Many have seen the future of the Republican Party, and it poses a serious challenge for the GOP's old guard, especially in states such as Alabama.

The future is people such as Stephanie Petelos, a University of Alabama student, president of the state's College Republican Federation and, by virtue of that office, a member of the state's Republican steering committee.

She remains on the steering committee after a failed attempt to remove her for not following the party line opposing gay marriage, which she appeared to endorse in a June interview.

Petelos acknowledged the obvious: Younger voters, including young Republicans, are much more likely to support gay marriage. Like it or not, it's a generational sea change, and one that already is having an impact throughout the country, as a slim majority of Americans favors marriage equality.

Petelos' tacit admission of the electoral realities facing the Republican Party was too much for some in the state GOP's leadership, who increasingly tolerate no dissent, whether on immigration or abortion or marriage. Some, led by state Republican Executive Committee member Bonnie Sachs, of Double Springs, sought to rewrite the state party's bylaws to enforce rigid adherence to the national GOP platform.

Fortunately, in a rare display for the Alabama GOP, wiser heads prevailed, and the Executive Committee decided not to change its bylaws, allowing free speech and at least some measure of diversity within the party leadership to live on.

The committee then reaffirmed its opposition to gay marriage, just so no one gets the wrong idea.

This was a preliminary skirmish. Other battles within the GOP are coming, and gay marriage is one of them as young Republicans, who increasingly take more libertarian attitudes toward social issues, rise through the party's ranks.

This could be an especially painful process for Republicans in the South, as Petelos' experience demonstrates. Republicans could well be on their way to replaying the same sort of regional split that rocked the Democratic Party in the 1960s.

The civil rights movement split Democrats and ultimately turned a Democratic "solid South" into a Republican solid South. Like the Democrats before them, Republicans now risk becoming a regional party, dominating the South but nearly extinct elsewhere.

We know what the future looks like. The question is, will the GOP embrace it or run away?

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(1) comment

Donald Edwards

Well, here we go again with another attack on the Republican party. I agree that the republicans party is being challenged due to the liberal, immoral, incompetent leadership in Washington. It is time to stand up against this nonsense!!

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