Green Room

Why Team Obama dodges gay rights issues

posted at 10:38 am on May 9, 2012 by

The right has had a lot of fun watching Pres. Obama, his administration, and his campaign contorting over the issue of same sex marriage. But there is a serious message beneath the laughter. The most powerful man in the world does not knowingly make a fool of himself (esp. against his presumed ideological leaning on the issue) without reason. He does not pass up big campaign donations by refusing to sign an executive order barring same sex discrimination by federal contractors without reason.

Yesterday, I opined in passing that Obama was backing off in hopes of keeping North Carolina in the mix of battleground states where the GOP has to spend money. Others have suggested Obama’s concerns are bigger than that. The Hotline’s Josh Kraushaar suggested Obama’s gay rights kabuki is more about the Rust Belt than North Carolina and Virginia, asserting that Obama has a much better shot at winning white votes in the former region than the latter. Kraushaar tweeted this shows Obama is still playing for Ohio and Pennsylvania, casting doubt on the VA/NC model. He believes it shows that Obama’s path to reelection remains challenging, because it relies on getting votes from working-class whites who oppose same sex marriage.

If Kraushaar is correct, he was understating Obama’s plight. That is the lesson of the otherwise funny candidacy of federal inmate Keith Judd, who racked up an impressive 41 percent of the vote against Obama in the West Virginia Democratic primary. The sort of Jacksonian, bitter clingers voting ABO in that state are also found in southwest Virginia, Western Pennsylvania and southern Ohio.

Moreover, Sean Trende suspects Obama’s reluctance to back SSM relates to the African-American vote and the importance of black churches in getting to his 2008 turnout numbers. Trende suggests that if Blacks voted in composition and number at pre-2008 levels, Obama has little room for error. Given that Black voters overwhelmingly backed the SSM ban on the ballot in North Carolina, despite Obama’s token opposition and a vigorous campaign against it by the NAACP, Trende is likely on target here. Obama likely needs very strong Black turnout in the urban centers of states like Pennsylvania and Ohio (and perhaps Virginia and North Carolina) to balance projected losses among rural and working-class white voters in these states.

In one sense, this is not news. But it gives needed perspective to the propaganda establishment outlets like TIME churn out about the confidence of Team Obama supposedly has in facing Mitt Romney. The media can write for months about how many paths to victory Obama has, and how few Romney has. But Team Obama is not campaigning that way. They are projecting confidence, while campaigning as though November will be a nail-biter. Team Romney would do well to follow that example.

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Moreover, Sean Trende suspects Obama’s reluctance to back SSM relates to the African-American vote and the importance of black churches in getting to his 2008 turnout numbers.

Dumb question: why are the Democrats worried about this? The same Black voters who vote conservatively on family issues (when they have a chance to do so) routinely give 95% or more support to a plainly gay-friendly Democratic Party all across the country. Where is the evidence that Obama seriously risks the Black vote by any position he takes, or any statement he makes, short of openly joining the Klan?

I think it really is true that Obama could lose blue collar white voters over possible support for SSM, but on the other hand they’re probably the ones he’s lost already.

jwolf on May 9, 2012 at 11:15 AM

Related, from the Onion: “Obama Blasts Obama’s Evasive Stance on Gay Marriage

Mr. Prodigy on May 9, 2012 at 12:00 PM

jwolf on May 9, 2012 at 11:15 AM

It’s not that there would be tsunami of African-Amercian voters for Mitt Romney come November if Obama was to come out in support of gay marriage before then. It’s that a higher percentage than in 2008 just wouldn’t show up to vote on Nov. 6, or that in order to get them to show up, Team Obama would have to gin up the racist hyperbole against Romney to the point that it would start repelling the white moderate swing voters Obama also needs to win re-election.

jon1979 on May 9, 2012 at 12:49 PM