It is a good thing that the president finally came around to what is the only correct position, ethically and constitutionally, on marriage equality. I was always frustrated by his (and his political teams) calculation that they had to pander to the folks who want to deprive gay citizens of rights that any straight teen takes for granted.
Still there was a strong political argument that could be made that in 2008, being a black Democrat with a Islamic middle name didn’t need another issue to spin up the radical reactionaries of the Republican Party. It seems to me that this is what has changed, and as he often does the president is ready to try from some political jujitsu.
Without doubt there this move is going to take some of the pressure off from his base, especially with younger voters who in the vast majority don’t understand why it is that the Religious Right has its collective undies in a twist over the issue of letting people who love each other stand up in front of their community and declare that they are going to take the leap and start a new family, with all of the responsibilities and rights that this implies.
There can also be no doubt that this move is going to cost him with some voters, but I don’t think with as many as the asshats at NOM and other anti-marriage equality groups think.
Here’s the reason, for those who voted for the president but would switch their vote based on this kind of thing (what must be a super small subset in any case) there is already a huge black mark on the president’s record in this regard; namely the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
What it is more likely to do is really fire up the forces of intolerance. Normally that should be considered a problem, as the Republican base is likely to be, at best, lukewarm to turn out for Willard “Mitt” Romney this fall. Firing them up with a culture war issue should seem like a net negative in getting to the 50% plus 1 in enough states to win the Electoral College.
Where the political jujitsu comes in is that getting the radical reactionaries fired up means that they are likely to go from bat-shit crazy to barking at the moon in 3.2 seconds. We have seen time and again when these kinds of groups get into full swing their ugly, bigoted inner-self’s come out, in spades.
The fact is they can say all kinds of hateful shit, but that stuff does not appeal as much to the independent voters and sure as hell is a turn off for most of the youth vote. The calculation has to be that they will over step and then wind up paying the cost in votes that the president can get as opposed to the number of votes that he would never get that would be turned out by a slightly more energized Republican base.
It is even worse because by laying down a marker at this point on this issue, there is another clear differentiator between Romney and Obama. There are tons of these and they are critically important for the president’s re-election prospect.
If the election is a referendum on the economy the president could be in big, big trouble. It was this kind of thinking that was prevalent in 2010 and cost the Democrats the House of Representatives in such large numbers. It is the Romney campaigns intent to be as vague as possible on the issues that he would pursue if elected, and keep the focus on the meme that the fact that the economy is not going great guns is the presidents fault (it is a total up-is-down, black-is-white lie, but that is what the Republicans are reduced to this cycle).
However, if the president can make the case that there is a real difference between the candidates and that the choice of a reactionary Right controlled Romney is unacceptable to most folks, then he can win re-election, even with an anemic economic recovery.
This is where this kind of political move really can shine. Romney has already had to reiterate his opposition to marriage equality. This, to torture a metaphor, un-shakes the Etch-E-Sketch, it reminds voters of the kind of toxic bullshit that was on display during the Republican Primary process.
It also sets the Romney campaign up to have to defend or repudiate the statements of folks like NOM and their merry crowd of assholes, like Rev. Patrick “beat the crap out of your transgendered child” Wooden.
All of this can be used to keep the Romney campaign from gaining or keeping the initiative in the campaign. As long as you have your opponent reacting to you, you are winning on points and are more likely to win in at the ballot box.
There is risk here, there can be no doubt. The fact that we can’t seem to win a fight to keep from enshrining bigotry and hate in state constitutions at the ballot box shows that there are lot of folks who will and do vote for this issue. But as dangerous as it is to throw another log on the fire of their hate it would be even more dangerous not to do everything we can to fire up our own base.
Every time the president gives younger voters a reason to come out and support him, that is a gain for his chances to be re-elected. Is this change of heart a cynical political calculation or is it genuine? We’ll never know, but it hardly matters at this point. The gauntlet has been thrown down, the president has taken a position that he will not be able to weasel out of and it is a good thing for our nation that we have a leader who wants all citizens to have the same rights, regardless of what the forces of hate and intolerance would have.
The floor is yours.