It’s not that I occasionally have to scrape the bottom of the political barrel to find Lasagna-worthy subject matter, it’s just that so much of the news out there bores me to such tears that I cannot bring myself to contribute to any more redundant opinions and tossed salads of speculation. But last week, I knew this Lasagna would flow abundantly. Last week, President Obama admitted his support for same-sex marriage in America.
Granted, it came in an ABC interview in the hurried aftermath of Joe Biden in full Jason Sudeikis-mode spilling the beans, and only after polls measuring Americans’ support for marriage equality reached all-time highs, but Obama’s support is support nonetheless. It is time for the federal government to recede from our bedrooms, for a sitting president to rally behind the endeavor to make it happen. No matter what happens next, last week’s announcement will be remembered with unanimous goodness, the sincerest praise.
But before the goodness, first some of the bad and the ugly.
The bad: There are obviously going to be wide-rippling consequences for the election. I am used to averting my cynical eyes whenever a politician claims a major policy decision was motivated by talks with “friends and family and neighbors,” as Obama put it. (And neighbors? What neighbors does the President have?) But for an entire electorate of Americans to swallow that this course-correction was something other than a coldly calculated political stratagem seems unlikely. This is not necessarily a deal-breaker, but certainly a reminder that the idealism which marked this leader’s campaign in 2008 has been mulled somewhat by these years of vitriol and obstructionism.
Nevertheless, I feel if there ever was a decision that ought to be made in the smoky White House corridors of a lame-duck President, it is this one. That same-sex marriage is now a real issue — one that will considerably jiggle the final numbers on the November referendum — has given me, and I suspect others, the first real jolt of the season. Instead of feeling historical, the conjoining of the prospects for same-sex couples with those of President Obama’s re-election feels awkward. A Presidential election is too silly, too garish, too conflated with dueling personalities (blonde reporters asking passers-by: which candidate would you rather have brunch with?) to mother an issue so serious and important.
And the ugly? If this gambit of Obama’s goes south and we somehow end up with a bewildered Mitt Romney holding the highest office in the land, I feel we can rest assured that same-sex couples will have another extraordinarily long wait before another serious, progressive-minded leader dares to touch the issue again. The contentious issues in a democracy evolve over time; political suicide does not.
Though the projections for the Electoral College (this is the thing that matters in a presidential election, those of you who scrunch your eyebrows) continue to forecast Obama’s re-election by an adroit margin, the popular polls are leveling off lately. While the Obama administration enjoys the boon in fundraising from cats fat and thin in the announcement’s wake, culminating perhaps with the $40,000-per-plate dinner thrown by none other than the leader of our generation’s rat pack, George Clooney, the Romney camp has enjoyed a flux of voters whose chief demographic feature is intolerance more than anything else.
And this brings us to the bleakest possibility liberals must confront as the same-sex marriage issue seems poised to be decided one way or another, once-and-for-awhile: just as China tyrannizes Tibet, just as Russia stifles protest, perhaps in America we just don’t like gay people. Certainly not married ones.
All nations must have their own jaundiced eyes for one group or another — why should America be any different? Why should the Medievalists who somehow still manage to keep Limbaugh on the air be denied yet another victory? Why should the free and equal society promised by the Constitution, among other things, be actualized anywhere beyond taunts and cries of socialism?
These are certainly among the most jaded, sardonic words I’ve penned here, but I feel the seriousness of this issue, the sheer multitude of hopes that now rest in our democratic politics, warrants them. To regard this issue without this sobering caveat carries the odor of triteness, of a teenager’s wistful arête.
I promised good news, so here is some: The left is re-energized. Here is a worthy cause that you can support without having to pitch a tent anywhere. Here is cause that is objectively meaningful: the chance to extend a bit more freedom to a few more people seems to me one of the most laudable civic accomplishments one could hope to be a part of. (Think of how silly all these zealous protestors will look in 40 years.)
Just as marriage inequality seems oddly misplaced in the 21st century, it is high time our generation accomplished something measurably awesome. So let’s all get on the bandwagon, support this president through the election, and keep the pressure on him to prioritize same-sex marriage in the next four years.