For the second time in his political career Barack Obama supports gay marriage. Despite the breathlessness the news was greeted with in some corners, few seriously believe that this shift was Obama's road to Damascus' Castro District. And by couching his announcement by framing the issue as one that should be left to the states, the whole gesture had an undeniably hollow ring to it. While his new position might be as cynical and calculated as his previous one, the question of what end it serves still remains. Evidence would suggest that by making this announcement when he did, Barack Obama is clearly trying to win back the media.
If the past few months have shown us anything it’s that the extended love affair Obama had been enjoying with the media has become considerably less torrid.
Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism recently published a study of the 2012 primary campaign that indicates that President Obama has been on the receiving end of a considerable amount of negative coverage over the past several months. The study suggests that the change in tone is the result of the media change to an election footing; President Obama all of a sudden became candidate Obama. With increasingly grim economic news trickling out like Chinese water torture and the momentum undoubtedly behind Mitt Romney, the campaign has become desperate for some positive coverage to help cut through the headwinds.
Time for a Hail Mary. The non-Catholic kind, of course.
While the issue of same sex marriage might be a controversial one to many Americans, the fourth estate is unlikely to provide any pushback. As far as domestic issues go, it is far and away the most likely to make media knees go weak.
As an illustration of the media’s embrace of the progressive side of this issue, you need look no further than CNN. If we’re to assume that CNN is the least ideologically skewed of the cable news networks (a questionable proposition, I know, but bear with me) then it would appear that the media is wholeheartedly in the tank for same sex marraige. According to a Culture and Media Institute analysis of 239 programs aired on CNN from the period June 15 to July 15 of last year, CNN quoted or interviewed nearly four times the number of gay-marriage supporters as they did critics.
Similarly, according to the Media Research Council, a Nexis search yields similar evidence of bias. MRC’s Paul Wilson writes “search for the terms ‘gay,’ ‘homosexual,’ ‘LGBT,’ ‘same sex marriage,’ and ‘marriage equality’ revealed that CNN quoted or interviewed 98 people who supported the gay agenda, 48 people who posited no opinion regarding gay issues, and 28 critics or defenders of traditional marriage.”
Viewed any other way, the announcement just doesn't make any sense.
Politically, it’s a dangerous move for the president. As 30 states have now attested, reports of support for gay marriage nationally appear to be inflated. As an issue it’s not likely to yield the results in the swing states that Obama is going to need to stay in office. The results in North Carolina, a state Barack Obama carried in 2008 by a razor thin margin, are a stark reminder of that fact.
In addition, it hands the GOP a wedge to put between the president and some of the most dependable Democratic votes: African and Hispanic Americans.
Obama’s announcement makes no sense ideologically either. Barack Obama has accepted every progressive precept about the power of the Federal government in regard to civil rights. But strangely, this is one of the only instances where he believes the rights of the state supersede that of the federal government. Why was gay marriage the water’s edge for a reliably progressive president?
Answer: He wanted the positive coverage without having to deal with negative consequences of putting some teeth on his support.
The only other possible explanation is that the announcement comes as a result of the president’s deeply held convictions and after a considerable amount of soul searching forced him to stand up for his principles without giving a thought to cynical political considerations…
As a political maneuver, yesterday’s announcement is unlikely to bear fruit with the electorate. But as a make-up present to the media, it might just do the trick.
It’s already managed to reignite that lovin’ feelin’ for some people.