On Monday, Alex Wagner invited fellow MSNBC hosts Martin Bashir and Al Sharpton on her midday program to discuss the political impact of Obama’s support for gay marriage as registered in a new CBS/New York Times poll: the verdict in the poll was that the news is not good for team Obama. In fact, the news was so bad that Bashir took to arguing with the respondents have “accused” Obama of making a political calculation. Those voters, Sharpton said, should be “smarter” than to think Obama won political points with his pivot. Their resentment is, well, misguided.
Wagner asked “Rev.” Sharpton if he thought it was a problem for Obama that the findings in a new CBS/New York Times poll that showed 67 percent of voters viewed the President’s embrace of gay marriage rights as a political maneuver while only 24 percent said they believed he was moved to support same-sex marriage out of principle.
Sharpton said that Obama would have to address that issue, but also said the voters were dead wrong that it could have been a political calculation because Obama has not benefited politically from the announcement.
“As you go down the rest of the poll, there was not that much of a political advantage here, and if anything he got some flack in his own base,” said Sharpton. “So, I think that those who have been made to believe or believe on their own he did it for political reasons would then have to look at the results and say you have to be smarter than that to know that he was not going to gain politically because he didn’t.”
Where to begin? First, Sharpton has confused political opponents of President Obama with registered voters. That 67 percent of registered voters probably includes significant overlap among Obama supporters and opponents.
Second, is it not at least excusable for a voter to think that Obama made a political calculation when he embraced gay marriage seeing as how he contradicted himself on the matter several times over the course of his career? Indeed, Obama only embraced gay marriage after his Vice President publically contradicted him and the White House was hounded by the press for almost 72 consecutive hours to clarify the President’s official position.
Finally, once Obama “came out,” as it were, he proceeded to use it as the singular pillar of his reelection fundraising efforts – holding several high-profile fundraising events with openly-gay celebrities and suggesting that his likely opponent, Mitt Romney, is “backward” on same-sex marriage rights in fundraising emails because he holds an opposing rhetorical – not policy – position on the issue. One, by the way, that Obama had held not one week ago.
And Sharpton asserts that Obama did not benefit politically from his announcement when he knows quite well that he did. Obama raised yet-undisclosed millions from the various fundraisers – the campaign even announced that they had raised $1 million within 90 minutes of announcing his pivot on gay marriage rights. If that’s not political advantage, what is?
Bashir compounded the asininity when he said that the respondents in this poll were “accusing” Obama of making a political move and it was actually Romney that was the chief beneficiary of Obama’s announcement on gay marriage. Not because Obama had forfeited some enthusiasm among his base of conservative African American supporters – but because it allows Romney to finally secure some of the evangelical vote that had been wary of Romney… Because it’s January, in case you were unaware.
Bashir went on to compare President Obama to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to which Rev. Sharpton agreed. Because, we all remember that famous speech that Dr. King delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character… And I continue to believe that this is an issue that is gonna be worked out at the local level, because historically, this has not been a federal issue.”
Meanwhile, back at present-day MSNBC, Wagner played a clip of a black pastor who told CNN that he planned to stay home on Election Day as a result of Obama’s expressing support for same-sex marriage rights. Sharpton cited Democratic governors, like Maryland’s Martin O’Malley and New York’s Andrew Cuomo, who have backed policy legalizing gay marriage and asked if that pastor would stay home for them as well?
Ostensibly, the answer is yes. The top of the ticket drives turnout in presidential years, and the down-ballot races always suffer when turnout is low. “We’re going to risk the Supreme Court, we’re going to risk health care, we’re going to risk the economy because any governor or president or anybody that on one issue I disagree with, I’m going to stay home,” said Sharpton. The answer is yes, yes and yes, Rev. Sharpton. That’s the thing about single-issue voters.
In all likelihood, the debate over gay marriage will be a distant memory by November. By then, Obama will have extracted all the necessary good will and donations that stem from his announcement. Furthermore, the national conversation will have progressed enough so that his support among conservative African American voters will have rebounded. But you would not know that from the exaggeration that passed for analysis on this segment. Passion on the issue is no substitute for measured analysis.
Watch the segment below via MSNBC:
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