the president and gay marriage – first thoughts

I’m reluctant to comment on President Obama’s tack towards gay marriage today. There is already a sheaf of writing out there, much of it very good. (The Dish is an excellent place to start – you can read a lot there about both the morality and the politics of the President’s statement.)

But at first blush, I’m vaguely disappointed and more than vaguely worried. Disappointed because it’s hard for me to interpret this as anything else but a political calculation – not that the President saw it as a winning issue, but because Vice President Biden’s comments of the weekend made it much more difficult for Obama to go forward as ‘evolving.’ Also, he’s got money problems – the GOP has what looks more and more like unlimited funding – and this helps Obama with donors with individual deep pockets. Also, also, today’s interview makes the obvious even more so – Obama didn’t support gay marriage before today because it could have hurt him in swing states and among certain groups of voters.

Worried because his original political calculation is still right, I think. It will hurt. When you look at the map, it doesn’t matter that the country as a whole is moving toward support of gay marriage.  A Presidential race is a collection of states, and the states where President Obama is likely to pick up support because of the interview are states he would have won anyway, while he takes a step back in swing states he carried in 2008, but where the Republicans have done well since. The step back is two-fold: Obama may have cut into his black and Hispanic support. He has undoubtedly done what Mitt Romney couldn’t – fire up the Republican base. It’s early, of course, but we may look back on today as the day President Obama lost the election.

All that said, were I gay I would look past why he said it, how he said it and how it’s going to play out. The only important thing today would be that he said it, that the President of The United States said I am not wrong or perverse or damaged, that I am simply a citizen, just like everyone else.

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