Yesterday’s overwhelming approval of a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions by the voters of North Carolina underlines the growing likelihood that the issue will be a major factor in the 2012 presidential election. Consider the following circumstances:
—The vote came two days after the endorsement of gay marriage by Vice President Joe Biden on Meet the Press.
—It came one day after the endorsement of gay marriage by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
—It came in the state selected by Team Obama as the site of the Democratic National Convention, now less than four months away.
—A big reason the state was picked was its unexpected vote for the Obama-Biden ticket in 2008.
Republican elites and consultants who say the definition of marriage and other social issues are “narrow” and “divisive” will now no doubt explain why marriage is, in terms of margin, today running more than 20 points ahead of John McCain in 2008 and (in recent North Carolina polls) Mitt Romney. (Don’t hold your breath waiting for that one.)
Regardless of what the consultants think, the gulf between the American people and what the Democratic party is likely to write into its platform this September in Charlotte is rendering the issue of gay marriage unavoidable this November. The unanimity of Democratic elites has made a gay marriage platform plank unstoppable. The Republican platform will continue to oppose gay marriage, and by election day more voters than ever before will be aware that, for better or worse, reelection of the Obama-Biden ticket could well mean federal imposition of gay marriage in the president’s second term. Given that in the swing states most critical in the Electoral College, voters are (like those in North Carolina) more socially conservative than economically conservative, partisan polarization of the marriage issue should be far from a source of comfort for Team Obama and its strategists.
Jeffrey Bell, director of policy of the American Principles Project, is author of The Case for Polarized Politics: Why America Needs Social Conservatism (Encounter Books, March 2012).