Why same sex marriage has Democratic politicians in look-the-other-way mode

Veteran politician Jim McDermott repeatedly said that he was happy with Obama's endorsement of gay marriage, but suggested it would be good to "move on" to other issues. McDermott has been around long enough to read an electoral map.
President Barack Obama visits with a crowd in Nevada

President Barack Obama visits with a crowd in Nevada Pete Souza/White House

When the liberal base of the Democratic Party gets excited, so do the media.  Witness their reaction when the president told ABC’s Robin Roberts that he favored marriage equality for same sex couples.

“Bold” and “risky,” proclaimed The Seattle Times. Roberts herself said she was “getting chills again.” The current Newsweek has Obama on its cover with a rainbow colored halo, eyes on the horizon looking slightly heavenward. Headline: “The First Gay President."

President Obama's announcement was played as the end point after he previously opposed same sex marriage, then later acknowledged that his view was “evolving.” Perhaps “revolving” would be a better word.

As a candidate for the Illinois statehouse from a hip liberal district in Chicago 16 years ago, he supported same sex unions and promised to oppose anyone who didn’t. But when he ran statewide for the U.S. Senate eight years later, he said that he opposed same-sex unions because of his Christian faith, a position reiterated during his run for president. Now he’s gone full circle.

What the president did not do was argue that marriage equality was a constitutional right, which lawyers Ted Olson and David Boies are contending in the federal courts right now. Instead, he says it belongs in the political arena, at the state level, where it was rejected by 22 percentage points in North Carolina just last week.

Still, it is the first time a president said he supported same sex couples tying the knot with a matrimonial pledge. The party base is euphoric, media coverage has been gushing and checkbooks are opening around the country.

But what about the voters? 

I had an interesting conversation on KOMO Newsradio with Jim McDermott about this last week. The elder statesman of Seattle liberalism praised the president for his courage, lauded him for moving the issue forward ... then said it was time to “move on” to other issues. He said this twice.

Newsweek clearly didn’t get the memo. What does the wise old liberal know that Tina Brown does not? 

Perhaps how to read an electoral map. 

On Monday morning, The Hill newspaper reported, Vulnerable Democratic Senators balk at Obama’s Gay Marriage Endorsement.”   Montana freshman John Tester declined to climb aboard the bandwagon. Ditto for Missouri’s Claire McCaskill and Bob Casey, who dispatched Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania six years ago, along with Bill Nelson in Florida. Joe Manchin in West Virginia not only balked at supporting marriage equality, he’s even said he’s undecided about voting for Obama in November.  

All of these senators, save Manchin, are in swing states. All are states with laws or constitutional amendments outlawing same sex marriage. In fact, same sex marriage has been on the ballot in more than 30 states. It has lost by popular vote every time in states red, blue and purple.    

No wonder ol’ Jim wants to “move on.” Once you’ve scooped up your money in Seattle and Hollywood, and at Rickey Martin’s LGBT fundraiser earlier this week, there isn’t much to gain by dwelling on the issue, and plenty to lose. McDermott knows what many enthusiasts for marriage equality forget: The more the issue is discussed and debated in the political arena, the less popular it becomes.  In no state where it was on the ballot did support for it grow during the election campaign.

But this sudden jolt of front page attention did more than make gay marriage a front burner issue (at least for now).  Newsweek and company just solved a major problem for Mitt Romney. The one element of the Republican Party that Romney needs and was having trouble rallying was the social conservatives. Romney to them was like Reagan was to Big Business back in 1980, always a third or fourth backup. Social conservatives preferred Santorum or Gingrich, and before them, Michelle Bachman, Herman Cain, and even Rick Perry.


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Comments:

Posted Thu, May 17, 7:09 a.m. Inappropriate

"Obama’s announcement, and the media’s cheerleading just drove these activists into Romney’s camp."

I think it's a little bit of silly analysis to think that just because they weren't enthusiastic about Romney, that they weren't already Romney voters. The real swing isn't going to be in conservatives to Romney, it's going to be in young independents who have any sympathy to marriage equality.

Ryan

Posted Thu, May 17, 7:37 a.m. Inappropriate

Ryan writes: "The real swing isn't going to be in conservatives to Romney, it's going to be in young independents who have any sympathy to marriage equality."


Who is left to swing? Anyone who puts same-sex marriage high on their checklist of crucial national issues this November was not going to vote for Ronmey in any event. Obama has just made official what everyone knew all along. He's now out of the proverbial closet.

dbreneman

Posted Thu, May 17, 9:35 a.m. Inappropriate

John Carlson writes as if he's surprised that some democrats in conservative districts don't support marriage equality. This is politics 001 really. You have to be in sync with your local constituents.

This is one huge difference between the democratic party and the republican party. Conservative republicans like Jim DeMint and the tea partiers are cleansing their party of elected republicans who aren't pure enough. Just like the Republican party is really becoming just a party of elected millionaire lobbyists, their approach is to make every elected Republican official like a McDonald's hamburger, uniform across the nation and controlled by the corporate lords.

Posted Thu, May 17, 1:18 p.m. Inappropriate

Wrong again, Mr. Carlson. Americans in general find "marriage equality" and "gender identification" to be a non-issue. Younger folks even more so.

If anything, the President gained support over his declaration. The bleating from right wing blowhards like yourself is the ONLY reason this non-issue is still an issue.

Posted Thu, May 17, 2:58 p.m. Inappropriate

>> Now he’s gone full circle.
That's the only way this is going to hurt Obama. The trend towards support of marriage is happening very fast. North Carolina could take that vote all over again six months from now and find a much closer race. But Obama changing his position (or evolving his position) can easily hurt him. I can see the adds now ("First you were for gay marriage, then you were against it, now you are for it. Which is it, Mr. President?"). This will help Romney against similar flip-flop charges.

RossB

Posted Thu, May 17, 10:08 p.m. Inappropriate

Romney's problem isn't that he flip flops. He's simply a liar. He lies about everything. He said GM should have been run through bankruptcy. Well, that was obviously an option but the 'free market' wanted nothing to do with GM. But Romney just keeps lying about it and saying it was.

And if GM were put through bankruptcy, the first thing they would have done is wipe out the pensions of all of the GM workers. That's about as inhuman as you can get, wiping out the pensions of people in their 50s and 60s. Of course, for a guy who ran blind teachers into doors, taking a worker's pension is no big deal.

Posted Fri, May 18, 11:55 a.m. Inappropriate

Is it any less inhuman to wipe out the investments of people who owned GM stock?

dbreneman

Posted Sun, May 20, 6:51 p.m. Inappropriate

I rest my case. Your statement is exactly the danger of the Republican party. You believe that wiping out the pension of a middle class laborer who worked at GM for 20-30 years is no big deal.

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