The media is still reveling in the president’s non-change-change on gay marriage. But so far the press has shown very little curiosity in teasing out what this means and what President Obama thinks about a cluster of issues his shift in position raises.
First, Obama says states should decide how they want to deal with gay marriage, but the president also calls out North Carolina for getting it “wrong.” So does he really favor states deciding this or was that window dressing? His tip of the hat to federalism was one on the least authentic aspects in his announcement and is a reminder of just how contrived was his “evolution” on the topic.
Second, Obama’s new found appreciation for federalism is touching, but why shouldn’t states decide lots of important issues on which their voters have strong opinions? On immigration, health care and abortion, Obama says states need to stay out of the contentious policy areas. Really, his faux devotion to federalism is a rather wilted fig leaf. As a former constitutional law instructor he should enlighten us on how he determines what is left to the states and what isn’t. (To quote a former law professor of mine: “Federalism is all about who’s ox is being gored.”)
Third, if gays should have the right to marry and the Golden Rule has dictated this conclusion, does he think the Supreme Court should find a right to gay marriage in the Constitution, you know using their empathy and all? This is serious point, which Obama should be asked: Is a judge’s views on gay marriage for Obama now a litmus test just as protection of abortion on demand is?
A final note: It is interesting (we saw it in the 2009 gubernatorial race in Virginia) that when Democrats can’t win on the economy they resort to cultural, wedge-issues. When the Republican Party has the upper hand on bread-and-butter issues and has the capacity to win suburban voters and moderates, it sticks to the issues voters care most about. That might explain why Democrats are talking about the “war on women” and gay marriage while Romney is talking about jobs, the debt and entitlement reform. And, of course, Obama buys himself more time not to talk about the top issue for voters (the economy) because in the media narrative it’s Romney who is “ignoring” the big issue of the day.