But it is also a reflection of the growing obsolescence of traditional Republican wedge issues in state after state. For a younger generation of voters, the old right-wing nostrums about the “sanctity of life” and the “sanctity of marriage” have lost their power, revealed as intrusions on human freedom. Democrats “did win the culture war,” Alex Castellanos, a Republican strategist, admitted to The New York Times recently.
[. . .]
One of the most telling signs of the cultural change is the number of Republicans who are bucking conservative activists and trying to soft-pedal or even retreat from their ideology.
I don't know if the war is really over -- such things tend to wax and wane. But I do think it's true that it was once the liberals who were cowed into silence and now it's conservatives, and that it has to do mostly with a perceived shift in public opinion. When Republicans like Mitch Daniels called for a moratorium on social issues, it wasn't just because they felt the economic ones were more important. It's also because they believed they were suddenly on the losing side of the argument.
It's too bad that the abortion and gay marriage issues are being lumped together as "Republican wedge issues," because they're really two very different things. Whatever you feel about the morality of gay marriage, it is a decision made by two consenting adults -- if you think they're damning themselves to hell, you have to at least admit they're not dragging anybody else along with them. Abortion, on the other hand, involves a living entity (whatever you choose to call it) that does not have a say in the matter. It is quite possible (trust me, I know) to be very latitudinarian about gay marriage and have strong fellings against abortion.
Oh, and that "particularly among young people" thing they keep throwing out is utter crap. People change their minds as they grow older and experience more of real life. They might still believe some of the things they did when they were younger and they might not believe others. One of the things that change (usually) as they grow older is an increasing willingness to listen to facts and weigh the evidence on issues.