Here’s to New York
Everyone has covered this already but I’d just like to add to the chorus of those cheering for a job well done. Here’s hoping that other states will soon follow suit. Who knows, Arkansas might even get there in another 10 years or so.
In tribute, thought I’d post one of my favorite scenes from Angels in America. We watched it at the beach (though I fear Beth might have preferred to spend those nights playing Scrabble, as much as she enjoyed it) and I was reminded once again of this one particular line, which may be for me the most moving line from anything I’ve ever seen. It comes at about 3:40 into the clip, and it’s spoken by the 18th-century prior Prior:
Isn’t that great? There’s something about that line that’s just so…ineffably sad. For me, I get the same feeling from it that I get from those Nat Geo specials detailing how the earth, solar system, and sun will die. You know, just a very sad feeling that everything that is and has been will be gone without a trace, with no one to remember it all. Kind of the ultimate nostalgia. Sure, it’s billions of years away, but it is sad-making to ponder.
That line isn’t why I chose the clip, though. I picked this one because I like it best – love the ghosts of the prior Priors, and also, there’s something so very 80’s feeling about the whole dance scene, and I thought it was interesting for that reason given what just happened in New York. Kind of gets you casting your mind back to where things were then as opposed to now. What a long, long way things have come in 25 years.
Now, I’m gonna get up on my soapbox about something that’s bugging me. Friday night, immediately following the news of the vote, Rachel Maddow added “President Obama doesn’t agree with what New York just did.” And on his show, Bill Maher was talking about how Obama isn’t as progressive as the majority of Americans on this issue, since recent polls show support for legalizing same-sex marriage at around 53%.
This is unhelpful. First of all, Rachel Maddow is damn well politically savvy enough to know that, had Obama’s position during the campaign been for the M word rather than civil unions, he might well have lost Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, Indiana, Colorado and probably several more. Because he did win those states, we now have a repeal of DADT and a justice department that opted not to defend DOMA. Furthermore, he has done nothing to discourage states from taking action to legalize same-sex marriage, and he has not publicly spoken out against same-sex marriage other than saying “I don’t support it, I support civil unions” during the campaign (and perhaps he’s said it since, but still…). So I find the “the president does not agree with what New York just did” to be kind of a low blow, actually, and really inappropriate to the joy of the moment. Ms. Maddow, I am surprised – mostly because I don’t think that you, yourself, really believe that President Obama opposes same-sex marriage.
Then we’ve got Bill Maher knocking him because he’s still not made a statement in support even though a majority of people polled said they were in favor. Again, Bill Maher is savvy enough to know better. 53% is a majority, true, but it’s not a huge one, and we know that young people are overwhelmingly more supportive of marriage equality than older people are. We also know that some areas of the country are much more progressive in their attitudes – the northeast, the west coast – so you have to figure that these are big factors in finally pushing sentiment over the hump into majority approval.
The problem is, young people often don’t vote. So while they might think it was really awesome to hear the president say he supports marriage equality, if his saying so turns some older voters off, it’s a net loss of votes. Also, you can’t win the presidency with just the northeast and the west coast. Obama is going to have to be able to pick up a few states in other, more socially-conservative regions to win re-election. Just hearing Obama say he’s supportive won’t in and of itself change anything vis-a-vis marriage equality – but it could cost him a state or two, enough to throw the election.
If I was Rachel Maddow, I’m sure I would be offended by not having the vocal support of the president, and gays and lesbians have been told “we just have to wait a little longer” for at least the last 20 years. It has, I’m sure, become very old.
But if the choice is between having the warm & fuzzies because the president said something you wanted to hear him say, and things like DADT repeal, non-defense of DOMA, and steady progress, unmolested by the feds, in the states, the latter is a damn sight better than having a president who wants to propose constitutional amendments spelling out second-class citizenship for our gay and lesbian brethren.
I think Obama should have his feet held to the fire on this, but not until after the election. He’s delivered some of the goods already, but we have to be mindful of political realities. Does anyone on the left really believe that Obama opposes marriage equality? Because I don’t. I think it’s political expediency when he says otherwise, and though I’m not a huge fan of political expediency, it exists because sometimes it’s both helpful and needed. Besides, I’m not sure exactly what he, alone as president, can accomplish on this issue. Not much, I fear. As such, I can’t see the point in demanding that he say what we’d like to hear, particularly if it allows someone from the Clown Car Party to win in 2012.