Why Obama Should Thank Joe Biden

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
May 9 2012 6:59 PM

The Audacity of Evolution

Obama could blame Biden for forcing the timing of his support for gay marriage, but he really should thank him.

(Continued from Page 1)

A source who raises money for Democrats says that Obama has mostly maxed out with donations from the gay political community, but that his Super PAC and other nonaffiliated support groups still need massive high-dollar donations. A lot of potential donors are influential members of the gay community who follow the same-sex marriage issue closely and who were likely to be most offended by the president holding on to his same, “evolving” stance. How could an Obama bundler—one of those financial backers who raises huge sums from their circle of friends—who had been convincing those same friends that the president was with them, continue to make calls with this fresh slap in the face? Says the Democratic fundraiser: "Once this became a litmus test if you're a gay bundler, after 100 hours saying ‘the president is going to do the right thing’ now you’re calling saying 'sorry this happened, but I can't raise another dollar unless you do the right thing.’ ”

As a matter of narrative continuity, it was probably also a wise political move for the president to take a stand. The Obama campaign has consistently claimed that his opponent lacks a moral core; he shades and capers and doesn't tell you what he believes in his heart. This was all true of the president's position on gay marriage. It's good for him to be free of that wrinkle, though narrative continuity (running a campaign that makes sense) probably has a limited affect on voters and their final choices.

What was less clear was whether the president was exercising logical continuity. Based on the limited transcripts of the interview, the president said he supported same-sex marriage but didn’t think it was a right. He said the states could continue to handle the issue as they saw fit. Forty-four states right now do not allow it. Under this same line of thinking, in 1967 he would have supported the right for interracial couples to marry but would have thought Virginia had a right not to allow it.


Shortly after Obama’s comments, Mitt Romney reasserted his opposition to same-sex marriage and took the opportunity to point out that he had never wavered in that stance. Republican organizer Ralph Reed said the president's "flip-flop" on gay marriage would doom him. It’s certain the president just helped Mitt Romney consolidate his base. How it will play in the wider electorate is less clear. The latest Pew Research Center survey found that Americans back same-sex marriage 47 to 43. The decision will turn off working-class voters but perhaps energize younger voters and college-educated suburban voters.

The political machinations of the moment were fascinating—what will this mean to Hispanics in North Carolina?—but this election is not going to turn on same-sex marriage. Romney wants to keep focused on the economy. The president wants to divert from certain conversations about the economy but not to this issue. 

A lot of people have been comparing this election to the 2004 race. Today, they get another data point. During that election, President Bush called for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. According to White House sources at the time, it was an effort to stir the conservative GOP base in what the president and his team knew would be a close election. Obama’s support for gay marriage may not have been aimed at getting the base excited as much as keeping some of its influential members from being angry. That anger would have been far more muted had it not been for Joe Biden. The president could blame his No. 2, but since Biden led to the culmination of Obama’s evolutionary journey and put him on the right side of history, perhaps the president should thank him. 



Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.

Why all cracker names sound alike.

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
Brow Beat
Sept. 21 2014 2:00 PM Colin Farrell Will Star in True Detective’s Second Season
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 22 2014 5:30 AM MAVEN Arrives at Mars
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.