So President Obama came out expressing his personal support for Gay Marriage. Now what?
The President says that he has struggled with this for a long time, having in years past favouring civil unions over marriage. In the sense of an actual declaration of his support, this was a breakthrough. But in terms of policy, this was, as Rachel Maddow aptly puts it, icing on the cake, for the Obama administration has up until this point had a consistent pro-Gay rights policy record.
Instead of talking about the policy implications of Obama’s declaration, I want to focus briefly on what impact this would have on the upcoming election, but moreover, I want to discuss what Obama’s declaration means within the larger context of the overall direction of how politics is evolving.
By announcing his support for Gay marriage, President Obama has all but locked in the fact that a portion of the voting electorate, a substantial portion at that, will for sure not vote for him in the upcoming election. He is now more guaranteed than ever to not receive any vote from the religious right. But where Obama is losing votes where he was never going to get a lot of anyway, he is, for one, affirming to his liberal base of his support. But more importantly, he is trying to get out the young vote.
It has become clear that Obama is trying to frame his reelection campaign about the young, the next generation. He has, for some time now, highlighted the issue of keeping student loan interests rates low as the key current issue. He has used this issue to attack Republicans as willing to let the interest rates double when summer arrives. For the record, the Republicans have proposed their way of keeping the interest rates low, and it involving slashing funding for a preventive health program for women who would like to check for breast cancer and other illnesses. But lets not talk about the Repubicans’ ‘war’ on women here as that would induce too big of a tangent.
But most importantly, Obama’s statement lands itself in a bright spot on the somewhat linear line of the overall progress of politics. As values go, most historians will agree with the notion that it is something that is constantly evolving. Even Christian values evolve over time. This evolution of beliefs has been accelerated in recent times with the advances in information and communication technologies. In addition, we have a country where more and more of its children are educated, and therefore gaining the knowledge and wisdom to develop progressive beliefs that continues the evolution of politics. There are many bumps on the road, of course, as many children are still left behind and various Conservative groups and politicians are fighting this progress by introducing legislation that are viewed as medieval in nature by other Western countries, or are having children taught regressive or downright untrue things at school.
In a very broad sense, the linear nature of the history of Western Civilization would have Europe as the longest-standing and most progressive. While there are many exceptions to this idea, in general, the United States is following Europe’s footsteps on many issues, as it is just now treading on territories that the Europeans have already passed. Most European countries allow same-sex marriage, abortion, the use of marijuana, are anti-gun, and are less inclined to indulge in a money-driven, competitive capitalist society. Will America follow Europe in this regard? My guess is, eventually. Although faced with strong resistance on all fronts, increasing number of Americans support same sex marriage, anti-gun, support the legalization of marijuana, and don’t view the Wall Street, the symbol of the rise and fall of capitalism, in a favorable light.
There is evidence where in certain areas, America has shown that it can surpass Europe and lead as example in the current course of history. By using bailouts and government interventions (even with one major party being against it), the United States is on pace to have a faster economic recovery than Europe, which resorted to a series of austerity measures. The effectiveness of the dreaded ‘A’ word has been beyond disappointing, and many have paid the political price for it (France, Greece, Britain) while more might soon.
Ultimately, I think Obama made the claim that he did as a leap of faith to jump forward in the linear progress of history, to accelerate the progress of tolerance and achieving the goal of allowing same sex marriage in the entire country.