George Packer, who has spent much of his career covering foreign conflicts in Iraq and Sierre Leone for The New Yorker, turns his attention to domestic trends in his most recent commentary for the magazine.
On two key fronts, he notes, liberals are making substantial gains in public opinion.
Gay marriage: Polls show a majority of Americans now support same-sex marriage. (Virginians are evenly split on the issue, although that’s still a notable change after state voters seven years ago amended the state constitution to not only ban same-sex marriage and civil unions but to strip gay Virginians and their partners of any recognition or rights.)
Immigration: Between 2006 and 2011, Gallup polls found that more Americans wanted to stop illegal immigrants from entering the U.S. than wanted to offer a path to citizenship for those always living here. Last year, the balance shifted in favor of legalization. A Pew poll last month showed more than two-thirds of respondents favored reforms to help undocumented workers obtain legal status.
Republicans are clearly taking note of the shifting electorate. Several have spoke out in favor of gay marriage, and a group of GOP members of Congress are now working on immigration reforms after rebuffing previous efforts by both George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Packer writes:
These dramatic movements are the culture-war equivalent of the spring and summer of 1918, when both the German and Allied armies suddenly advanced dozens of miles across France after years of stalemate in the trenches. According to the Venn diagram of polls on both issues, if you’re over fifty, white, male, vote Republican, didn’t get past high school, and live in a rural area of Kansas or Kentucky, the chances are high that you’re not a bit happy about it.
If it sounds like Packer is gloating, he’s not, and he warns liberals to avoid that temptation, noting that “the wheel of history never stops turning, and no majority is permanent.”