The President came out in favor of same-sex marriage today during an interview on ABC.
His stance was measured and deliberate. “[A]t a certain point I’ve just concluded that, for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.”
The response from detractors has been immediate. Even the pro-same-sex-marriage Log Cabin Republicans found room to disagree with the President for his timing and motivation.
Obama isn’t going out on a limb when it comes to same-sex marriage. The polls often show most Americans are in favor of it. All studies suggest the issue is certainly trending in that direction at an amazing speed, even when the poll results show the population more evenly divided. When you take out older voters the issue is a no-brainer. As Obama himself said today, while trying hard to portray himself as a man with evolving opinions, this is largely a generational shift:
You know when I go to college campuses, sometimes I talk to college Republicans who think that I have terrible policies on the economy, on foreign policy, but are very clear that when it comes to same-sex equality or, you know, sexual orientation, that they believe in equality. They are much more comfortable with it. You know, Malia and Sasha, they have friends whose parents are same-sex couples. There have been times where Michelle and I have been sitting around the dinner table and we’re talking about their friends and their parents and Malia and Sasha, it wouldn’t dawn on them that somehow their friends’ parents would be treated differently. It doesn’t make sense to them and, frankly, that’s the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective.
When it comes down to it, Obama isn’t pandering to the LGBT vote or even to the Left. A majority of voters approve of same-sex marriage. He’s pandering to the white, straight, moderates who make that statistic true.
Of course, in the realm of electoral politics the issue seems to be much more hotly contested than it is with average voters. By announcing his “change in perspective” in the late spring before the November election, Obama disarms his political shift in the political arena by letting it settle into voters minds and benefit from their general attitude of acceptance.
It also reanimates and reinvigorates support for him among moderate whites. The anti-same sex marriage backlash Obama has inspired–a stance that average voters see as steeped in old ways of thinking and hate–makes your moderate pro-same-sex marriage stance feel like a political movement. It makes you into a person with a cause. And that moves you to the ballot box in November.
Look at this screen capture of the top ranking comments from younger voters on Reddit responding to the President:
[If you click on the image it should open larger.]
The lesson here is simple: the Democrats are playing it safe but doing so in a way that makes it seem like they are taking risks based on principle and movement passions.
If only those white, straight, moderate voters thought of Mexicans as more than their unfortunate wage slaves. Maybe then Obama would also stop deporting us.