A couple of really good pieces are out this week which capture a lot of my own thoughts on the issue of why, precisely, Barack Obama hasn’t come out in support of marriage equality. At the same time, they discuss the tendency among some to take Obama’s “evolving support” to then suggest that he is secretly homophobic or something, that he isn’t any kind of ally to the LGBT, that we should withhold support, and several other variations on that theme. The original piece comes from Alex Pareene at Salon, and he talks about how some liberals out there seem to perceive Obama, the president:
Liberals have a tendency (much more pronounced in 2007 and 2008 but still evident) to imagine that Barack Obama is just as liberal as them. Because he’s obviously smart, because he dabbled with genuine leftism in his youth, and because he opposed Iraq, liberals think he’s actually Paul Krugman, forced by electoral circumstance (or cowardice) to talk and govern like George H.W. Bush. Coincidentally, this is also Newt Gingrich and Stanley Kurtz’s thesis. It’s silly when they say he’s hiding his socialism behind a veneer of centrism and it’s silly when liberals say he’s doing the same.
This has always been confusing to me when I talk with certain other liberals. Obviously Fox News has been peddling the line since 2007 that Obama is a secret socialist [Kenyan usurper, etc...], that he’s somehow the most radically leftist president we’ve ever had, but that’s a Fox News line. Liberals shouldn’t be parroting it.
But on one issue it’s pretty obvious that Barack Obama is simply hiding his dangerous radicalism: same-sex marriage. He famously signed a questionnaire affirming his support for same-sex marriage in 1996. But he apparently thought that he couldn’t remain so liberal if he wanted to be a national political figure. By 2008 he opposed gay marriage, favoring the more reasonable-sounding civil unions instead. He did still oppose DOMA, though, and he plainly understood why gay couples need legal recognition.
Indeed. And Pareene goes on to explain why it’s really sort of stupid at this point for Obama to keep trying to straddle the line. The ones who are going to be bothered by his support for marriage equality ALREADY think he is some kind of Libislamofascistosexual, and they’re not persuadable voters. Screw them. Meanwhile, the country now supports marriage equality in every credible poll, and it would be a boon to a lot of the liberal base if he just got it over with already, stated his support and moved on.
Whatever their calculations — and this is why I don’t really get worked up on this issue — it’s all ridiculous politics, and we are closer than ever, due to moves made by the administration as well as myriad court cases now working their way through the system, as well as the legal precedent being established, to full equality. The administration may not be moving as quickly as public opinion on the matter, or as quickly as we all would like, but, unlike any GOP presidential candidate on offer, he’s certainly not hindering the process.
Commenting on Pareene’s piece, Amanda Marcotte picks up the ball and addresses the other thing that some excitable liberals have been doing in response to Obama’s “evolving” inaction on marriage equality:
The only thing that Alex is missing is that there’s another liberal tendency that is probably just as irritating: being addicted to feeling betrayed to the point of concocting conspiracy theories that posit that all Democratic leaders are secretly Republicans. It’s black-and-white thinking, for sure, but it’s widespread. These liberals will seek any evidence they can find that Democrat X is exactly like the most far right nutter out there, even though the evidence tends to suggest that said Democrat is a fence-straddling centrist who is too afraid of his shadow to ever commit to a point of view, which is completely unlike far right Republican assholes. While the vast majority of people I spoke to at Netroots had a nuanced view of Obama, I did run across in the past few days, online and offline, people who were pushing the “Obama is a member of the religous right” line. [...] And, to my dismay and surprise, a Facebook friend insisted that there was no difference between Michele Bachmann’s point of view on gay marriage and Obama’s view. The method used to determine this was to find the most reasonable-sounding thing Bachmann has said (her garbled and clearly facetious claim during the GOP debate that she wants to leave it to the states—which also requires ignoring that she wants a constitutional ban at the same time) and then to round up Obama’s weaseling statements while ignoring his actual opposition to DOMA and his appointment of Supreme Court judges who are likely to vote against it.
I’m reminded of certain people who, when things simply weren’t moving quickly enough for them, actually took to calling Obama the “bigot-in-chief.” It fell flat among sane people then, and it falls flat now. Liberals, in theory, are much, much better at recognizing nuance than conservatives are. The best among us are, to be sure. But there’s another kind of liberal, which Amanda sums up one sentence later:
I can’t actually believe that people believe this stuff when they say it. I think there’s an emotional reward to claiming that Obama hates the gays just as much as Bachmann, because it makes things nice and simple.
Uh huh, and you know what that is? Wingnut-quality analysis of current events.
To be clear, I see absolutely no reason for Obama to drag his feet on this issue anymore. Neither do Amanda and Pareene. But at the same time, sheesh.
Yeah, he supports marriage equality, regardless of whether he states it before the election or after the election. And New York may finally take the plunge into equality, which, as Pareene says, would make a fine time for Obama to go ahead and say so. Regardless of what happens between now and the election, though, no, Obama is not a secret homophobe, yes, his administration has done more for the LGBT community than any president before, and yes, full, real equality is just around the bend and the current president isn’t going to do a damn thing to stop it.
The current slate of Republican candidates, as well as the leadership of the Republican party in Congress, though, have signaled that they’re going to be dead-enders until their dying breaths on this issue, and that if you give them power, they’ll do everything they can to stop the march of equality. Oh, and they’ll destroy a bunch of other things along the way, just for good measure.