The sound you hear is Jay Carney breathing the world’s deepest sigh of relief.
For him, the squirming and hedging and sweating are over. The President is on record supporting same-sex marriage. There is an answer now to the question.
Yes, it’s Obama’s personal view, and yes, he’s said he supported same-sex marriage before, and then wandered afield. But when you’re in any other political office, you can take positions that might play out differently when you’re being asked about the question in the presidential arena. Ask Mitt Romney about health care. Or anything.
Of course I think Obama did the right thing morally. But for those of us who enjoy the chess of politics, I also think it was exquisite strategy. First, after the loss in North Carolina, Obama’s campaign had a convention to worry about. In that place and with that political context, any fudging on the bottom line would have been unacceptable to a lot of conventioneers at best, and could have led to some very ugly protests inside and/or outside the convention hall.
That’s taken care of now. The only possible protests left will come from the motley, disgruntled religious types, who aren’t part of Obama’s base, and don’t figure into a winning electoral strategy for him. Those protests, if they happen, now come under the heading of So What?
And that leads to the bigger point. This is fine politics because it boxes Romney in with the worst part of his party. Karl Rove poisoned the well on this issue, and now Obama is making Romney drink, and drink deeply.
Which Romney promptly did, and from a bigger cup than Obama could have hoped for. Romney said he is not only opposed to same-sex marriage, but to any legal recognition of same-sex couples that approaches marriage equality — just what the worst part of North Carolina gave a big thumbs-up to.
How can Romney now appeal to the 2/3 of Americans who can no longer abide the complete exclusion of same-sex couples and their families from the law? What he is stuck with are the politically tone-deaf, like the American Family Association and the Catholic League, who are so blinded by full marriage equality that they can’t see. . . um, straight. Their hysteria increases in direct proportion to the growing support for full marriage equality, and for the middle ground of civil unions. They are now 2/3 of the way to Spinal Tap’s famous eleven.
There are, of course, a lot of other issues, and an eternity until the election; lots of things are possible. But on this issue, Obama just made his life a whole lot easier, and Romney’s a lot more difficult. Obama has made it clear that he wants no part of the religious right’s intolerance on sexual orientation. That’s a political strategy, and it’s a defensible moral stance. But most of all, it’s got to be nice not to have to pretend you need the kind of votes that Bryan Fischer and the sadly devolved offspring of Billy Graham have to offer.