What a week! President Obama announced (formally and to no surprise) that he is running for reelection. What may have been clear for months was made official this past weekend. This was not newsworthy nor were his rallies which (though Drudge, Breitbart.com, Fox all drubbed as “undersold”) which were full at 4x the capacity of any GOP or Romney rally. What was newsworthy was that the week began with Vice President Biden announcing that he supported full marriage equality. Then Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education, said the same thing unequivocally on Morning Joe. But, the silence was deafening from the one that matters, President Obama.
But that all changed today. In the most sweeping of news, unexpected by many to happen today, President Obama has evolved. He now supports full marriage equality on the Federal level though did, appropriately I think, equivocate to allow states to evolve at their own pace. What happened and why?
Realistically, this has to have been Obama’s position for the long haul. But, as President, he has a duty to represent all of the people and he didn’t feel the country was ready for the President (as opposed to the person Obama) to take this position. Thus, he has been publicly reticent to state what many felt was his private position of comfort about marriage. For me, this is another reason why I support Mr. Obama. He takes his time and moves when the time is right. He calls the shots but does not fire improvidently. Why now? I think it is because of the vote in North Carolina yesterday. The passing of the despicable North Carolina Amendment was a bridge to far and merged the evolving Mr. Obama with the evolved President Obama. He could not let this vote stand morally or politically.
From a moral perspective, the vote in North Carolina was another example of why a President sometimes has to take a strong position on a controversial measure that might not make everyone happy. President Obama saw the narrative coming out of North Carolina as one showing that the country, the Democrats, and President Obama are timid for the right reason. Most of the middle in the country aren’t ready for gay marriage. So, politically, the obvious choice was to sit still as the President has for some time and let the election happen. Keep the middle happy (face it, where are we going…to W. Mitt Romney, I don’t think so) and complacent and hope for electoral votes from N.C. and other states. But sometimes the moral must trump the political and sometimes the two actually might work in concert. President Obama is quite smart and politically astute. He saw the non-obvious and determined now was the moral time–refocus the compass even if it means hurting his reelect in places like NC. But, realistically, by being bold at exactly this moment, President Obama reminds us being right sometimes is the smart play. He takes a position that has just been shown as politically not in favor (a 20 percent margin win in North Carolina) in a state he probably needs in November and takes a strong position against the vote. It was the right way to somewhat fix the wrong done by the North Carolina electorate and shows boldness even though it may mean that he does not win the electoral vote of his convention state. It is also politically smart because it stops a firestorm in the LGBT community against NC as host of the convention and shows political courage at a moment when the easy play was to let things lie.
The press made a lot of whether the Vice President “stepped in it” with his comments. I don’t think he did. I think that the VP (a man I have come to admire more and more) took a stand that reflected his conscience and was in concert with that of Mr. Obama, though not yet of President Obama and helped the President Obama determine to act now. They make an admirable team and the LGBT community owes both a great deal of thanks.
And, we all owe the LGBT community a debt of gratitude for never letting the President off the hook. In 2007, then candidate Obama told a small group of lawyers in San Francisco (I was present) on Presidents Day that he was in conflict on this issue. He wasn’t there yet but we, as a community of progressives and especially those in the LGBT community, needed to push him. He couldn’t promise it would get him to agree on marriage equality but it might and that was our job. We did just that–it hasn’t always been pretty but it has been effective.
I feel a lot better as an American today that our President, Vice-President and soon the entire Democratic Party are going to take the right road in this Human Rights battle even in the fact of proof, the North Carolina vote, that the road may be hard. President Obama is a Profile in Courage even though he gets there, often, as with Afghanistan and Bin Laden, after a great deal of deliberation. Thank goodness–exactly what I want and the Country needs in a President.