Other TMV commentators have already discussed the fact that President Obama has announced his support for marriage equality. I thought I’d take a different tack on the subject, the issue of whether this was really the result of Obama being forced on the issue or part of a broader plan. I lean to the 2nd option.
As Politico has pointed out, Obama expressed support for marriage equality as far back as his first campaign for the Illinois State Senate in 1996. Indeed I don’t think many of us were surprised at his position, merely that he made it official.
There is the suggestion that VP Biden forced the move by his “blunder” during a Meet the Press interview, and certainly Biden has a history of blunders and foot in the mouth disease. But at the same time he has been in professional politics for 40 years and this was a pre-taped interview, not a spontaneous campaign event. My feeling is he knew just what he was saying.
Furthermore, even if Biden did make a blunder, the fact that two members of the cabinet also expressed support for marriage equality strongly suggests that this was a planned setup. They could have easily dodged the question, said it was not for them to say, etc. They’ve done so in the past and could have done so again.
And of course there is the timing, happening just a day after North Carolina voted in one of the most prejudiced anti-equality laws in the country, that hardly seems to be a happenstance.
So why would they put forward such a strategy now ?
I can think of several reasons.
First, they knew that it was going to be an issue in the campaign, not just the question of Obama’s views on equality but the fact that his private views and public positions seemed to differ. By getting things out now, they end that as an issue down the road.
Second, it gives energy to the bases, both the GLBT community and the left in general. Recent reports had suggested that fundraising by the Obama campaign were less than expected and this could perk up those contributions.
Finally, I think this formalizes a decision that has been building over the past few months regarding the official general election campaign strategy. One big question that had to be answered was whether they would try to expand on the 2008 strategy to branch into the states like North Carolina, Virginia and Indiana or if they would focus more on energizing the youth vote and the suburban vote.
Recent results in the South (including those last night in North Carolina where about 20% of Democrats bypassed Obama simply served to confirm that the latter strategy is more plausible, and this announcement plays into that.
In short those voters likely to abandon Obama over support for marriage equality have probably already done so and thus he does nothing but gain from those who were weakening on him over lack of support.
I could be wrong of course, and am sure some will say so here, but it seems to me the Obama campaign is too clever to have allowed this to happen by mistake.