It wasn’t enough for President Obama to be the first Black president or the first President to pass comprehensive healthcare reform.
He had to go and establish another milestone by becoming the first sitting US president to express the view that gay people should be allowed to marry.
Perhaps he was caught up in the fury of activity that launched when Vice President Joe Biden told a Sunday talk show he was “absolutely comfortable” with gay marriage – which led to an avalanche of calls from progressives, liberals and gay-rights advocates for the president to hurry up and “evolve” on the issue himself. Then, add Tuesday’s North Carolina primary elections which included a referendum on “same sex unions” in the form of an amendment defining marriage between a man and a woman. Combine all of that with 1 million Democratic primary voters selecting “no preference” over the president in a very key battleground state and his losing 20% of the vote in West Virginia to a Texas prisoner.
All the ingredients in an overboiling pot were there. Thus, it was not lost on many that the 11th hour call to summon ABC’s Good Morning America host Robin Roberts, an African American veteran broadcaster and journalist and former ESPN commentator, was a necessary call. “By giving the interview to an African American and Christian — two groups whose opposition to same-sex marriage has been significant — the White House may have been aiming to make Obama’s announcement more palatable to groups that differ with his support for gay marriage,” Politico wrote yesterday.
Anxious politicos and political junkies of all persuasions prepped themselves, organizations floated drafts embracing or decrying the president should he actually go through with it. He could no longer hesitate as some assumed – he would have eventually stated his support, but not before securing his reelection.
Independents and many in his Black base could mutiny.
It was not the right time, he confessed to Roberts during the interview, saying he had actually decided to embrace his stance openly before the 2012 elections but was waiting to do it his way.
Listening to the audio one could certainly here the cautiousness and nervousness as he made what some are calling one of his boldest announcements on social issues to date.
The response among African Americans at water coolers in office buildings, at the Barber and Beauty shops and on social media platforms has been passionate, varied, numerous … and, even, tepid with some.
However, a survey of responses and comments on sites frequented by church-going Black Christians reveal plenty had a tough time processing the news. Those that are staunch progressives embraced the decision saying they were proud. The National Black Justice Coalition, the nation’s leading Black LGBT civil rights organization, released a statement.
“It is an honor to witness our President take such a strong stand in support of gay and lesbian couples across the country,” executive Director and CEO Sharon Lettman-Hicks said.
No response from the Congressional Black Caucus, which usually issues swift endorsement pressers after the President makes a move it approves of. It’s unclear whether such a letter would be forthcoming soon. Maybe it’s still caucusing on the issue.
Perhaps the delay is because some CBC constituents are calling the president’s announcement “ political suicide” or quoting bible verses as to why supporting gay marriage is in error. Others professed that while they were not happy with him coming out – pardon the pun- they did understand that it was political calculus.
To make themselves feel better, several said they didn’t think he really believed that, but perhaps needed to say it to placate his gay base.
They may not want to read a report that during his 1996 race for the Illinois State Senate, Obama gave statements that expressed “unequivocal support for gay marriage. Or they may want to pay close attention to the statement the president released to donors recently saying he has “always believed that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally” but that he was “reluctant to use the term marriage because of the very powerful traditions it evokes” and that he “thought civil union laws that conferred legal rights upon gay and lesbian couples were a solution.”
That statement explains his “evolution” which included taking consideration of his married gay staff members and his daughters’ friends at school who have same-sex parents. “It wouldn’t dawn on them that their friends’ parents should be treated differently,” he adds.
Everything boils down to politics, some say. If anything, the early hours, weeks and days leading up to yesterday’s historic announcement has proven that an incumbent president in a failing economy running neck and neck with a Republican candidate who is struggling himself would have to ensure all of his base would have his back come November.
On talk radio and other platforms, progressives calling in said that before they were not even sure they were planning to vote for him. Now, not only will they vote for him, but they will actually work to keep him in office.
That doesn’t mean he hasn’t been getting criticism from gays, some floating their own version of conspiracy theories and questioning whether the support was genuine or a result of undue pressure. But, in the end, where else are they going to go? Vote for Mitt Romney?
History won’t speak of the circumstances and details of this historic moment. For now, there is always the risk of igniting conservative voters once lukewarm on Mitt Romney to come out and vote, too. It could be a case of cutting off the nose to spite the face should Mitt win and they have to endure life under a president who supports a national U.S. Constitutional amendment to define marriage between a man and woman.
Also, perhaps this was all a measured power play to get more mileage and passion from progressives to even the playing field a bit. Obviously, the opponents to his Obamacare law and conservatives are quickly rallying around Mitt Romney. Republican Super PACs outraise the Democratic ones ten to one, Roll Call reports. The President could have made one of the biggest risks of his presidency to date yesterday.
It will all be a Battle of the Base turnout in November for sure. Recent stats show that the youth, Hispanic and Black vote is on the downturn. But so is GOP turnout, the Bipartisan Policy Center released in a March 8, 2012 letter. Will they sit out the election on this issue? Will it matter? Time will tell.