I think we hit a watershed moment in President Obama's relations with the gay community last night. Yes, he has done several great things in terms of LGBT rights, from repealing "don't ask, don't tell" to having the federal government no longer defend DOMA in the courts. However, the events of the last week, culminating with last night's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in North Carolina, have altered the landscape, and now it's time to view our president's never-ending "evolution" on gay marriage differently.
Before I go any further, let me be clear: I don't like Mitt Romney. I wouldn't vote for Mitt Romney in a million years. Mitt Romney is no ally of the gay community. But I believe that in some cases, perhaps most importantly in cases such as the presidency of the United States, we shouldn't use the lowest common denominator when asking questions of our leaders. (I had to throw that in there before anyone thought I was joining GOProud today.)
Last week a couple of things happened. We all know about Joe Biden saying he was comfortable with gay marriage on Meet the Press. Then David Axelrod and company immediately started parsing Biden's words and implying that that wasn't exactly what he'd said, and that Biden actually believes the same thing that the president believes. (Watch the video. That's not what he said.) Then the media fell all over itself trying to defend President Obama, explaining that he really does believe in gay marriage, but that it's too risky a political position in an election year. I always find it fascinating how members of the media seem to know something about Obama that he himself won't say. However, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and accept that they know that the president is for gay marriage but is just playing politics here. And therein lies the problem.
We voted for Obama on rhetoric of "hope and change." We voted for him because of some idea that he was beyond politics and certainly beyond partisanship. We voted for him because this idea felt so transformative and powerful that it made it seem like he was truly above it all and that we would come for the fantastic ride. But this whole gay marriage thing has proven that he is nothing more than a politician. (Perhaps this is simply what the office of the presidency does to you.) If he is in fact waiting for reelection to push gay marriage, then it is the worst kind of pandering politics being played here. And how do we know that he'll make good on the promise he isn't even making? Surely the Republicans will have plenty of other things over which to fight with him that will give him plenty of excuses to kick the can down the road.
This actually reminds me of the whole business with super PACs. The president railed against big money in his first campaign and then in office said he'd never take super-PAC money. But instead of doing something about campaign finance, he did nothing until fourth year of his term, when he "had" to take super-PAC money, too. Sometimes inaction is worse than action.
Last night my Twitter feed was an endless stream of disappointment with North Carolinians, the political system itself, and, yes, even the president. If gay people give him unending, undivided support, then he actually owes us less in the long run. Pushing and pulling him on the single most important issue to us until he is brave enough to evolve seems like a much more practical and sensible approach. Otherwise, we're just a bunch of people who give him a ton of money and, unlike everyone else, don't expect a full return on it. Then we're just hoping and maybe or maybe not getting change.
I've jokingly called him "President Homobama" on my radio show a few times, because he has been so pro-gay. Well, Mr. President, it's time you earned your title back.