So, as you undoubtedly know, yesterday the president made news in an interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts and became the first president to ever express explicit support for same-sex marriage. You’ve probably seen this already, but it’s worth showing again:
It’s a big deal. As John Cole pointed out yesterday, the president had already compiled an
impressive amazing record for LGBT rights, a record which is far more important than a statement. But this statement is still getting a lot of attention, and it should.
My first reaction was simple satisfaction. I wasn’t ecstatic because frankly, the news isn’t going to make a big difference in my life at all. Obviously I wasn’t angry about it because I agree with the statement, and also because the news isn’t going to make a big difference in my life at all. But I see that a lot of people are angry about it, and as always that baffles me. My cousin sent me this picture and told me to post it:
My second reaction was to think of the electoral consequences of this decision, and whether it will help or hurt the president’s reelection chances. There is a common fallacy that pundits (and bloggers) make when they talk about politics and policy called the “Pundit’s Fallacy.” This is when you assume that if a leader would adopt whatever your preferred policy is, that it would benefit him/her politically. There’s an awful lot of that on TV and even more in the blogosphere and I try to avoid it when I can.
But in this case my initial thoughts was that this was a substantial risk for the president. On Tuesday North Carolina (where the president will accept the nomination of his party) voted 61-39 to amend their constitution to not only ban same-sex marriage, but civil unions as well. The president won North Carolina by less than one point in 2008, and the DNC has gone out on a limb to declare it a battleground state this year. Obviously the voters who showed up on Tuesday disagree with the president.
In fact, every time same-sex marriage has been put to a popular vote, it has lost. You can disagree with the president’s position on same-sex marriage, but I don’t see how you can portray it as anything but politically courageous.
Mitt Romney, who once tried to run for Senate by telling the people of Massachusetts that he would be better for LGBT rights than Ted Kennedy, has now etch-a-sketched himself into not only opposing same-sex marriage, but also opposing civil unions.
And Ed Gillespie says that same-sex marriage will be a “bright line” difference between President Obama and Governor Romney.
So apparently the Republicans have seen those North Carolina election results and would like more, please. They may be right; this may end up being a disaster for Democrats. But Congressman Barney Frank believes that nobody who was voting for President Obama is going to change their minds based on this issue. If you cared that much about gay marriage, then chances are, you were already not going to support the president. The question becomes whether this will motivate some conservatives who weren’t that enthused about Romney to vote when they might have stayed home otherwise. And that enthusiasm difference might not show up in polls.