Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The political risk of supporting GLBT rights

From Sunday's LA Times:

[T]there may be good reasons for the president to move slowly. Historically, American presidents have rarely gotten far ahead of public opinion on civil rights issues, and the few times they have, they've paid a substantial price for doing so.
There follows a long list of examples, including this one:
During the first two years of his presidency, John F. Kennedy refused to support civil rights legislation, which would have alienated the Southern Democrats who had proved vital to his election in 1960 and whom he was likely to need again in 1964. Kennedy even declined to fulfill his campaign promise to eliminate racial discrimination in federally subsidized housing "with the stroke of a pen," leading civil rights critics to deluge the White House with ballpoint pens in their "Ink for Jack" campaign.

It was only the momentous street demonstrations in Birmingham, Ala., and other Southern cities in the spring of 1963 that prompted Kennedy to act on civil rights. After opinion polls found that the percentage of Americans ranking civil rights as the nation's No. 1 priority had increased to 52% from 4%, Kennedy went on national television to announce that civil rights was a "moral issue as old as the Scriptures and as clear as the American Constitution." That summer, the administration introduced groundbreaking civil rights legislation, which was enacted into law the following year.

Should Obama be reelected in 2012, he almost certainly will endorse gay marriage during his second term. By then, a majority of Americans, and an overwhelming majority of Democrats, will support the practice. Could Obama shift his position before 2012 without endangering his chances at a second term? Possibly.

But in many of the states that proved to be battlegrounds in the 2008 presidential campaign — Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina, Virginia, Florida — majorities still oppose same-sex marriage. A presidential pronouncement in favor would rally conservative opposition and could prove crucial to some swing voters. For many political progressives who believe that the issue already may have cost Democrats one presidential election (and, with it, two Supreme Court appointments), the risk isn't worth taking
. So much for fierce advocating.

1 comment:

James said...

"So much for fierce advocating."

Ain't that the truth.

However, at the same time, tax cuts for the super rich are the number one priority of the Republicans despite the fact that less than 2 percent of the voting population favours such benefits. Go figure.