I’m sometimes surprised (though I probably shouldn’t be) by how much traction social conservative issues can get in solidly blue states and among traditionally blue demographics. For instance, last night California voters adopted an amendment to their state constitution defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, in effect overturning that hugely controversial and shoddily reasoned ruling from the California Supreme Court earlier this year. If the exit polls are correct (a big, big if), blacks and latinos provided the margin of victory for the measure, while a majority of whites voted against it. The measure passed despite the fact that supporters were massively outspent in the closing days of the campaign by a consortium of heavy hitters like Google.
On the merits of such marriage provisions, I’m ambivalent: I like the fact that they check the illegitimate policy ambitions that certain courts try to conceal under the guise of interpreting constitutional provisions, but I think amendments that reserve the issue of the definition of marriage to state legislatures are preferable to outright constitutional bans. (Indeed, as a policy matter I’d like to see governments gradually get out of the marriage business altogether, but that’s another post). But the political success of such amendments across states with very different political dispositions shows the continuing appeal of some of those social wedge issues.