Mr. President, Meet Ex-Prime Minister Martin
(NOTE: I’m writing today from Greece and there are terrible internet connections here–among other difficulties. So I’ve removed what went up as a badly truncated version and substituted this one.)
Unbelievable. President Obama is facing a Republican who cannot enthuse the conservatives of his party, so the President decides to enthuse them for him. Pressing for same-sex marriage is the same brilliant tactic that helped remove Canadian Liberal prime minister Paul Martin from office–a man who by many accounts had been a brilliant finance minister in the previous regime and ought to have reigned long as prime minister himself. Three elections later, Canada has a Conservative majority government, an emboldened left, and a Liberal party still gasping for life.
Of course, the Conservative majority in Canada didn’t come about entirely because of same-sex marriage. But too few pundits have recognized that this issue was indeed that rare bird in politics, a genuine wedge that drove independents and social moderates in every party into the Conservative camp for at least for one election, and then maybe for more. (The New Democratic Party helped, of course, by insisting on a pro-gay marriage vote from its caucus.)
Mr. Obama perhaps feels that his own party lacks fire given the ambiguous nature of his bail-out of big banks after 2008, his prolongation of foreign wars, and his chimera of a health-care plan. What to do? Start a holy war, and same-sex marriage is ready-to-hand.
But this strategy of “good versus evil” is a dangerous one, especially when the GOP has proved itself far more adept at deploying it. Mr. Obama has just thrown red meat to every Limbaugh, Coulter, and Beck out there who might have been tempted to sit on their hands. Meanwhile, he has confused and discouraged social moderates who would more easily have preferred him to the alternative.
What was the White House thinking? After the debacle over trying to make Roman Catholic institutions pay for contraception, did none of the senior staff say, “Hoo, boy, better not needlessly annoy large numbers of possible voters again”?
Mr. President, may I suggest you pick up the phone and call Mr. Martin. Ask him why he broke his word to Christian groups by refusing to place moderate positions—such as civil unions and registered domestic partnerships—on the table. Ask him whether he would like a “do-over” on that one, or whether he still thinks winning the battle for same-sex marriage was worth losing the war of governing the country for another decade. I mean, really: Is this the issue you want having anything at all to do with the outcome of an election?
Perhaps instead you might just invite your Secretary of State and her husband over for a nice dinner. Then you can ask them, as apparently you haven’t before, how to appeal to the middle on the matters that count the most so that you can accomplish worthy objectives such as, say, winning a second term and sorting out the very big problems remaining from your first one.
I hope, at least, that the Romney campaign sent you a very nice bottle of wine. May I recommend, sir, that you save it for election night.