It wasn’t long ago that a Republican politician (or candidate) could easily make political hay by trotting out one of three familiar themes: guns, gays or marijuana.  

Those days are over. 

Gone is the clamor to get anti-gay constitutional amendments on the ballot. Rarely do we see a candidate brandish anti-pot views to boast their law-and-order bona fides.  And since the tragedy of the Sandy Hook massacre, even the gun rights argument seems toned down quite a few notches recently.  

I would argue that’s a good thing.  Especially since this election is supposedly all about jobs and the economy. 


Each passing poll seems to reflect a more gay-friendly state and nation, with 64% of New Jerseyans and 58% of Americans registering support for gay marriage in recent surveys.  A year ago the New Jersey legislature passed a marriage equality bill which Chris Christie promptly vetoed.  There’s still a chance to veto the Governor’s veto, but given his party’s fealty, an override of anything feels like a long shot, which won’t keep pro-equality folks from trying.  If nothing else, an override push in Trenton will reveal just how far removed we are from the days when the GOP dined out really hard on anti-gay propaganda, especially during election season. 


Cannabis is quickly gaining favor nationwide, as well.  Acceptance goes beyond medical use (nearly 3 in 4 support) and decriminalization to full-on marijuana legalization, a sentiment shared by a majority of Americans for the first time in a major poll.  Just last week the Newark Star Ledger printed this deliciously libertine, pro-legalization editorial which goes beyond the current decrim debate playing out in Trenton.  Governor Christie has already said he’d veto any decriminalization bill that made it to his desk, so the likelihood of him taking the next step and legalizing cannabis is slim to none.

Despite the growing number of Republicans who support decriminalization and/or legalization, most NO votes on any marijuana bill in Trenton (medical, decrim or full-on legalization) have come from the GOP.  These bills have mostly passed on Democratic support with a small but growing handful of Republicans providing the winning margin.  

The same voting pattern applies to gay rights.  And plenty of politicians will still vote the status quo on gay rights and cannabis prohibition. But fewer of them are willing to boast about it.  In fact, when it comes to marriage and cannabis, the GOP’s erstwhile strident tone has been replaced with…..crickets. 


Just yesterday Governor Christie’s Attorney General released his overdue gun safety task force report, commissioned shortly after the Sandy Hook tragedy.  The report is 83 pages of  recommendations focusing on things like video games and mental health with nary a word on high-capacity magazine clips or the lethality of, you know, actual assault weapons.  In short, it was a timidly worded, weak-toned song-and-dance that kicks the can on the whole gun safety discussion.  

Since when does a Republican not have a decisive (if not hard-ass pro-gun) argument?  Or — as with gay rights and recreational pot use — are these arguments simply running out of steam with mainstream America?

I welcome the day when guns, gays and marijuana aren’t cast in partisan terms. Because out there in the real world, most people don’t see these issues as political at all.  But so long as lawmakers tend to vote party line on these issues, it’s kinda hard not to see this through a partisan lens.


Until the GOP can sort out its myriad culture war demons, Democrats in New Jersey would be wise to talk about NOTHING other than social issues: guns, gays and pot. But also immigration and women’s reproductive rights.  

They’ll tell you it’s all about jobs and the economy, but that’s a distraction predicated on an assumption that each side wants a different outcome.  Which is a mistake.  Because when it comes to the jobs and the economy, both sides want lower unemployment, lower property taxes and robust growth. The only difference is how do we get there.

On culture war stuff, both sides clearly seek different outcomes.  So it’s on these issues where the contrast between the two parties is most stark.  

The GOP was never shy about bludgeoning  lefties on social issues when it was the “in” thing to do not too terribly long ago. 

On Culture War issues, we now have a mandate to bludgeon back.

Jay Lassiter is America’s original state house blogger.  One of the more colorful personalities in Trenton, most of Jay’s waking hours are spent pushing a left-wing agenda.  He currently serves as legislative director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana of NJ and the League of Humane Voters.  He’s also on the board of Garden State Equality

Jay’s proudest moment remains edging Oprah Winfrey on PolitickerNJ’s list of 100 most influential people in NJ politics.   HAS DECADES OF GORGING ON PRO-GUN, ANTI-GAY, ANTI-POT RHETORIC GIVEN THE GOP HEARTBURN?