Obama’s “Coming Out” : President Supports Gay Marriage
President Barack Obama made history last Wednesday, becoming the first sitting U.S. President to publicly support gay marriage. The President had come under increasing pressure to support the liberal cause following Vice President Joe Biden throwing his support behind the issue which sharply divides the American society, with recent polls indicating that little over 50% of Americans support marriage equality. Said Obama in an interview with ABC News, “I’ve been going through an evolution on this issue. I’ve always been adamant that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally. At a certain point, I just concluded that for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think that same sex couples should be allowed to get married.”
Now that the President has thrown his support behind the homosexual community and its quest for marriage equality, what, if any, will be the political fall out from his endorsement? I sincerely hope no one reads Obama’s endorsement as more than a politically strategic ploy to strengthen his quest for re-election. This is pure politics, very little policy.
I believe it was unwise of Obama to make the announcement so many months in advance of the election date. This affords the Republican party an opportunity to galvanise real opposition to the incumbent Democrat. In fact, I am of the view that the Tea Party, which led the charge which saw Democrats losing the House of Representatives in 2010, will resurface with a vengeance. The Democrats could potentially lose control of the Senate come November.
Many evangelical Republicans were not excited about Romney as the party’s presumptive nominee, due to his shifting attitudes on social issues such as abortion. The health care law he signed into law as Governor of Massachusetts still rubs many conservatives the wrong way, as it is seen as the blue print for Obama’s federal health care reform which Republicans have styled “Obama care”. By adopting a position so contrary to Romney’s own stated position, Obama has all but ensured that the Republican base will be fired up come November. Some 46% of Republican voters out rightly reject gay marriage and or civil unions and domestic partnerships. In that sense, Obama might have dug himself into a hole. Had he waited until it was closer to election day, the Republicans may not have had enough time to mobilise their base and Obama might stand a better chance.
The situation is further complicated because while Obama may have pleased the homosexual community, he may have alienated pockets of the African American community, which still views gay marriage as a taboo; this is especially true of black southern baptists. Obama will need to carry the African American vote as he did in 2008, when he polled 95% of that community, if he has any hope of keeping his job at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. This is also true of pockets of the Hispanic community. While it is unlikely that African Americans will support Romney by any wide margin, could Obama’s endorsement cause them to stay home on election day? I believe it is possible.
Still, the strategy must not be missed. The Obama campaign by now has realised that the economic argument is not their candidate’s strong point. Unemployment is still above 8%, the job numbers are not as encouraging as expected, with less than 200,00 jobs added last month, and more and more Americans are surviving on food stamps. This election will almost certainly be a referendum on the state of the economy and for Obama to have a fighting chance, he has to take the battle to Romney on the social front as well – enter gay marriage, enter the Republican “war on women”, enter immigration, enter The Affordable Care Act or “Obama Care” etc. These are all issues Obama feels he has the edge over Romney on. It is therefore in the President’s best interest to talk these things up, as he attempts to mobilise and fire up the base of the Democratic party, while hoping to attract Independents to join him. Will it work? We will have to wait and see.
At this point, it appears to me that Democrats are taking an awful lot for granted. There seems to be this unholy certainty that Obama will be re-elected and that has resulted in complacency among Democrats. Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage has considerably raised the stakes in this election, it comes right down the middle, with polarised sides. One thing is certain, those opposed to gay marriage have always appeared more passionate than those for it. Therefore Obama needs to ensure his supporters get the vote out, complacency is dangerous. Romney must not be underestimated.
Finally, there has been much talk that Obama has now secured the “gay vote” and so he’s assured victory. Has anyone ever done a study of this gay vote? And if so, is it sufficient to sway a presidential election? Even more important, will granting individuals the right to marry who the love adversely affect anyone else? Have we seen any drastic moral decline in countries or states that have allowed gay marriage or civil unions? We have not. So what really is the issue with gay marriage? And why is it anybody else’s business, except the two individuals involved? Food for thought.
*Poll numbers obtained from CNN/ORC Polls.