Published May 11, 2012
“The president’s in favor of it — I’m sure it will be [included].”
-- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid when asked by a reporter whether the legalization of gay marriage will be included as a plank in the Democratic platform at the party’s convention in September in Charlotte, N.C.
As of this morning, nearly 30,000 people had signed an online petition from the group Gay Marriage USA demanding that the Democratic National Convention be moved out of Charlotte, N.C. because the state’s voters Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a stringent ban on same-sex marriage.
The petition says the party should move the convention, set for Sept. 3 through Sept. 6, to “a state that upholds values of equality & liberty, and which treats ALL citizens equally.”
This petition drive is not likely to be effective since tens of millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours have already gone into the gathering and its culminating moment when President Obama will formally accept his party’s nomination at Bank of America Stadium (weather permitting).
The cost and embarrassment of such a move would be simply too great. But Obama no doubt wishes he could. The North Carolina convention has turned into a misadventure.
Obama this week announced that he was partly reverting his public position on gay marriage to his pre-2008 stance. From 2008 until this week, Obama said that he was personally opposed to gay marriage but indifferent to state-level efforts. Prior to 2008, Obama said he was personally supportive and would fight efforts to block gay marriage. He now says that he is personally supportive but will not move to undo state-level efforts to prohibit the practice, like the one in North Carolina.
The change is only symbolically significant. Obama already has a record as the most pro-gay president in history, and his attitudinal change has no policy implications. The rhetorical shift seems mostly to be related to placating pro-gay marriage supporters and donors, coming as it did just ahead of a huge fundraising push in Hollywood and at specifically gay and lesbian events. The other part of the move seems to be a search for a wedge issue against Republican Mitt Romney and a desire by Democrats to shift the conversation away from Romney’s preferred topic, the saggy economy.
Even so, the president was obviously concerned about how his partial reversion to his pre-2008 stance would play.
In his interview with ABC News announcing the shift, the president said that he was pushed into the move, among other things, by his daughters’ experiences with classmates with same-sex parents. Obama also blamed Vice President Joe Biden’s statement of support for gay marriage on Sunday for the timing of the move, an idea reinforced Thursday with a White House leak that Biden apologized to Obama for forcing his hand.
The reason for putting out all of these mitigations is to suggest that Obama is no willy-nilly culture warrior but simply a man forced to confront an issue. The hope is that it will be enough to calm gay activists but not so much as to push away more moderate Democrats.
North Carolina voters, including at least 35 percent of Democrats, on Tuesday approved a constitutional amendment that bans gay marriage or any equivalent form of domestic partnership.
If Obama believes that marriage is a fundamental right for same-sex couples, how can he tolerate state laws that deny that fundamental right? Shouldn’t his attorney general be suing the state, just as he is elsewhere in an effort to strike down constitutional amendments requiring voters to show identification? How can Obama reward the state with glory and revenue given a law that he says, de facto, suppresses the natural rights of American citizens?
One can expect the ditch-Charlotte movement to gain ground among the Democratic base. And while these philosophical questions are important to party activists, there are more immediate and practical considerations.
The state’s Democratic Party is in rough shape following same-sex workplace harassment claims made against the party’s former executive director. The chairman has refused calls for him to step aside, and has become something of a pariah.
The state’s incumbent Democratic governor, Bev Perdue, who won a narrow victory with the help of Obama’s coattails, opted against seeking a second term because of miserably low job approval ratings. Her 2008 Republican opponent, former Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory is favored this year to beat the Democratic nominee, Perdue’s lieutenant governor.
With state Democrats in disarray and voters moving right, the prospects for Obama repeating his stunning 2008 win there look increasingly remote. That’s the same kind of experience John McCain had in 2008, when he had to accept his party’s nomination in Minnesota.
Republicans in 2007 thought Minnesota might be in play when they announced the convention location. By the end of August 2008, it most certainly was not. It looks like it was Democrats who were doing some wishful thinking when they chose North Carolina in 2011.
It would be bad enough for Obama to have to accept the nomination in a state where voters had turned away from him, but to do so amid so much controversy on divisive issues and in a stadium owned by a bailed-out bank is seriously uncool.
Cleveland, another finalist for the convention site, must be looking pretty good right now.
The Day in Quotes
“You know Seattle, this election is actually going to be even closer than the last. And the reason for that is too many of our friends and neighbors, they’re still hurting because of this crisis. And they see what’s going on in Washington, and they don’t like it. So there’s just some frustration level there that will express itself in the election.”
-- President Obama at a fundraiser.
“It grew directly out of this difference in visions: Are we a country that includes everybody and gives everybody a shot and treats everybody fairly, and is that going to make us stronger? Are we welcoming to immigrants? Are we welcoming to people who aren’t like us? Does that make us stronger? I believe it does.”
-- President Obama at a fundraiser at the home of actor George Clooney explaining why he expressed his support for gay marriage.
“The family of John Lauber is releasing a statement saying the portrayal of John is factually incorrect and we are aggrieved that he would be used to further a political agenda. There will be no more comments from the family.”
-- Betsy Lauber, one of John Lauber’s three sisters, talking to ABC News about a Washington Post story the recounted a 45-year-old incident in which high school student Mitt Romney allegedly was part of a group that forcibly cut classmate John Lauber’s hair.
“I think you’re going to find throughout this campaign season that the president’s team will be doing everything in their power to try and hold up various shiny objects. Many will be with regards to me, some will be with regards to the president’s policies or promises of some major new giveaway.”
-- Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on “Your World with Neil Cavuto.”
And Now, A Word From Charles
“What Ryan proposed is the ultimate in cuts. But he has a list of them which are going to be the target of 30-second ads, food stamps and assistance to people who want relief on mortgages, whereas the Democrats proposing tax hikes. I think the Republicans are trying to act responsibly, but there is a limit to how responsible you're going to be if the other side plays Santa Claus.”
-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com.