Political issues follow a simple priority.
When our security is threatened we will address that foremost. If necessary we will raise taxes, incur debt or whatever we need to do to protect out nation. While we need to look ahead to security issues in order to be prepared to address them when they are released upon us, the voters will tend to overlook the cost of weak security until action such as 911 wakes us up from the slumber.
When we feel relatively secure we will focus more on the economy and economic prosperity. While there may be very different opinions on the means at least the ends will take priority in the voters’ minds. A strong economy is essential to be able to withstand security shocks, but it will take a major security event to make the economy a less essential political issue.
The social and cultural issues will take a higher priority when we feel secure and prosperous. Gay marriage, voting rights, and precepts of social justice will be more important in the voters mind when the first two become less important. The great advance in civil rights and feminism happened after WW II and during the economic boom of the 50’s and 60’s. The Cold War seemed like less of existential threat until our young in Vietnam started coming back in body bags and then Viet Nam was the dominant political issue.
Voters may sacrifice their preference on social issues when security and economic issues are current causes of concern. Claims of racism, sexism, and the war on women may make great news fodder but I gather than in the real world these issues are far less of a concern.
Women make a majority of college graduates and are well represented in the high paid professions of law, medicine and accounting. Blacks are represented in the highest levels of government and increasingly in the 1%. (Oprah, Dr Dre, Tyler Perry) The problem of race has been supplanted by the problems of the poor and the uneducated regardless of ethnicity.
We should be happy when we are able to focus on social issues, but I would propose that these would be bother less of a perceived problem and more important to the voters if Security and the economy were in better hands.