One thing I’ve noticed throughout this middle stage of the American presidential primaries, with McCain, Obama and Hillary prostrated before the electorate and world at large, has been the vast number of people apparently happy for any of them to become president in November. This they justify largely by McCain’s reputation as a maverick, regularly out of step with the mainstream of the Republican party, which by definition should put him comfortably to the left of the incumbent cretin. He’s been on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show time and again, and come across as genuinely affable and quite intelligent, and anyway could you imagine a decorated war hero discriminating against people? Well yes actually. Look at this:
He’s not just against gay marriage, but he’s against civil unions. Whilst the idiot Bush tried for the thankfully ill-fated Federal Marriage Amendment, he did support civil unions. McCain is demonstrably taking a position to the right even of Bush, and he may think it will play well with the religious right, but to anyone else it should set alarm bells ringing.
Why he’d go onto the Ellen show to back this position up though is completely beyond me. It’s a really stupid blunder, given how enormously popular she is, and how many women watch the programme. It’s highly likely that Oprah has had a fundamentally positive effect on the Obama campaign – this could conversely prove stupidly extremely damaging for McCain, particularly considering how arrogantly he comes across.
He believes that discrimination ‘against any American’ is wrong, but that there is no need for legislation to prohibit anti-gay discrimination in the workplace. I wonder how that is supposed to happen then – just ask homophobes nicely if they’ll stop?
Of course this wasn’t an issue until the California Supreme Court’s decision, and it’s interesting to see the utter sea change in dynamics which this has forced in the election narrative. Where Obama’s motivational rhetoric had been looking for a theme to define him, he now comes across as principled and progressive (and oddly not as much as Arnold Schwarzenegger), whilst McCain is left sounding old fashioned, uninteresting and with nothing to offer a society which has moved on since the Bush hate campaign of 2004. He’s tried to hit Obama twice this week, on foreign policy and for not having military experience, but neither charge has stuck. I can’t help but wonder if that’s because Obama is coming across as the leader a significant proportion of America has wanted for some time, and McCain is fitting in nicely with Obama’s narrative of being ‘Bush 2.0’.
You’re going to point out that Obama doesn’t support gay marriage either aren’t you? Well this interview in the Advocate paints a smarter picture, with Obama essentially taking Tony Blair’s position. He can claim to the right wing that he’s against gay marriage, whilst behind the scenes tinkering with the law to give civil unions the identical rights to civil marriage. It’s true that Blair went much further in creating a new national institution, which Obama isn’t offering, but his path would allow for change in such a volatile country to continue at a manageable pace. Moving from there towards full equality would quite logically best come from the ground up, as in the UK, as opponents discover by experience just how scary and divisive same-sex marriage isn’t. And of course the impact of the California decision could yet render the current paradigm mood, should it stand after November…
So I strongly respect the right of same-sex couples to insist that even if we got complete equality in benefits, it still wouldn’t be equal because there’s a stigma associated with not having the same word, marriage, assigned to it. I understand that, but my perspective is also shaped by the broader political and historical context in which I’m operating.
He’s a smart man, who’s done very well to prove his case. I hope he wins in November.