to connect with the very voters it needs to ever hope to win the presidency, including minority and women voters, listening to these young Republicans could be their best (and only) hope.

More on the generation gap in the Republican Party below the jump.  

The NYT/CBS poll found that over fifty percent of Republicans under the age of 45 support same sex marriage, the New York Times reported. But, according to the PEW Research Center, this is a fundamental shift that goes much deeper.

Young Republicans don't only think that of this social issue in the libertarian sense of everyone being free to make their own social decisions. The homophobia that pervades the older generation of Republicans is starting to fade among their younger counterparts. As Jocelyn Kiley from PEW writes,

Just 18% of Republicans under 30 say "more gay and lesbian couples raising children" is a bad thing for American society, while 26% say it is a good thing (56% either say it doesn't make a difference or they don't know). By comparison, majorities or pluralities of older Republicans say this trend is a bad thing for society.

In a New York Times piece on CPAC, many young attendees made it clear that they believe the party must move in a new direction - including on such social issues as gay marriage and marijuana legalization. Twenty-seven year old Alexander McCorbin, the leader of Students for Liberty (a libertarian group), said, "They need to start embracing libertarian issues or it's going to start really hurting them in elections." McCorbin also called gay marriage the "civil rights issue of our time" on a panel at the conference.

Anna Page, a freshman from Wellesly, sees it as an issue of "statistics." "If the party wants to move forward and appeal to our generation," Page said,"they have to appeal to the majority to succeed."

Gabriel Sachs, a sophomore from Purdue, sees the treatment of marijuana as an elicit substance as wasteful and unnecessary - two things he believes his party's policies shouldn't be. But he understands that there is a generational gap at work. "The older folks have their beliefs, and I think it's kind of ingrained in the party, but I think as more young Republicans come out and vote, hopefully the tide changes," Sachs said.

On abortion and issues of reproductive justice the generation gap seems far less influential. However, younger Republicans are at least more likely to vote for a candidate who has different views on abortion than older members of their party.

A junior from Geneva College who identifies as "very" conservative, Rachel Dobi is concerned with the way the party is defined by its rigid stance on certain social issues. "There's more to the Republican Party than gay marriage," Dobi said. "We're also about, 'Hey do you want a job after graduation?'" Whether Dobi believes that job ought to come with a minimum wage that allows a full time employee to live above the poverty level remains to be seen.  

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