Friday, October 24, 2008

More on Obama and Prop 8

We know our friends down at Red Yellow Blue pretty well, so we're not awfully surprised that they have a different take on what Obama's role should be on Prop 8:
Obama's quietness on Prop 8 does not mean he is not against it; it is merely political common sense. It is in keeping with his campaign: consider that on BarackObama.com, under the Issues flyout menu, there are 25 choices of general themes, from Civil Rights to Women, with a miscellaneous "Additional Issues" tab. Hate crimes and employment discrimation are two sub-issues under "Civil Rights" where sexual orientation is mentioned, but GLBT does not merit its own tab.
To clear up a (relatively minor) technical point, I would note that the Obama website certainly deals with LGBT issues by name, just not in the "issues" section. You have to click "LGBT" under the "people" tab, which brings you to a page with video, issue statements, and a side-by-side comparison with John McCain. The same is true for "Republicans," "People of Faith," and "Small Business" owners. Surely Red Yellow Blue does not believe that Obama is strategically marginalizing any of those groups.

Obama has come out publicly against Prop 8, and has dispatched Michelle as a quasi-ambassador on this and other LGBT concerns. But he hasn't spoken much about it.

More from Red Yellow Blue:
The myopic view I'm referring is one in which GLBT rights trump all other issues, period. This view requires a Democratic candidate to campaign out-and-out for gay rights, even if it means losing conservative voters in critical states. Sullivan's outrage against Obama on Prop 8 is equivalent to feminists' protests against the Augusta National Golf Club. By which I mean it focuses on what is technically a civil rights issue in the absence of urgency or global context. Feminists should concede that women's admission to golf is not the most pressing issue facing women in the U.S., let alone facing their sisters in Africa and Asia.
This is, to put it delicately, nonsense. First of all, neither Sullivan nor we have expressed anything close to "outrage" on the issue. We've simply requested that Obama record a 30 second spot to play in a few targeted markets close to election day in a state he has absolutely no chance of losing. The reason is simple math: likely black voters in California currently favor Prop 8 by a margin of 58-38. If he has any sway with this community (and it's not far-fetched to believe he does), an Obama ad could very well hold down this margin significantly, and thus defeat Prop 8.

Imagine an Obama spot that went something like this:
Hi, I'm Barack Obama. I wanted to take a moment to talk to you about Proposition 8. It's a divisive constitutional amendment here in California designed to distract from the vital issues we face in this election. I know there are disagreements on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that all people have the right to live lives free of discrimination, and not to have their rights taken away from them by right-wing extremists. I hope you'll vote for me this November 4th, and when you do, please, vote against Prop 8.
This is the ad that is somehow going to make Ohio factory workers concerned about layoffs, Colorado moms concerned about McCain's their kids' health care, and Virginia coal miners concerned about gas prices, suddenly switch gears and vote for the guy who believes "the fundamentals of our economy are strong" and has a new economic plan every twenty-four hours?

In order for that to happen, a hearty combination of the following things would have to be in place: (1) persuadable voters in OH, VA, FL, etc. with televisions tuned into California media markets; (2) a Republican candidate willing to demagogue the issue, or even discuss it; (3) a loathing of gays among those persuadable voters that's so intense, they would readily ignore every other issue and vote against a candidate who took any position mildly favorable to gay rights on a consitutional scheme in another state.

Needless to say, none of the above is even remotely true. If this is the lesson Red Yellow Blue took from 2004, they are drastically over-reading the stats. Karl Rove's strategy of ensuring constitutional refurenda in 11 states was moderately successful at increasing turnout among evangelicals, but none of this had anything to do with where John Kerry stood on the issue. (And, of course, he strongly opposed gay marriage, at least publicly.) These people voted for the bans en route to voting for Bush, not the other way around. There is no evidence that any undecided or originally pro-Kerry voter switched over the marriage issue. If this had occurred, Bush would have taken Michigan and Oregon, where gay marriage bans bulldozed to victory and Kerry had healthy victories.

Finally, I detect a pervasive disdain for the whole Prop 8 fight in Red Yellow Blue's post. I don't believe they quite grasp the import of this fight. Thousands of couples in California are already married. The Supreme Court of California has bestowed what most legal scholars agree is a fundamental constitutional right on a long-persecuted minority. This amendment, for the first time in all of American history, would be an affirmation of that right by the populace of the largest state in the union. That affirmation now stands a 50-50 chance. (By the way, if the "myopia" Red Yellow Blue posits really existed, and if the LGBT community was truly politically tone-deaf, we'd be wasting a lot more time and energy on the likely-to-pass bans in Arizona and Florida.) A small nod from a man with a lot of political capital (especially in California, and especially among blacks) is not at all too much to ask.

Cowering in fear whenever Republicans bring up a controversial issue is what led directly to Democratic defeats in 2000, 2002, and 2004. I have no doubt that Bob Shrum and Mark Penn would advise Obama against making my ad--- but that's about as good a reason I can think of to do it.

1 comment:

Rashad said...

Please see my detailed response at: http://red-yellow-blue-2008.blogspot.com/2008/10/re-more-on-obama-and-prop-8.html