One of the reasons that Barack Obama probably moved ahead on marriage equality was to avoid a conflict with his party’s convention and its likely platform. What about the party’s Senate candidates?
The question is prompted by the decisions of three state Democratic Parties – in Pennsylvania, Montana, and even Texas – to include platform language in their state platforms supporting marriage equality. And yet most Democratic Senate candidates, at least beyond those states which have already legalized same-sex marriage, are silent on the issue.
While a few Senate candidates, such as Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin, do align themselves with the party’s position on marriage on their campaign web sites, others – including even Ed Case and Marie Hinosa in liberal Hawaii – do not. That includes the candidates from the three states that passed those recent resolutions: Montana Senator Jon Tester and likely Texas nominee Paul Sadler (based on their web sites only); Bob Casey’s web site doesn’t appear to have an issues page (or much else), so there’s nothing there to check.
On the other hand, none of the Democratic Senate candidates whose web sites I’ve looked at in this cycle take a position in favor of DOMA or anything like that. It’s either support, or silence.
Meanwhile, Republican candidates that I’ve looked at (and on both sides, it’s primarily open-seat contenders who have a good chance of winning in November) are the opposite: either silence or opposition, with no Republican that I know of at that level breaking through and endorsing marriage equality. I haven’t looked, but I assume that most or all Republican state platforms will have planks just as strong as those in 2004 or 2008 had.
So what we have is Democratic Party activists moving over the last two cycles to a strong position, even apparently in states where same-sex marriage is still unpopular; Republican Party activists who haven’t budged at all; and candidates who are going to have to find ways to thread the needle between the strong convictions of their activists and a rapidly moving public, which is now divided more or less evenly nationwide but with major differences across states.
All of which calls for some fancy dancing by a lot of politicians. It’s not surprising that silence is their preferred option, but even though few people will change their vote over the issue, many of these candidates will find it difficult to stay quiet all year. It should make for some interesting Senate debates this cycle.