Democrats wonder: How should we manage Obama's gay-marriage charade at the convention?

He’s willing to make a “gutsy call” to send Navy SEALs into Pakistan after the guy who knocked down the World Trade Center, but ask him to end the transparent farce in which he pretends to be opposed to gay marriage so as not to alienate socially conservative Democrats? Before an election? C’mon.

Even Zeus isn’t that gutsy.

Interviews with more than a dozen party officials and activists reveal that despite widespread and growing support for marriage equality among Americans, the issue is still viewed as politically sensitive in the top ranks of the Democratic Party. While many high-profile figures have publicly advocated for including strong language in the platform, the Obama campaign and the allied Democratic National Committee are searching for ways to split the difference: showing support for equality but stopping short of a full-fledged endorsement…

“The DNC folks — their political shop — have been calling [gay-rights activists] and really pressuring them,” said Paul Yandura, a political and fundraising strategist at the firm Scott+Yandura who led gay and lesbian outreach on both Bill Clinton and Al Gore’s presidential campaigns. “Look, I’m not going to claim that they’re pressuring them not to be for it, but this ‘let’s wait’ thing is always what happens in politics — let’s wait so they can find a way to slow this down and maybe get a good reason not to do it.”…

This year’s [platform], according to sources familiar with early conversations, will likely emphasize the accomplishments made under the president, such as a refusal to defend DOMA, the decision to grant same-sex couples visitation rights in hospitals, and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. As for the specific issue of marriage equality, no formal meetings have taken place. Yet several variations of new language are already being envisioned, ranging from text that would underscore the need for inclusive employment, non-discrimination legislation and safer schools, to language that would emphasize the benefits of relationships regardless of sexuality, to a platform that championed marriage equality outside the religious realm…

“I find it impossible to believe that this presidential election will be completed without Barack Obama coming out strongly for marriage equality and Mitt Romney coming out strongly against it,” said Hilary Rosen, a longtime party strategist who is deeply involved in LGBT causes. “I think it would be hard for him to not say it. I think the whole thing is awkward for them, because I think everybody in the leadership of that campaign is totally comfortable with the idea of marriage equality.”

Yeah, I found it impossible to believe that O’s entire first term would pass without a serious effort to reform entitlements given the fiscal quicksand we’re in, but here we are. What would it take for him to endorse legalizing gay marriage forthrightly before the election? Well, for starters, he’d need to be worried about the youth vote. This is an issue that could get them to perk up if it looks like turnout is sagging; the question is whether it’ll cost him more votes in older demographics, where turnout is almost always higher, than it’ll earn him in younger ones. If he was emphatically federalist about his position — he supports SSM but insists on a state’s right to decide for itself — that would cushion the blow to social conservatives, but I don’t know how he could take that stance given his opposition to Prop 8 in California.

Another way to twist his arm would be if wealthy liberals threatened to cut off donations unless he changed his mind. They’d have real leverage if they tried: Your must-read of the day is Karl Rove’s piece at the Journal explaining in vivid detail why The One’s cash haul so far isn’t as impressive as it looks. They’ve got a sprawling organization to feed and a lot less grassroots green to feed it with, so if liberals started cutting him off en masse unless he ends the charade on gay marriage, he might have no choice. Of course, there’s almost no chance that’ll happen given the realities of partisan politics. The White House counterargument will be that Romney, however moderate he is deep down, will be beholden to the conservative base once elected and opposing gay marriage is an easy way to throw them a bone. Forced to choose between a guy who agrees with them but is momentarily pretending not to for electoral advantage and a guy who agrees with whatever he needs to in order to get elected, SSM supporters might as well go with door number one. There’s at least a chance that he’ll side with them on principle.

Exit question: Is O lying low on this issue because he thinks the Supreme Court will bail him out sooner rather than later?

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Jazz Shaw 10:01 AM on June 04, 2023