Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Electoral Strategy of Transcending Bigotry

Well, this will occupy a news cycle or two.

Less than 24 hours after North Carolina became the 30th state to ban Gay Marriage, President Obama himself sat down with ABC's Robin Roberts to announce that he personally supports the practice.

And that is, unquestionably, the right, honorable and progressive thing to do. If you walk through life not being a bigot, it's also a very easy decision to make.

His framing of his new found support through the use of the Golden Rule is a positive as well, so long as you are a person of religion who is at least somewhat open minded about the interpretation of that particular aspect of any religious texts. It's called the Golden Rule for a reason;that reason being that it is the one rule that is common among every religious text. Even a Deist such as myself adheres to it.

That said, every decision, right or wrong, warrants examination to some degree through a political prism. Starting at the top line of the Presidential race, it absolutely distinguishes him from Mitt Romney who not only opposes Gay Marriage but he also opposes Civil Unions. In a country where a narrow majority of Americans appear to support Gay Marriage this is probably not a smart position to take. But no one ever accused Republicans of being smart.

So you could argue that, at a federal level, this is a nice example of a Democrat seizing the offense on a wedge issue that he's out in front of, and doing it fairly effectively. The fact that he's using the bully pulpit of the Presidency to take a civil rights stance is a courageous position to take, especially during the election year.

All of that said, remember that there are three layers to this issue, and all three are worth examining. There are people who support Gay Marriage, there are people who support Civil Unions but not Gay Marriage, and there are people who oppose the whole thing.

Those who oppose everything can easily be dismissed from the discussion, because they're Republicans (and bigots) who aren't winnable voters for Democrats barring some sort of traumatic national level event.

There are those who support Gay Marriage, and those voters tend to lean Democratic and are certainly abhorred by Mitt Romney's stance (provided he doesn't change it) on the issue. On some level, his continued consistent opposition to the issue in Massachusetts as governor more or less sealed his fate and encouraged him not to run for a second term as governor, an election he would have lost.

But the President chose to take a states rights tack in his statement today, and I don't think that was the proper tack to take. Tactically, that tack doesn't really impress anyone who isn't already in opposition. People on the fence relative to Gay Marriage aren't states right's advocates.

Instead, the group of people who support Civil Unions, or the type of people whom you could impress that could get you from 50% support to 70% support, are the ones who don't oppose Gay Marriage personally for Libertarian type reasons, but instead fear that their church will be compelled to marry Gay couples even though they are opposed to it.

The 2009 Maine law (unfortunately overturned by referendum) did a nice job of bridging this divide. While it legalized Marriage between people of the same sex, it explicitly did not compel people who had objections to do so. Now, personally, I would have limited the language in this law to people who conduct religious marriage ceremonies, rather than allowing a train conductor to refuse to wed two people of the same sex, but I think you get the idea.

What this middle group of people, and in a lot of areas, such as North Carolina, Indiana, Missouri and Florida, they are probably sizable enough to make up the difference between winning and losing, are in fear of is having their church be compelled to do something that, though they don't impose for reasons that it does not impact them personally,  does impact their church, their religious beliefs and the corresponding of infringing upon their religious freedom. The mistake the President made today was to not speak clearly to these people that he personally did not support their personal exercise of religious freedom being infringed upon.

What a person who supports a Civil Union but not Gay Marriage is really saying is "not in my church". Which is really, at least in my mind, a private matter anyway. You don't have to get married in a church, or have a marriage certificate signed by clergy to be legally married in your state anyway. Win over these people and this becomes a non-issue at the Presidential level. As it stands, the President's stand, as brave as it is and as right as it is, is a moral winner, but not necessarily an electoral one.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Electoral Maps: Where We Stand Today

Their are any number of electoral maps you can refer to when attempting to horse race the 2012 Presidential Election. A generally good starting point for how things look can be found here.

Their are a couple of things interesting about this map.

Arizona is listed as a toss up. I don't actually believe Arizona is a toss up or, rather, I'll believe it when I see it. While it's true that the state is filled largely with Tea Party crazies in the state legislature from top to bottom, and has a governor with what could best be described as a tenuous grip on reality, this is a state with a significant retiree population and, no matter how charming Tuscon and Flagstaff may be, they aren't going to overcome the rest of the state's rural, elderly nature.

That said, the fact that we even have to have this conversation about Arizona speaks volumes about how much self inflicted damage the Republican brand has done to itself in pursuit of the elderly white xenophobes that keep it in business outside of the south.

South Carolina is listed as a toss up. This is the guy the Democrats managed to put up against one of the biggest idiots in the Senate.  And We're supposed to think this state is contestable. Nope.

New Hampshire is listed as a toss up. Live Free or Die. Whatever. You might swing the state to the R column if they pick Kelly Ayotte as a VP candidate but, like the rest of New England, this will be a Democratic state in 2012.

Virginia is listed as a toss up. Virginia is interesting in a lot of ways. There may not be a state that represents the swing state dichotomy better than the difference between the relatively affluent, and liberal, suburbs of DC and Charlottsville versus the rest of the state. Obama is up by eight, in Virginia at the moment and I would expect that that lead would narrow but hold. The Senate race, with Tim Kaine taking on George 'Macaca' Allen, is the one to watch there.

Iowa is listed as a toss up. I've never bought this. Like Minnesota and Wisconsin, though the rural Republican contingent can turn out during off election cycles, an acceptable Democratic candidate should win all three of what I call the DFL states. 

If you'd have a moment, I'd recommend digging into this analysis of Iowa. Like Virginia, President Obama is up by eight points. His lead among women voters is 20 points. He has a significant lead among young voters. But PPP really buries the lead:

Obama's running basically even with Romney among seniors.

No. Really. Take a moment and think about that. The Republicans aren't even winning Seniors in Iowa. This should set off alarm bells everywhere, if you're a Republican.
Missouri, Indiana and North Carolina are what they are. I would expect that Missouri and Indiana would regress to the mean and vote Republican. The fact that Missouri and Indiana were even close is a testament to a turnout effort that, frankly, I don't think can be duplicated. What little polling we have on Clare McCaskill's Senate race in Missouri is not promsing.

 I don't honestly know what to make of North Carolina, but I would expect that the financial crisis caused enough job losses around Charlotte to cause the state to narrowly vote Republican this time around. The anti-gay rights bigots are out in full force today to approve Amendment One, so that's already a bad sign.

Florida is a toss up but, unlike in previous elections, not one the Democrats are likely to need to win, thanks to inroads made in the Mountain West and in Virginia. But if you'd like a glimpse of future voting trends in Florida, I'd direct you here for some great background on how Hispanic in migration into the I-4 corridor is swinging that state ever so slowly toward the Democrats.

There's still a long way to go. But baring a significant change, the contest you're being told is close, won't actually be close. In fact, it'll look a lot like this

Now, the Senate on the other hand.....