How things change.
Shortly after the
2014 2004 election, a CNN/Opinion Research poll showed 55 percent of Americans said their government should promote "traditional values" in American society, while 41 percent wanted the government not to "favor any set of values."
Fast-forward to today, and those numbers are flipped.
The latest CNN/ORC poll shows 55 percent now want the government to be neutral when it comes to values -- a new high -- while 41 percent want it to push traditional values (which are generally assumed to be of the Judeo-Christian variety, though religion is not mentioned in the poll).
If you want a window into the GOP's social-issues dilemma going forward, this is it. Especially on an issue like gay marriage, Republicans find themselves on the wrong side of a values issue that has moved quickly toward Democrats. And even some Republicans who oppose gay marriage prefer the federal government to stay out of it.
Which explains why Bush's brother, Jeb, this week offered a nuanced and very un-Bush take on his former home state, Florida, instituting gay marriage.
"We live in a democracy, and regardless of our disagreements, we have to respect the rule of law," Jeb Bush said. "I hope that we can also show respect for the good people on all sides of the gay and lesbian marriage issue -- including couples making lifetime commitments to each other who are seeking greater legal protections and those of us who believe marriage is a sacrament and want to safeguard religious liberty."
Bush has promised he won't sell out to the conservative base in the name of winning the Republican nomination for president, and this is evidence of just that. What he's saying here is what other Republicans (who aren't big on social issues) would love to be able to say, but are worried about losing the base.
It's going to be a difficult balancing act going forward, between a base that demands purity on social issues and a larger public that increasingly thinks government shouldn't be in the values business.