by Max Brantley
Nate Silver, the numbers-crunching wizard who founded the indispensable fivethirtyeight.com, is interviewed here. He offers worthy -- and less divisive -- insight on the Prop. 8 vote in California. It's an analysis that applies nationwide, in a hopeful way, over the long haul. (Yes, of course, Arkansas will trail the growth curve.)
Why do you think Prop. 8 passed?
Well, every year the gay marriage bans have a more and more difficult time passing; this is principally a generational issue, and you have younger, generally more tolerant voters replacing older, generally less tolerant ones. If you sort of plotted those numbers out, and then adjusted for the fact that California is more progressive than other states that had passed gay marriage bans, you could see that Prop 8 was going to turn out to be very, very close — within a few points in one direction or the other. When an election is close, the side running the better campaign is usually going to win. In this case, for better or for worse, the 'Yes' side had a big head start in fundraising in messaging, and the 'No' side couldn't catch up in time.
There continues to be new polls showing a shift on America's changing attitudes towards marriage equality. Should we take them seriously? Is there any evidence that people are making up their minds one way or another on the issue?
People are making up their minds for marriage equality — it's just happening very, very slowly. Eight years ago, I don't think there are any states in the country that would have voted to uphold gay marriage — maybe Vermont and Hawaii. This year, you might have had a dozen states that would have voted against a Prop 8 type of measure — pretty much everything in New England, for instance, with California winding up just on the other side of the dividing line. Eight years from now, probably half the country will be ready for gay marriage.
What I don't know is whether the passage of Prop 8 will clarify the issue for certain people and tend to accelerate the process. It very well might.
But it might only if the media engages the issue. Last night, given the chance, Rachel Maddow went in the tank in an opportunity to ask Mike Huckabee about his long unfriendliness to equal treatment of gay people.