The Politicization of Gay Marriage
The Politicization of Gay Marriage
By Ian Linker
President Obama recently announced in an interview on ABC that he personally supports gay marriage. It’s really no surprise, is it? Obama’s actions as President have left no doubt about his views on the subject. Since he has been President, the Department of Justice has stopped enforcing the Clinton-era-Defense-of-Marriage law and Obama has ended the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy. Then why the sudden urge to publicly announce his “personal” views? Well, the Vice President’s recent statement announcing his comfort with gay marriage before the President’s announcement may have forced the President’s hand from a timing perspective. But – as 67% of Americans in a new CBS poll agree -this was a deeply political calculation in an election year, albeit one Obama probably would have liked to make closer to the election – thank you, Mr. Biden. Some pundits in the mainstream media are calling Obama’s announcement risky. They say it could potentially energize his base, which given Obama’s recent fundraising may have happened, and youths, but alienate more conservative Democrats in swing states such as North Carolina, which the day before the President’s announcement voted to ban gay marriage, and were so crucial to the President’s victory in 2008.
But there is something else that motivated Obama. By talking social policy, the President forced his Republican opponent, Governor Mitt Romney, and Republicans running in races around the country to do the same. (Indeed, Governor Romney felt compelled following the President’s announcement to remind the American people that he is unequivocally against gay marriage and, taking the issue one step further, is against civil unions that give the same benefits as marriage.)
President Obama has a good reason for shifting the focus to social issues. Polls show Americans overwhelmingly disapprove of the way Obama is handling the economy and believe Governor Romney would do a better job handling the economy. Why? There’s no great mystery there. The federal government has incurred more debt in the first three and a quarter years of the Obama administration than the first 232 years of our nation’s history combined. The economy is growing at a barely mediocre 2.2% annualized rate. Unemployment remains higher at 8.1% than Obama said it ever would be if Congress passed his nearly $800 billion so-called stimulus initiative and millions more have simply left the job market. Gas prices are too high, though they have dropped in recent weeks. Social Security and Medicare are in worse trouble than previously realized. And, “it is George Bush’s fault” is simply not resonating with voters like it did when Obama ran in 2008.
Governor Romney is ahead of the President in some polls and has run a so-far successful general election campaign critical of the President’s economic stewardship. Romney is making this a close race because he has so far managed to keep to the issue most important to the American people, especially independent voters – the economy. If Obama knocks Romney off message and the media, complicit in the plot, pepper the Governor with questions about gay marriage, and other social issues, Romney loses focus and Obama increases his re-election odds.
Romney and other Republicans must resist the urge, however, to debate social issues. As important as they are, social issues will not win this election. “It’s the economy stupid” is as true today as it was when Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign effectively used those words so many years ago. Republicans must constantly emphasize to the American people that they have a proven plan to cut and control spending, balance the budget, and grow the economy and create jobs through tax and regulatory reform. They also must emphasize to the American people that they have a plan to save the entitlement programs for future generations and that they have the courage to push their plans regardless of the political costs. This is the message Republicans must send if they want to keep the President on the defensive throughout the campaign and retake the White House this November.
Obama’s political decision to announce he is for gay marriage must not distract us. There is far too much at stake.
Ian Linker is an attorney and a former Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from New Jersey.
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