"Evolving"

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 9 2012 11:23 AM

"Evolving"

The main* reason I have trouble getting excited or verklempt by this week's gay marriage spats: Barack Obama's position is transparently bunk. It's fun to needle a politician on something that he clearly doesn't want to discuss. More evidence? Look to the Associated Press's story on West Virginia's primary, in which Sen. Joe Manchin refuses to say whether he voted for his president in his primary, or whether he voted for the convicted felon running a stunt campaign against the president. Hell, at least the convict doesn't want to close down coal plants!

But there's never been a question about what Obama thinks of gay marriage. What's the word he and his team use to describe his position? "Evolving." It's an extremely clever little dodge, because the word itself is normative. You don't "evolve" into a less enlightened or admirable or wise position. The word implies that Obama's current position is un-evolved, cro-magnon, destined to expire. The only question is whether President Obama endorses SSM, second term President Obama endorses it, or former President Obama endorses it.

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So: It's a fight about words, not policy. Evan McMorris-Santoro sussed out what would actually change if Obama came out for SSM. Notice the lack of specifics.

“We don’t think we would have a different agenda but we would have a different legislative atmosphere,” said Darlene Nipper, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “The president can demonstrate leadership by choosing to talk about something that a growing majority of Americans support and actually sort of push the envelope to the next level.”

Next level envelopes! The bored Washington buzz about Obama's ABC News interview today is that he'll complete his "evolution."

*Weird Freudian typo fixed.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.