Ever since I saw the Gallup poll showing a 12-point shift in the number of conservatives favoring allowing openly gay men and lesbians to serve in the military, I wondered what it was that caused such a significant change.
That shift in attitude took place in what was supposed to be a dark age for gay Americans. The older poll was taken showing 46% of conservatives opposing restrictions on gay people’s service the same month George W. Bush was winning reelection. The next poll was taken just four months after he left office.
Was it just the increasing tolerance of gay people in American society which accounted for this 26% jump in the number of American conservatives developing a more favorable attitude toward gay service members? Or were there other factors? Were there any prominent stories about the topic?
There was, to be sure, a lot of heat generated around the publication of Mary Cheney’s book. Hugh Hewitt had this charming and well-spoken lesbian on his show for a full hour. Maybe her exposure to Hugh’s conservative audience caused some of his listeners to reconsider their attitudes toward gay pepole. We will never really know whether Mary’s brief turn on the national stage accounts for the entire shift. Still, it must have played a role. When American conservatives learn that one of their heroes has embraced his openly lesbian daughter, that’s sure to register.
Mary Cheney may well be the most consequential Vice Presidential Progeny in American history.
And she’d rather be rock-climbing.