Matt Yglesias asks what's so bad about nationalizing divisive cultural issues like abortion, gun control, and abortion.
Two terms of George W. Bush; that's what.
Progressives may think they benefit by nationalizing these issues, because national opinion polls show they would win on these issues.
The problem is that when an issue like this is nationalized, social conservatives are very motivated to vote in national elections, because it is the only legal outlet to make their vote count.
In the current legal environment, for someone like me whose first priority is meaningfully changing abortion policy, the only election that matters is the presidential election. Because abortion policy cannot change if Roe v Wade is not overturned, and Roe v. Wade will not be overturned if John Kerry is nominating the next two or three Supreme Court Justices.
Thus, the argument that for presidential elections at least, social conservatives should base their vote entirely on abortion is plausible. And some of us did. And we have seen the results.
By nationalizing these issues, progressives have helped create a political environment where their candidates for national office start with 40% of the vote highly motivated against them. This leaves them virtually no margin for error.
If they could convince themselves it's not such a big deal if some rectangular states ban partial birth abortion, they might be able to do some things that matter to people.
While I'm here I must take issue with MY's caricature of the social conservative position on same sex marriage. I don't think anyone believes or believed that all families would break up the day after the first same sex couple got married.
Our position, which has not been refuted by experience, is that same sex marriage is another step in eroding what marriage means. These steps have included cultural acceptance of contraception, no-fault divorce, and many other things. That we got our back up about this particular step may reveal that opposition may be motivated partly by antipathy for gays, but does not invalidate the premise.