Reversing their frequent ambivalence after the 1960s, Democrats are now following their president into an unswerving embrace of cultural and demographic change. That shift reverberates through Obama’s defiant recent pledges to act unilaterally if necessary to ensure equal workplace treatment of gays, protect undocumented immigrants, confront climate change, and overcome the Hobby Lobby decision allowing religious-based private companies to exclude contraception from their health insurance plans.
Some disagreement has persisted, but Democrats have unified around this agenda far more than on similar questions earlier. Even red-state Democratic senators facing reelection, such as Arkansas’s Mark Pryor and Alaska’s Mark Begich, quickly condemned the Hobby Lobby decision. No Senate Democrat last year voted against either immigration reform or legislation prohibiting employers from discriminating against gay workers; only four dissented on universal background checks for gun purchases.
In mirror image, Republicans are solidifying against these ideas. Not only red-state but also swing-state Republicans uniformly praised the Hobby Lobby decision. Though some GOP senators sided with Obama, House Republicans have blocked action with little dissent on immigration reform, workplace protections for gays, and universal background checks. House and Senate Republicans uniformly decry Obama’s climate initiatives.
The risk for Republicans is that on each of these conflicts, polls show Obama’s position represents majority opinion today—and that majority will likely grow because the groups that generally support his views most are increasing as a share of voters.