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Kornacki: GOP could come around on marriage equality

After spending the day at NYU’s law school hashing out marriage equality with Ted Olson, the ultra-conservative former Bush administration Solicitor General

After spending the day at NYU’s law school hashing out marriage equality with Ted Olson, the ultra-conservative former Bush administration Solicitor General and gay rights advocate, Rachel Maddow continued the discussion on Friday’s The Rachel Maddow Show with Salon Senior Writer and co-host of The Cycle Steve Kornacki.

Maddow pointed out the seeming irony that Olson is playing the part of Joe Biden in Paul Ryan’s debate prep, considering their stark difference in opinion on this huge social issue. Perhaps it’s fitting, considering the conundrum facing the Republican Party as their politics struggle to catch up with public opinion. 54% of Americans now support marriage equality for gays, while 40-42% oppose it.

Pro-gay marriage ballot initiatives in Maine, Washington, Maryland, are all expected to pass in November. In Minnesota, the polling is almost dead even.

“Marriage equality so far has a really terrible record at the ballot box, but this year there is reason to believe that it might be different,” Maddow said. “What does that do to the Republican Party’s politics on this issue?”

Kornacki replied that the confidence of the pro-equality advocates is well placed, since Republican opposition is being overwhelmed by support from Democrats and independents:

 “Outside the Republican party, this is basically a settled issue. So what you’re seeing now, is when you put it in a blue state – Maine, clearly a blue state, Washington, clearly a blue state, Maryland, clearly a blue state – the odds are very good this thing’s going to pass comfortably. Minnesota we think of as a blue state, but as it gets closer to the presidential level it gets closer…a lot more social conservatives there, so it’s not surprising to me that it’s a little closer in Minnesota. But I think we’re at the point where if it goes on the ballot in a blue state, it passes. If it goes on the ballot in a swing state, it could pass, it might not pass. But then you still have, if its on the ballot in Kentucky or Mississippi or a Republican-heavy place like that, you’re a long way away from there, a real long way.” 

Maddow asked if individuals like Ted Olson can have an impact on the Republican Party’s views and actually move them in a more progressive direction. Olson will fight for federal equal marriage rights if the Supreme Court decides to hear the case.

Kornacki said yes, but that it would take a real leader, one who could influence the Evangelical community, as half the party identifies as Evangelical Christians.

“When you’re talking about the Republican Party, there’s going to come a day, at some point, I think in both of our lifetimes— though it might be years from now— when the Republican Party is going to come around on this issue. It’s just where society is heading," he said.

During Olson's conversation with Maddow, Olson argued that engaging in conversation with the opposition can go a long way:  

"Don't understate the possibility that dialogue and talking about the issues makes a difference. The tides are changing. Attitudes are changing. And the way to change those attitudes is dialogue... and to talk to people about fundamental rights. The way to deal with Republicans, in my opinion, is to say 'We are the party of Abraham Lincoln. Let's live up to that. [Let's talk about] decency, privacy, and respect.'"