I’ve seen numerous posts in the blogosphere today written by conservatives who seem – at the very least – miffed that the President would have the audacity to ‘play to the base’ in an election year by reaffirming his support of a Constitutional amendment banning marriage.
Sure, it’s quite obvious what’s happening here: it’s 2006 – an election year, the President’s numbers are at an all-time low and so are Congress’, and the Republican party is trying to inject some life into a dissatisfied base by stirring them up with talk of banning gay marriage via an amendment. When I first read about this story today, the first thing that went through my mind is that it was throwing red meat to the base.
While it’s plain as the nose on anyone’s face what this latest move on the part of the GOP is about, I’m at a loss to understand why the base is up in arms about the President pandering to them. The reason why I’m at a loss to undestand this? One name comes to mind: Harriet Miers.
When the President nominated Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, the reaction to her nomination was overwhelmingly negative. I don’t need to remind you how nasty it got between conservatives who rejected the nomination and the few conservatives who supported it (like Hugh Hewitt). What happened as a result of the tidal wave of criticism the admin and our reps in Congress received from the base? She ‘officially’ withdrew herself from consideration, but let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that the admin didn’t have something to do with that. Who did the admin nominate once Miers ‘withdrew’? A judge with solid conservative credentials the base could easily assess and be pleased with: Samuel Alito.
One thing I want to be clear here is that there are some people arguing that there are more pressing issues to deal with right now than the gay marriage amendment: namely, tackling the immigration issue which has gotten very contentious. That argument has a lot of validity and I understand it. What I take issue with is the complaining that the President is “pandering to the base” – the base (and I include myself in that) didn’t mind the President pandering to it when he threw red meat to it by nominating Sam Alito, and getting offended at the idea of the President pandering to the base now makes little sense in light of that. In fact, if the President right now stood before the American people and announced his support for the House plan (the plan that I support), he’d be pandering to the base. But then the pandering would be ok, wouldn’t it?
Let’s not kid ourselves into thinking the President is different from any other politician when it comes to an election year. Yes, I’m disappointed that the debate on gay marriage fell off the radar after the 2004 elections and I’m disappointed that this year the immigration bill the President supports doesn’t meet all of my criteria for a good immigration bill. But what doesn’t surprise me or offend me, is that the President is a politician and he will pander to the base on certain issues – and especially in an election year. Just because we don’t like the timing is not a sound reason to get offended because the timing for him to pander last year was fine – when he gave us what we wanted.
And just for the record: for anyone who says that he and Congress should be focusing on the immigration issue and putting the gay marriage debate on the backburner for another day, I think they are absolutely right. That’s not to say that Congress can’t handle more than one issue at a time, but the gay marriage debate is one that I think should wait until after the elections. Politicians tend to rush things through in an election year without much thought to the repercussions of what they’re pushing. I think this is a debate that needs to be tabled and brought up again after the elections, and not dropped again like it was after the 2004 elections, so the issue can be fully discussed, explained, and examined at length.
Updated to add: If there’s outrage to be had here it’s that 1) as others have suggested, the immigration issue is more pressing and that the gay marriage amendment debate looks like it was it was introduced as a distraction to that, and 2) that the gay marriage issue was dropped off the map after the 2004 elections in the first place.
Joe Gandelman has a link roundup.