Things That Matter, and Things That Don'tToday seems to be the day for everyone to slam the President's position on marriage equality. And by 'everyone', I mean not just liberals but the Washington press corps and the chair of the RNC (Dave Weigel eviscerates Priebus' idiocy).
And somehow, lost in this discussion is the single most important point: it doesn't matter.
The President's 'opposition' (whether sincere, halfhearted, or feigned) is inconsequential in the most literal sense of the word: it has no consequences. It does not affect marriage equality either way.
With one big glaring exception, marriage laws are entirely the province of the states. The President of the United States has no authority over them. It matters what governors think about marriage equality, or what state legislators think, or what the voters in North Carolina and Minnesota think (this election cycle) and what California voters thought in 2008 (and will think next time it's on the ballot). It does not matter what the President thinks.
The big glaring exception, of course, is DOMA, which creates a Federal barrier to marriage equality. (Limited-government conservatives consider this
It is possible that marriage equality will be federalized in the not-too-distant future, because of a Federal-court challenge to a state law. That's a matter for the judicial branch, and (again) not within the President's authority to affect one way or the other.
And yeah, in theory, Congress could pass a law mandating marriage equality, or Congress and 38 states could pass a constitutional amnedment, but really: naga happen. Which means the President's opinion on these hypotheticals (whatever it is) is about as consequential as his opinions about unicorn sex.
Of course, the President is free to comment on state-level marriage laws. Which he has done, opposing anti-marriage-equality initiatives in North Carolina and Minnesota. Just as, four years ago, he opposed Proposition 8. So, y'know, there's that.
So it comes down to this: the one thing the President has the latitude to do that would have a concrete, practical impact on marriage equality, he has done. And where he doesn't have the authority, he has taken a stand. (Maybe not as forcefully or as frequently as some people would like, but he has taken a stand.)
This is a thing that drives me nuts about 'progressives'. This obsession with posturing over governing, with symbolic gestures over practical impact. There are legitimate complaints about the President's record on LGBT rights (e.g., not issuing an executive order mandating non-discrimination by Federal contractors); there is also the perspective that the President has done more for LGBT rights than any previous president, while Romney has committed to aggressively moving things backwards. When the conversation is about what he says about an issue that is largely out of his control, both of these points are lost.
And when the focus on the inconsequential crowds out the things that have a practical impact, we lose. Progressives lose, liberals lose, Democrats lose, everyone who wants to have a fact-based discourse loses, everyone who wants government to solve real problems loses.
Keep your eye on the ball. Everything depends on that.