Is Gay Marriage Ban a No-Win for Bush?
In a Philadelphia Inquirer commentary, political analyst Dick Polman opines that the White House's relatively mute push to support the proposed Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage is a product of "[t]hree words: competing political interests." Specifically, the issue seems to be that not everyone in the Republican party is entirely fixated on banning gay marriage, and some Republicans actually feel other issues are also pretty important.
For example, "[p]arty moderates are concerned about the fate of House incumbents from socially tolerant districts . . . [and] [t]he fear is that many party voters might stay home, or swing to the Democrats, if they feel their leaders are more fixated on gay marriage than on issues they deem more important, such as Iraq and the price of gas." With Bush's approval rating among moderate Republicans and independents plummeting to record lows, it seems that "[a] full-throated crusade against gay marriage would not bring [approval] northward."
"'There is a fear, among some in the [Republican] party, that the Republicans are being identified too much as a theological party.'" "[H]alf of today's Republicans are 'theocrats' who want government to 'promote traditional values by protecting traditional marriage,' as opposed to wanting less government intrusion into personal lives."
The dilemma for Bush and other Republicans: push too hard on the gay marriage ban and the "theocratic" base may respond well, but that could be damaging with the politically moderate or independent voters.
This commentary also recognizes something I wish more political pundits would pick up on and discuss: It may well be true that a majority of people "oppose" the concept of gay marriage. But that is not the same thing as saying that a majority of people favor amending the Constitution to actually ban gay marriage. The two concepts are not parallel. Further, a significant portion of those who will answer a poll question by indicating that they "oppose" gay marriage really don't feel so strongly about it that they would like to see actively outlawing it made a priority.
The result of all this is that Bush is once again finding himself in a no-win situation. If he actively supports the proposed amendment, he risks alienating moderates and independents and risks spending money in a potentially losing causing. If he fails to actively support the proposed amendment, he risks alienating religious conservatives who were largely responsible for his reelection.