Of principles, politics and Obama’s gay gamble
May 20, 2012 by Minabere Ibelema 7 Comments
When the United States President Barack Obama stunned the world by declaring his support for same-sex marriage, he explained that it was a matter of principle. He believes in equality for all people and that extending marriage rights to gays was an extension of that principle.
But there’s more to it.
The announcement was stunning, not so much for what Obama said but when he said it.
That Obama has been sympathetic to the gay community has been quite evident. Among other things, he saw to it that the Pentagon lifted the don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy that forbade gay military personnel from making public their homosexuality.
And his Justice Department refrained from representing the Federal Government in cases related to the Defence of Marriage Act, a law that forbade the recognition of same-sex marriages by federal departments and agencies.
For an administration to blatantly refuse to enforce a law that was duly passed by Congress and signed by a previous President is a rather serious matter. Though it is not without precedent, in some circumstances it could be impeachable.
Therefore,as a matter of law and politics, that stance was even more consequential than Obama’s declaration of support for same-sex marriage.
What was truly stunning then was Obama’s timing. Earlier in his political career, he had unequivocally opposed same-sex marriage. Then, as President, he had responded to a related question by saying that his personal view on the matter was still evolving.
That was, of course, the kind of answer that politicians give on issues of which they fear the consequences irrespective of the side they took. So, with about six months to go before the general elections, why would Obama risk it all by taking a stance now?
Well, it is a matter of blackmail and being backed into the wall. First, the latter.
When Vice-President Joseph Biden was asked recently about same-sex marriage, he said he was “comfortable” with it. It was inevitable that Obama would be called upon again to comment on the matter.
Obama was in a political quandary. He couldn’t afford to equivocate on a matter about which his vice-president had given a pointed response. He had to declare.
And then, there was the dimension of blackmail. No, not by any gay lover. Actually, the trending news before Obama’s same-sex marriage declaration had been about the release of love letters he wrote to his girlfriend in his earlier years.
The blackmail reportedly came from Hollywood, where some big wigs were planning a major campaign fundraiser for Obama. In case you are wondering the connection, Hollywood is a gay haven, perhaps second only to San Francisco.
According to the reports, some among the fundraisers pressured Obama to take a stand on same-sex marriage. The announcement, according to this thesis, was to appease that group.
Obama can use all the fund-raising help he can get. According to Bloomberg financial services, “The price tag on the 2012 presidential election is set to be the biggest ever.” That is higher than the combined price tag of more than $1bn for the 2008 election.
Even without a challenger in the primaries, Obama’s campaign has already expended more than $172m of the close to $197m it has raised so far. Yet the general elections campaign is merely in the warm-up stage.
Obama is set to duel it out with his enormously wealthy opponent, Mitt Romney. It is a circumstance in which even the most subtle blackmail can get it done.
Even then, the declaration of support for same-sex marriage is quite a gamble. If Obama were running for office anywhere in the world outside of Europe and North America, he is probably finished. Certainly, his stock has tumbled greatly in Nigeria.
Might the declaration cost Obama the election or help him? The best permutation at this time is, it all depends. Here’s what the political chessboard looks like.
Recent opinion polls show that a slight majority of Americans say that same sex marriage should be allowed.
The people who are most put off by Obama’s support of same-sex marriage are religious conservatives. But they vote solidly Republican, anyway. So, Obama has few votes to lose among them.
However, Obama’s staunchest supporters — blacks and Hispanics — are also overwhelmingly against same-sex marriage. Yet, he needs a heavy turnout by them — all voting predominantly for him — to win the election.
Obama knows this too well. His very next action after the announcement was to call the pastors of America’s largest and most influential black churches to explain himself. Predictably, he didn’t get many alleluias from them.
In fact, black pastors were already besieged with phone calls, texts and emails from dumbfounded members of their congregations seeking guidance. Many pastors had to address the issue in prayer meetings and Sunday sermons, with most disapproving but urging understanding.
“I believe the statement the president made and his decision was made in good faith. I am sure because the president is a good man,” Bishop Timothy Clark, of the First Church of God in Columbus, Ohio, told his congregation, according to USA Today.
In any case, African Americans’ support for Obama is so overwhelming and strong that it is unlikely that he will lose a lot of their votes in November. As would be predicted by the theory of cognitive dissonance, they are likely to find ways to rationalise away Obama’s decision.
The same may not be true of Hispanics, however. They are predominantly Catholic and, therefore, more conservative than African Americans in their view of social matters.
Independent voters, whose swings almost always determine the outcomes of presidential election, are another concern for Obama. Among them are people who are still sitting on the fence and for whom Obama’s position may be the tipping factor to the other side.
But the common wisdom is that independent voters tend to be swayed more by economic matters than social issues.
What is certain about all this is that Obama is an astute politician. He must have done the permutations and liked how the numbers turned out.
Echewe ozo May 20, 2012 at 7:37 am
If obama’s fada is a gay could he ve born obama d u.s president of today,when a man meets a woman during ovulation conception takes place nd dat is hw our mother’s bore us all,so dis unnatural method abi na shit una wan born,no bi shit fil d anus.to support stupidity or stupid gay is to make ve human extinction,b wise obama.
James May 20, 2012 at 9:00 am
A confused society indeed.
michael May 20, 2012 at 10:46 am
AGBEKE AYANTUGA May 22, 2012 at 12:28 pm
WHITEMAIL! (INSTEAD OF BLACK MAIL!) -THE WHITE HOMOSEXUAL SLAVEMASTER HAS SPOKEN! BLACKS ARE STILL SLAVES IN AMERIKKKA AND MUST OBEY! -SO OBAMA MUST DO AS THE SLAVEMASTER TOLD HIM! NO FREEDOM FOR THE BLACK MAN IN AMERIKKKA!