Ta-Nehisi Coates, on why Obama’s claim that he’s “evolving” on gay marriage is so irksome:
I think the thing that’s most troubling about the “evolving” fudge is it feels like someone is insulting your intelligence. This is clearly a move to back gay marriage as soon as enough Americans do the same. I’m actually fine with that. It’s positioning it as some sort of deep, internal struggle that rankles.
I agree with that, but I also think there’s a hidden silver lining here. By claiming that his position on gay marriage is “evolving,” Obama left himiself no choice — perhaps deliberately — but to ultimately declare public support for it. It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when.
Consider David Axelrod’s effort the other day to clarify his position. Axelrod left no doubt that Obama believes in marriage equality. He didn’t even try to argue that Obama doesn’t believe in it. Rather, Axelrod pleaded for maneuvering room by arguing quite accurately that Obama has a good record on gay rights and that Obama deserves credit for nudging history in the right direction. But he left no doubt as to where Obama thinks history should take us.
By declaring that his position is “evolving” on gay marriage, Obama put himself in a position that’s fundamentally untenable. He let the world know that he believes in full marriage equality, and that he will say so sooner or later. All this succeeded in doing is stoking impatience among gay advocates for him to go ahead and say what he really believes. As the new mantra has it: “Evolve already.”And media figures are growing interested in the story: Witness Anderson Cooper’s tough segment last night raising questions about “what the president actually believes.”
You can debate whether it would be good politics for Obama to come out for gay marriage before 2012. It would be a huge event that would galvanize young people, and force Republican candidates to scramble back on to culture-war turf to appease their base when they’d rather be talking about the economy. Maybe there’s a downside; maybe it wouldn’t play well in swing states; maybe it would tacitly feed damaging right-wing narratives about Obama’s alleged lack of commitment to red-blooded American values. It would certainly be a gamble, and Obama very well may try to hang on to his current position until after the 2012 election.
But whether it’s before or after 2012, Obama will eventually declare support for legalized gay marriage. Of course, it’s always possible that he won’t get reelected, and that he’ll come out for it as an ex-president. If so, he’ll ultimately end up claiming that it was one of his regrets, because he would have squandered the chance to declare support for it as a sitting president, something that would go down as an immensely powerful watershed moment in American history.
The bottom line is that Obama will come out for full marriage equality, and he will almost certainly do so as president. You heard it here first.