There’s been a lot of pontificating punditry in the aftermath of the President’s admitting the obvious: that he supports marriage equality. The trend of administration policy on DADT, DOMA and all sorts of things have made this this the most pro-gay rights administration in history.
Some of my brothers and sisters on the left think this was done grudgingly but the mere fact that it was done at all is remarkable. Bill Clinton is the guy who signed DOMA into law when he was triangulating like a crazy monkey. And DADT was the bastard offspring of Clinton’s attempt to end the ban on gays in the military in 1993 without laying the groundwork for success. He assumed that Colin Powell, an African-American Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would support an anti-discrimination measure. He was wrong. That is one of the reasons President Obama has moved so cautiously on this issue.
I’m not certain how this will play out in the fall election and anyone who tells you otherwise is making shit up. Anti-marriage equality fever contributed to John Kerry’s loss to Bush in 2004 but there have been substantial advances in public attitudes toward LGBT folks since then. My hunch is that most of the people who will vote against Obama based on this decision would never have voted for him in the first place. Hell, the teanuts think he’s a Marxist who’s gonna take their guns away so they undoubtedly thought he was pro-gay marriage already.
The positives of the announcement are obvious: it will energize a somewhat ennervated Democratic base; especially younger voters. The President, however, will have to muster his formidable rhetorical skills to convince Latin and Black voters that this is something they should embrace and not oppose.As Linda Hirshman argued at Slate:
Where are the 48 percent ofnonwhite voters who oppose gay marriage? Where are almost all nonwhite voters? In the Democratic Party. Even if every single black Republican is anti-gay, there simply aren’t enough of them to account for all the black anti-gay voters. Therein lies the danger for a Democratic candidate supporting gay marriage: that voters otherwise disposed to him will not support him because of his stance on gay marriage.
And here is where Obama is different. If the black community doesn’t flood the polls, Obama will lose in November. But he’s the first black president of the United States. Black voters are sticky with Barack Obama in a way no white president could dream of. For whites, a white president is the natural order of things. For blacks, it was the miracle of Grant Park. Once the Iowa caucus happened, even Hillary Clinton, the wife of the “first black president,” could not stem the tide. As black houses went into foreclosure after 2008 and the unemployment rate went through the roof, Obama’s support among blacks stayed amazingly firm. As the election approaches, his support is at the same level as in 2008.
A simple thought experiment reveals the issue: Try to imagine Don King in black churches exhorting congregations to vote against Barack Obama over gay marriage. Not going to happen. In this way, the president was uniquely suited among Democratic politicians to advance the issue (just as Powell could have done in 1993).
Couldn’t have said it better myself, hence the long quote. As I said earlier, I’m not sure how this will play out but Obama has a secret weapon in 2012: Mitt Romney who is one of the worst Presidential candidates I have ever seen. He makes John Forbes Kerry look like another JFK as a campaigner and makes Al Gore look warm and fuzzy. As much as we would prefer otherwise, Presidential campaigns are largely about personality and this time Obama has the edge in that department. I’m just glad that the President gave skeptical lefties another reason to be *for* him and not just against Romney.
That’s all I got for you except for this marginally relevant musical selection from the Jayhawks: