Opinion

For Washington, a risky love affair

By JEROME FRANCIS, political columnist

Four years ago, Barack Obama came into office riding on a surge of support from moderates — the swing demographic that has determined many elections. More often than not, this group consists of middle-aged voters who decide who they will cast their vote for based on ideology and innovation rather than strict party ties. Strong support from moderates gave Barack Obama his historic victory in 2008. The bills he has passed since the 2010 midterm elections have shown his ability to appeal to moderates by making compromises that have gained the support of many conservatives. Following this trend, Obama should have chosen to remain tepid towards his stance on gay marriage — a controversial issue on which politicians in Washington have been walking tightrope. Obama has already repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” without much backlash from the general populace and has instead recieved many commendations for his decision. It is a known fact that he sympathizes with gay Americans. With the overwhelming support he has from the LGBT community, the President had little reason to take it a step further and declare that he is in favor of legalizing gay marriage. The announcement came at the beginning of the official presidential campaign, possibly as an impetus for the youth to rally behind him as they have done in the past. However, such a stance comes at the expense of weakened support from his two main demographic bases: the African-American and Latino communities.

The African-American voter base generally votes for Obama because of ethnic and cultural ties. However, African-Americans have also historically comprised a religious group that has shown support for a conservative Christian political agenda; the beliefs espoused by many African-Americans include “traditional” marriages between a man and a woman. A poll by Pew Research Center has shown that two-thirds of African-Americans are against gay marriage, as opposed to roughly 51% of Caucasians. Obama based much of his 2008 campaign on appealing to the religious zeal of African-Americans. If he loses the support of this key group, Obama risks sacrificing a contributing factor that led to his triumph over McCain (which could ultimately result in Mitt Romney winning the presidency).

The Latino community also came out in strong support of Obama in the 2008 election; a staggering 67% of the Latinos gave their support to Obama due to his promises of economic recovery and government responsibility. His ability to honor these pledges would have helped Obama in this coming election. However, he forgot to keep in mind that the majority of the Latino community is Catholic. Catholicism does not look favorably towards gay marriage (as the Bible states that marriage is the union of a man and woman); a core foundation of the Republican argument against gay marriage comes from this belief. Obama’s pledged support towards gay marriage may push more moderate Latinos into the Republican helm for 2012.

Obama’s declaration that he supports gay marriage conforms to the rhetoric of the Democratic Party. However, it is also a major political blunder in the midst of an extremely tight race: Obama must appeal to the masses, not the few, if he wants any chance at a victory. He cannot rely on the youth, who as a group support gay marriage, to carry him in this election. Even though the younger generation has turned out in greater numbers recently, Obama should not count on them alone as his most reliable backbone of support. The groups that carried him the most in 2008 are going to be the only ones who can carry him to the White House again. Isolating them from his campaign is most definitely not the way to go, especially if he wants a second term.

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