Congressional Democrats Will Suffer From Party Endorsement of Gay Marriage
Gay marriage endorsement will jeopardize Democrats in the House and Senate
August 3, 2012
It's hard to see many positives for Democrats from the party's decision to include a pro-gay marriage plank in its 2012 platform.
President Barack Obama already had come out in favor, and he'll be able to raise some money off it from LGBT donors. And it may help him marginally with independents, who now favor gay marriage, 51-40—although if cultural issues influenced their votes significantly, it's unlikely they'd be independents.
It also could be argued this move capitalizes on recent pro-gay marriage momentum. Acceptance has increased in recent years among all age groups. More than half of those born since 1965 and nearly two thirds of Democrats now favor it. Support has grown even among conservative Democrats, Republicans, African-Americans, and those who attend church weekly.
But although it's hard to figure how this momentum adds many votes—most gay marriage supporters already are in the Obama camp—it's not hard to see who is hurt by the move. The plank will be a headache for Democrats as they seek to maintain control of the Senate—particularly for those in tight races such as Tim Kaine in Virginia, Jon Tester in Montana, and Claire McCaskill in Missouri. It could be even worse in the House, where close to 70 seats are said to be up for grabs.
Travis Childers, for instance, says the plank could be a huge problem. Childers is a 54-year-old, pro-life, pro-gun Blue Dog Democrat from north Mississippi who came to Congress in 2008, then lost in the Republican landslide of 2010. He is not running this year, but if Democrats are to retake the House, it is candidates like him who must have a chance to succeed. And this plank, he says, doesn't help.
"It is not something that I would agree with, that part of the platform," Childers told reporters recently. "I think the conservative Democrats, especially in the South, a great number will disagree with that."
It's not something the president seems to want to talk about, either. Gay marriage amendments on statewide ballots are 0-32. The top battleground states of Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Virginia, and North Carolina all have voter-imposed bans on gay marriage. The Washington Post attributes this to the "timing" of the elections. But when you're 0-32 and can't even win in California, there is more to it than timing.
Some will say this was morally the right thing to do, regardless of the electoral consequences. Others will point out party platforms are like elevator music—there to be ignored. But if the purpose of a platform is to give candidates a base of ideas on which to run—and be identified—this move seems more politically correct than politically astute.