Obama tries to woo evangelicals
Barack Obama's on the make for evangelicals - specifically the conservative, registered-to-vote variety. The same type of voters he previously referred to as being "bitter" and who "cling to guns or religion".
A few weeks ago he told such voters that, if elected, he would expand and overhaul President Bush's federal faith based initiatives, announcing his own "Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships". He has begun regular attempts to appeal to evangelicals, speaking to them on multiple occasions in recent weeks as part of what his campaign terms its "Joshua project".
Of course this is all well and good. Candidates who expect the votes of any Americans should make an attempt to address their concerns. The reality however is more blatantly political in that, on the fundamental cultural and moral concerns of evangelicals, he has very little in common with them at all.
The differences are greatest on two fundamental issues: abortion and gay marriage.
On abortion, Obama just became only the second presidential candidate in American history to be endorsed by Planned Parenthood, which referred to him in its announcement as a "passionate advocate" for the right to abortion.
In a speech to the group last July, Obama stated that, "...on this fundamental issue, I will not yield...", and that, "the first thing I'd do as President is sign the Freedom of Choice Act", (an act that would overturn hundreds of state abortion laws, including those regarding parental notification, and would guarantee public funding for abortion).
A hint as to just how "passionate" he is on the subject, as a state senator in Illinois, he actually opposed legislation, (known as "Born Alive Infant Protection"), that would mandate care for infants who were born alive in spite of attempts at abortion. Not exactly a mainstream American position, much less for evangelical voters.
As for his views on the most fundamental institution in our society, the family, it gets no better.
He's for overturning the Defense of Marriage Act, overruling the military by repealing "don't ask, don't tell", opposes constitutional amendments that define marriage as "one man and one woman", (which have passed in 30 states with an average 70% of the vote), and wants anti-discrimination laws that not only cover "sexual preference" but "gender identity".
That's "change we can believe in" all right.
And keep in mind that overturning the Defense of Marriage Act means each state could then be forced to recognize a gay marriage performed in another state, in effect allowing one state to redefine marriage for the entire country.
He made his position on state marriage amendments known a few weeks ago in a letter to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Democratic Club of San Francisco, saying: "I oppose the divisive and discriminatory efforts to amend the California Constitution, and similar efforts to amend the U.S. Constitution or those of other states".
Well, that's pretty clear, right? At least until his campaign went into spin mode, suggesting that he still opposes gay marriage, but supports gay civil unions and domestic partnerships.
In other words, he's suggesting that he's opposed to same-sex marriage, but opposes any attempts to keep it against the law. Meaning he opposes the right of voters in any state to be able to keep the traditional definition of marriage from being redefined by unelected judges, (as happened in Massachusetts and California).
The truth is that he wants to play the political game of being for something without having to admit it. Meaning he'll say he's for gay civil unions and domestic partnerships which have all the same rights and benefits of marriage and hope nobody points out that it's gay marriage in all but name - so as not to upset some of those "bitter" middle class voters he'll need in a few swing states this November.
For all the rhetoric of a new kind of politics, it turns out he's really just a repackaged version of the same old cultural liberalism most Americans have rejected for decades. He's hoping that they don't catch on before Election Day.
(This column also ran in The State)