Democrats are in a bit of a quandary. On one hand, they would like to paint Mitt Romney as a Luddite on social issues whose opposition to agenda items such as gay marriage puts him at odds with not only gay voters but also younger and many urban and suburban voters, who see this as a matter of civil rights and tolerance. So there is delight on the left in pointing out that Romney is opposed to gay marriage. In a recent NPR report on mega-Republicans donor Paul Singer, we learn:

While Singer has long been active in GOP politics, he has also been deeply involved in another cause — gay marriage. His son and son-in-law were married in Massachusetts in 2009. And over the course of many years, Singer has given more than $8.5 million to the cause.

“I believe a generation from now, gay marriage will be seen as a profoundly traditionalizing act. It will have channeled love into the most powerful social institution on earth: marriage itself,” said Singer in a video posted on the gay news blog Towleroad. . . .

Romney has long opposed gay marriage — as have countless other candidates Singer has supported over the years.

But wait. President Obama (as of this moment) doesn’t support gay marriage either. So why should voters for whom this is an issue prefer Obama?

My colleague Greg Sargent has rightly taken Obama to task on just this point, chiding the president for an “untenable” position that hides behind the notion that he is “evolving” on this issue. As things stand now, however, it is hard to argue Obama is any “better” for proponents of gay marriage. Both say they oppose gay marriage.

Well, Obama supporters say, “C’mon.” Wink. Wink. Those close to the president are only too happy to suggest what his private views are. (You know what he really thinks!)

But, as E. J. Dionne has argued, “What are we supposed to make of a candidate who takes certain public positions to court one group of voters — and then tries to reassure an entirely different group of voters by leaking the fact that he doesn’t really believe what he said to win votes from the first group?” He was writing about Romney and immigration, but I’m sure he wouldn’t apply that ruling just to one political party or candidate.

This is actually not too different from a lot of issues, summed up by Obama’s infamous assurance to the Russian president that he’d have more ”flexibility” after the election. On taxes, missile defense, gay marriage and much, much more, it sure would be easy for him to say as little as possible now and then after the election do whatever he wants. (Well, yeah, kinda like what he is doing.) But this is fundamentally dishonest (pretending not to have views or plans he really does) and undemocratic.

If the candidates don’t fess up to what they really want to do, how can voters choose between them? And more important, how can the president’s fans support him if he won’t acknowledge the issues on which he truly, honestly (but not publicly) agrees with them.