July 11, 2004

The Tied Hands Of President Bush

It's looking like Bush's conservative base is forcing him to get more involved in the gay marriage debate. If I were Bush I'd tell them to screw themselves, but that's just me. It's not like they're going to vote for Kerry, and given how tight this election is liable to be I'm sure he can scare them enough to keep them from just staying home over this. That being said it looks like he's going to push this harder, which could really hurt him with the ever-valuable undecided moderates. We'll see how it pans out. Like the article says, it's not looking like the bill will pass the senate anyway, so there's the distinct possibility that Bush could make himself look like an ass to moderates by coming out swinging for this and not even get anything out of it.


Noumena said...

"Mr. Bush's conservative base clearly supports the amendment, but polls have shown that while a majority of undecided voters oppose gay marriage, a majority of them also do not support amending the Constitution to ban it."

It's important to be clear on what we mean by Bush's `base'. First, everyone who saw F9/11 should remember W referring to a banquet hall full of plutocrats as his base. While this was tossed off as a joke, this administration caters to the wealthy at the expense of every other demographic one can think of, so in the sense of `group that should be supporting Bush more than any other', this is a perfectly accurate sentiment.

But, of course, this isn't the distinction I have in mind. Just who is `clearly supporting' the Hate Amendment? While considering a single poll is lousy social science, I only want to sketch my doubts here, so the CBS poll from the middle of May (it's down just a bit) should serve our purposes.

Thus, the responses to the second question, where 78% of Republicans favour the Hate Amendment, 20% oppose, and 3% don't know, seems to support the statement at the top. But in the third question, approximately the same percentage of Republicans (46 vs. 44%) would vote for a candidate with a different POV on the issue as would not. This means the hard-core HA supporters amount to, at most, 44% of registered Republicans, and it is not completely unreasonable to estimate them to be only 34% of registered Republicans.

In other words, either the conservative `base' amounts to a minority section of the party, or they do not so clearly support the Hate Amendment. My suspicion is that the percentage of dedicated HA supporters is closer to 34%, and is made up mostly of conservative activists and propagandists, not the average membership of the party. The roughly 40% chunk which supports the HA, but not so dogmatically, are then mostly just moderates going along with the only voice they hear, the paranoid garbage the conservatives are spewing forth.

This does not mean I think the Republican leadership should champion the HA in the hope that they'll alienate moderates and shoot themselves in the foot, as Ben sugests. What's missing is an adequate response to the conservative propaganda from the left, liberals, and even sane moderates. Online photo albums of gay marriages in the Chron aren't enough: we need to be waxing eloquent about civil rights, how broadening the sense of the word `family' isn't weakening it, and the difference between legally recognized and religiously sanctified marriages.

MosBen said...

I didn't mean to say that conservative SHOULD advocate for this ammendment, I just think Bush specifically and some of the other Republicans generally can't avoid it. He was elected by a coalition of different concervative groups which put asside thier differences to win the White House. Now that they have it some of the groups are tired of compromising on their pet issues. Fortunately, as you mention, enough Republicans and Democrats are free from these groups that this ammendment shouldn't pass.

MosBen said...

You are right though that I wish Democrats were being a bit more vocal about this, but I understand why they might be afraid to.

Noumena said...

My suggestion is that the Bush campaign, and indeed most of the Republican campaigns around the country this year, could avoid the issue, because the only real support for the Hate Amendment is coming from a section of the party which, while producing much of the propaganda and activists, is fairly marginal ideologically and in terms of how much power they enjoy in government.

For example, consider this article in the Chron this morning, which claims that `Although groups such as the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family have strived mightily to generate enthusiasm, the issue [the Hate Amendment] has not yet caught fire in the pews .... beyond the activists, few others seem to be paying attention.' The only real support for the HA is at the level of party leadership.