For Obama, Gay Is Green
Joseph Curl's analysis in Sunday's Washington Times on Barack Obama's gay marriage flip-flop nicely sums up the president's motive. Actually, the headline sums it up: "Team Obama panics, and it's only May."
That's right. President Barack Obama -- that Everest of integrity -- and his paid hacks are in full panic mode. As Curl observes, it's mid-May, and the president is focusing on shoring up what should be a base constituency -- gays.
Previously, Mr. Obama was trying to drive wedges between the GOP and women, Hispanics, and young voters to shore up support from these cohorts. A president up for re-election with a solid track record to run on isn't going after his own voters this late in the game. Team Obama is in big trouble.
Mr. Obama is pandering to gays with his marriage switcheroo for two reasons: 1) money; 2) onground support.
Gays aren't a large cohort in the U.S., despite misconceptions and propaganda. For years, it was in wide circulation that gays constituted 10% of the U.S. population. A May 2011 Gallup poll claims that Americans, on the whole, perceive that gays are about 1 in 4 Americans. Not so. Gays are more like 3.5% of the nation's citizenry.
Yet gays have a disproportionate influence in politics. That's because many gays are upwardly mobile and affluent; they have disposable incomes because they tend not to have families. Gays have time to devote to political causes as well. And gay voters are concentrated in larger urban areas (like San Francisco and Atlanta), where their votes can make a difference in local and some state elections.
According to BuzzFeed, an online journal:
Already, gay donors, mostly men, reportedly constitute 1 in 6 of Obama's top fundraisers known as bundlers. And in the first 90 minutes after the news broke Wednesday, the campaign received $1 million in spontaneous contributions, a Democrat told BuzzFeed.
Most observers think of the Obama campaign as cash-flush, but campaigns -- particularly failing ones -- tend never to have enough money. And if Mr. Obama's fundraising network includes more than a few gays as bundlers, it doesn't hurt to energize these super-activists.
Moreover, the gay marriage issue resonates throughout liberaldom. And young people are more inclined to support -- or tolerate -- gay marriage. Hence, the president is hoping for ancillary benefits from flipping and flopping.
One interesting note from the Washington Post after the 2010 midterm elections. Jonathan Capehart reported that, per exit polling, 3% of the ballots cast in 2010 congressional elections were cast by gays. Nearly a third of the gay vote went to Republican candidates. That represented a 4% increase in support by gays for Republicans from 2008 (and an 8% increase from George Bush's 2004 tally).
In other words, the trend line, however modest, has favored increased support for Republicans from gay voters. Gays care about jobs, the economy, and government debt, too.
That slippage in gay support for Democrats was noted at a lesbian online journal back in December 2011, which anticipated Obama's gay marriage about-face.
The article, entitled: "Pro-Gay Vote Might Be Democrats' Secret Weapon in 2012 Election," said this:
But not everyone thinks that Obama's administration will go gentle into that good night and remain silent on the issue of marriage equality before what could potentially be his last term as President. There are those, like Richard Socarides, a former political strategist on gay issues for Bill Clinton, who think that we could see Obama taking a public stance for marriage equality.
"It works for the White House on several levels, particularly in an election year," said Richard Socarides, a Democratic political strategist who advised former President Bill Clinton on gay-rights issues. "Gay voters will be more enthusiastic for him than we would have been a year ago..." "My core argument is that you've got a lot to win and not a lot to lose," said Evan Wolfson, the founder of Freedom to Marry, a group that advocates for marriage rights. "It would remove a constant irritating false note, and it would allow him to tap into an unmitigated good stream of energy."
Unless the Obama-Romney election is extremely close in battleground states, gay votes won't be pivotal in the outcome. But the money and the activism that gays bring to the Obama campaign do count. Always follow the money (and the shoe leather).
But it's late in the day for the flailing Obama campaign. The president is running out of constituencies to try to energize -- and the president's bag of tricks isn't inexhaustible.