Barack Obama seized imagination by declaring his support for gay marriage. The move was bold and inspirational, reinstating faith in the person whose administration has appeared lackluster at best, disappointing at other times.
It was also a shrewd political move. Brushing aside the enthusiasm that surrounds it, it’s evident that Obama chose his topic and timing very carefully. This is a political gambit leading up to the presidential election, and it’s a smart one.
The move serves two purposes. First, it fuels and inspires the liberal base, letting them consolidate around an important and contentious issue. There’s plenty to cheer for, signaling not only coming change, but also a rise in Democratic leadership. If voters were unsure of Obama’s mettle these past three years, finding him a little wishy-washy and weak, he has finally put his money where his mouth is, showing everyone that he’s not afraid to take on issues too hot to handle. The message is firm and clear, toward his supporters and opponents alike, opening up the field for the coming presidential election.
Secondly, it throws a spanner in the Republican works. With the GOP race pretty much over and the candidate all but ratified, Obama has struck at his opponent where it hurts most: social issues.
Mitt Romney is strong on the economy but not on social issues. He has hardened his talk on abortion, drugs, and other republican darling topics over the past few months in order to secure votes from the more hardcore divisions of his party, but he’s clearly not comfortable carrying any of them. His record as Massachusetts governor, where he introduced a healthcare plan similar to Obama’s, still haunts him, and so does his religion, Mormonism, which is not regarded warmly by many Americans. So he’s not eager to talk much about anything that may expose his true colors, sidestepping social issues wherever he can afford to.
Which is why Obama’s open support for gay marriage is an ingenious move on his part. The timing is right. He waited for the Republican race to be decided, saw who his opposition was, and struck him right on the kneecap.
Romney is going to have a tough time positioning himself on this one. If he attacks the issue, he alienates the moderates, losing the center, which is key to winning the election. Stay put, and he infuriates his party’s grassroots, reinforcing the impression many Republicans have of him: that he’s a moderate disguised as a conservative. Either way, Romney stands to lose.
And Obama has everything to gain. The president has stepped up to the plate and seized the initiative, proving to be a sharp, wily politician.
If only there were more of this shine in the Obama presidency. A little more of ‘Obama the campaigner’ in the administration and things would have been a little better for America. The country wouldn’t be so politically disintegrated. Congress, where consensus has become synonymous to a bad joke lately, might not have been so bitterly divided, and neither would everyday people, in everyday life, where Main Street clashes with Wall Street and the Neocon Tea Party rages on. For now, as things stand, under Obama’s presidency, America is polarized, confused, and mad, getting madder as the election nears.
As far as the president’s support for gay marriage, it ‘s a sensible move in and of itself, and overdue. It’s about basic human rights. Puritanical as the US may be, some things can’t be neglected for long. Like universal suffrage, women’s rights, civil rights and other hot potatoes of their day, this is an item that needs catching and holding on to, and it’s about time someone did.
All in all, gay people have much to be joyous about. They have both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney to thank for that. Had Romney not prevailed in the Republican race, Obama might not have chosen to champion this specific cause. He would’ve probably gone with something that would be crippling to his given opponent.
If Newt Gingrich were the guy to beat, for example, Obama might have come out in support of single moms (Gingrich has been married three times and is vulnerable around issues that deal with divorce). If Ron Paul had prevailed, Obama might have focused on marijuana, removing it from Schedule 1 of controlled substances (Paul supports the decriminalization of marijuana, and would have a hard time opposing the measure – he would most likely endorse it – thereby enraging many Republican voters). And if Rick Santorum had been the GOP’s choice fo candidate, Obama might have come out in support of colonic irrigation… (To understand what this has anything to do with Santorum and why it would hurt him, you have to bear in mind that the word ‘Santorum’ has acquired a new meaning over the years. It stands for something sexually explicit, which, ironically enough, is related to what some would call “open-minded sexual intercourse”. Click here to find out what this is, but be warned, it’s graphic!)
Check mate! Well, not quite, but getting there.
See you on the campaign trail where Romney will make his next move.