I support and admire Barack Obama the President, but I am occasionally befuddled by Barack Obama the Presidential Candidate.
As someone who wants President Obama to be re-elected in November and wants Amendment One to be defeated in May, I’d like to see President Obama release an official comment on Amendment One. I earnestly think it would be in his best interest, as well as in the interest of the state of North Carolina.
Let’s remember: President Obama did release an official statement about Proposition 8 in California. A quote from the White House: “The President has spoken out in opposition to Proposition 8 because it is divisive and discriminatory. He will continue to promote equality for LGBT Americans.”
Other quotes from Barack Obama that are directly applicable to Amendment One in North Carolina:
“When you start playing around with constitutions, just to prohibit somebody who cares about another person, it just seems to me that’s not what America’s about. Usually, our constitutions expand liberties, they don’t contract them.”
Barack Obama has also said that he supports “strong civil unions … that provide legal rights to same-sex couples [so] that they can visit each other in the hospital if they get sick, [so] they can transfer property to each other. If they’ve got benefits, they can make sure those benefits apply to their partners. I think that’s the direction we need to go in. I think young people are ahead of the curve on this for the most part. Their attitude, generally, is that we should be respectful of all people, and that’s the kind of politics I want to practice.” Let’s not forget--Amendment One would make civil unions unconstitutional in our state and would strip legal rights from same sex couples. It is an obvious no-brainer that North Carolina Amendment One flies in the face of the policies and principles Obama has said he supports in the past.
Barack Obama has released official statements about other recent ballot initiatives, saying he opposed the Ohio anti-collective bargaining initiative.
If Obama wanted to, he certainly could speak out against Amendment One. He could, but should he?
Here’s how this would be good for the Anti-Amendment One Coalition
Let’s not forget that if Obama believes in the legal rights of same-sex couples, he and other Democrats are or ought to be in the Anti-Amendment One coalition! But more specifically, what could Obama do to increase the probability that Amendment One fails?
- Use his influence to persuade low-information voters: Public Policy Polling found that a majority of North Carolinian supported Amendment One, even though a majority also supported civil unions! A1 would make civil unions unconstitutional, and wouldn’t change the legal status of gay marriage. About 20% of North Carolinians support legal recognition for gays and plan to vote for the anti-civil union amendment, clearly indicating that they don’t have complete information about the Amendment’s impacts. If Obama used some his volunteer base during early voting in high turnout Democratic precincts just to pass out literature saying: “President Obama supports civil unions, and believes that all families deserve legal protections. Amendment One would make civil unions unconstitutional in North Carolina, and strip away legal protections from families,” this would have an absolutely enormous impact because President Obama is someone that is trusted and respected. If this same message comes from volunteers from ProtectNC Families or other anti-A1 groups, the facts will be just as true, but it won’t seem as credible.
- Get voters, especially young voters, registered and registered in North Carolina: In 2008, Barack Obama won the state of North Carolina by an average of just five votes per precinct, and by fewer votes than there are Duke students. In 2008, if just 6,847 voters had picked McCain instead of Obama, the state’s 15 electoral votes would have gone red. That number is the closest margin by which any state was decided for Obama in 2008. By leveraging Amendment One, Obama could convince out-of-state college students that they should register to vote in NC.
- Remind progressive activists of his enthusiasm and regain trust/support among the left: Obama has actually done a lot for LGBT Americans, and has a record that I’m proud of. He has often been criticized of not accomplishing enough, a charge I think is bullox. But what I do think is true is that is that he is afraid to highlight his own accomplishments; he is not sufficiently proud of the many ways in which he’s made the United States a more just and prosperous place. He needs to remind liberals and libertarian-leaning conservatives how much better he is on issues of rights and liberties than his GOP opponents.
- Remain relevant and in the news
- Take advantage of the many volunteers statewide that are volunteering to fight Amendment One between now and May: Let’s say Obama made two pieces of lit that Protect All NC Families, Duke Together and other anti-A1 groups could use: a piece of literature designed to inform low-information voters, and a piece of literature to galvanize known allies of the LGBT community, with his image/messaging. He would have lots and lots of volunteers around the state who would be handing out literature with his face on it! This would be a good thing! He’d also be much more likely to pick up volunteers from Protect All NC Families to help enthusiastically with his campaign in the summer and fall. Amendment One is bringing in new political activists who weren’t even registered to vote before–when you realize that politics can take away rights and protections that you currently enjoy, that is a big motivation to be politically active! These activists should stay active past May 8th–we need leaders who won’t promote discriminatory policies. Obama taking a stand on A1 will help make sure that new activists are absorbed into the fold.
- Get people in the habit of voting: You don’t want liberals to stay home on election day, and A1 is an issue that is black-and-white for strong progressives. Voting causes psychological changes that make individuals more likely to view themselves as voters. It is in Obama’s best interest to give people a reason to vote in May–it will make them more likely to vote in November.
To President Obama: You can’t afford to lose North Carolina. Progressive activists around the state are ignoring you, instead of working on your behalf, because you haven’t given us away to inject your powerful pro-equality message into our own campaign.