Over the past several months several politicians have said that their views on certain hot button issues – namely gay marriage – have “evolved.” As a former State Senator, I suggest most of their views did not change or “evolve” over time, instead, they found a convenient time and place to jump on board when public opinion shifted in their favor or for their political gain.
Case in point is President Obama’s position on the issue of marriage.
As an Illinois State Senator, he signed a questionnaire saying he favored same-sex marriage, however, that statement was later denounced by a White House communications director who claimed in June 2011 that the questionnaire was “actually filled out by someone else.” Those who knew him well never questioned his support for same-sex marriage because they knew where Obama stood.
But during his campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2004, Obama conveniently reversed course and gave a definition of marriage – at least in part – to what Tony Perkins or James Dobson would give.
“What I believe is that marriage is between a man and a woman,” Obama said in an interview with a Chicago public television station. “What I believe, in my faith, is that a man and a woman, when they get married, are performing something before God, and it’s not simply the two persons who are meeting.”
However, he still found the words to massage his statement and hedged his position to not alienate himself from the gay community.
“That doesn’t mean that that necessarily translates into a position on public policy or with respect to civil unions. What it does mean is that we have a set of traditions in place that, I think, need to be preserved, but I also think we need to make sure that gays and lesbians have the same set of basic rights that are in place,” he said.
Obama, saying he had finally reached the end of his evolution, publically came out in support of gay marriage in May of 2012 – five months before winning a second term in the White House.
Fast-forward to the latter half of 2012 and early 2013.
Supporting gay marriage has become “in vogue” and is now being championed by former Vice President Dick Cheney who lobbied on behalf of Maryland’s same-sex marriage bill, former first lady Laura Bush and more recently, former President Bill Clinton and his wife, former Secretary of State and possible 2016 presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton.
Now let’s jump to the list of GOP elected leaders.
Former Bush White House aide and RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman gathered about 130 signatures for a letter urging the U.S. Supreme Court to allow same-sex marriage by ruling against California’s Proposition 8. If this happens, same-sex marriage will be allowed in all 50 states, and the Court’s ruling will overturn constitutional bans mandated in the voting booth by citizens in over 40 states.
Added to the list of those evolving on the issue are GOP Senators Lisa Murkowski (AK), Rob Portman (OH), and Mark Kirk (IL).
My guess is the ones you will not see “evolving” are senators such as Mary Landrieu (LA), Mark Pryor (AR) and Tim Johnson (S.D.). Most voters in these states may favor civil unions but still hold firm to the traditional definition of marriage.
The one exception has been Democrat Sen. Kay Hagen (N.C.) who recently expressed her support for same-sex marriage after Portman did. Last year, the Tar Heel State voters overwhelmingly supported a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman and that could present her with some challenges.
Regardless of any prior opposition to this or any other hot-button issue, in reality, I maintain there was little effort in “evolving” on the subject. Instead, these politicos either felt this way all along or they are conveniently jumping on board because doing so is “politically correct” and will gain them points with voters back home.
When I was a freshman in the Tennessee House of Representatives we had to grapple with whether or not to implement a state income tax. A handful of Democrats and Republicans who had ran on the issue of opposing this tax were talked into voting in favor of the tax. With one exception, each one was later defeated at the polls or chose not to seek reelection.
Voters can often tell when a politician expresses a real change of heart or changes his/her position for political expediency. At the end of the day, if the voters suspect the latter, there could be a price to pay on Election Day. We’ll see next year.