The past 24 hours have seen some remarkable developments.
First Senator Lugar, a “moderate” Republican, lost to a Tea Party hard liner by something like 20 points.
Second, North Carolina passed a state constitutional amendment outlawing both gay marriage and civil unions by 61 to 39%.
Third, the Colorado legislature adjourned without passing a civil union bill after a raucous session involving extreme filibustering by the Republicans.
Fourth, President Obama finally came out and endorsed gay marriage.
Wasn’t this election supposed to be all about the economy? Weren’t social issues supposed to be off the table? Has the November election been transformed into a plebiscite on gay marriage? What’s happening?
Here are some thoughts:
Civil Unions are off the Table
The fact that both Colorado and North Carolina rejected civil unions means that civil unions as a possible compromise everyone could live with are off the table. Now it’s gay marriage or nothing. Civil unions were always just a stepping stone anyway. In fact the courts which have mandated gay marriage have cited the existence of civil union laws as proof that withholding the honorable name “marriage” had no basis other than impermissible animus. Some compromise. Additionally, the recent dust up over the HHS mandate that Church related entities would have to pay for abortion pills has made people realize that the real goal of the abortion and gay rights movements is to silence the Church and force her into the smallest space possible. In fact he whole gay rights/gay marriage agenda can be interpreted as just a ploy to attack the Church.
The Republican Base is Energized
The results in Indiana, Colorado, and North Carolina, are all manifestations of an energized Republican base. Meanwhile, the Democratic base is in the doldrums. Even the President’s support of gay marriage is being criticized for coming the day after the North Carolina vote.
The Black Church is in a Tough Spot
Even with black unemployment going up much worse than for the country as a whole, support for Obama has been unwavering. But blacks are more anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage than whites by a good measure. They already have to deal with the tension between their Christian faith and Democratic positions on these social issues. They usually point to Democratic social spending as Christ-like concern for the poor and oppressed as justification. But gay marriage is different. Signing off on gay marriage may be too much for many members of the black clergy. They especially chafe at this being sold as “just like civil rights for blacks.” Obama’s nominal opposition to gay marriage had given them a fig leaf, but now that’s gone. Some may even be realizing that their loyalty has been taken for granted by the Democratic Party which is only interested in catering to rich white homosexuals. Blacks will not vote Republican, but they may just sit this one out.
Obama’s Shrinking Base
Obama apparently decided to write off the independent voters and appeal to the Democratic base a while ago with his class warfare strategy. Now he has been forced to choose between blacks and gays. He seems to have calculated that gay money is variable but that the black vote is solid. Time will tell. But it sure looks like Obama is playing harder and harder to a smaller and smaller base. Meanwhile it does not look like the economy is going to help him at all.
Barak Obama ran as a center-left uniter but has governed as a left-left divider. In our system that is a formula for a backlash. It’s beginning to look like Rush Limbaugh’s prediction of a Republican landslide in November may come to pass.