Sunday, June 26, 2011

Michele Bachmann bobs and weaves on same-sex marriage, sort of

Though it makes me very uncomfortable to say this, I continue to be grudgingly impressed by Michele Bachmann. I have no doubt that she is a nut-job right-winger. I am certain that if she got anywhere near the presidency, she would be a disaster for the country, yet her comments on New York's decision to sanction same-sex marriage are interesting.

In essence, she played the state's rights card.

In an interview with Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, she said that despite her view that marriage should be between a man and a woman, she supports New York's right to institute marriage equality because under the 10th Amendment, the states have the right to do so.
BACHMANN: In New York state, they have passed the law at the legislative level, and, under the 10th Amendment, the states have the right to set the laws that they want to set.

WALLACE: So even though you oppose it, then it's ok from - your point of view - for New York to say that same-sex marriage is legal.

BACHMANN: That is up to the people of New York. I think that it's best to allow the people to decide this issue. I think it's best if there is an amendment on the ballot, where the people can weigh in.

WALLACE: But you would agree, if it's passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor then it's the state's position.

BACHMANN: It's state law. And the 10th Amendment reserves the right the states.

As ThinkProgress points out:
Bachmann's position is notable given the large number of politically active anti-LGBT activists and Republican lawmakers across the country that would likely let their opposition to equality trump their belief in state's rights. Bachmann later said, however, that she would prefer a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, but that before such an amendment was enacted, the states should be free to do as they wish.

What makes this clever on Bachmann's part is that, while few are going to doubt her real intention, she attempts to moderate it just enough to appeal to those who may not be particularly energized by the issue one way or the other or who might not like the ugliness of the homophobia that invariably accompanies opposition to same-sex marriage.

It also enables her to maintain her true position, which appeals to her base, while allowing her to sidestep protracted culture war arguments that can only take her and her party off the message that 'it's about the economy, stupid."

I'm not saying it's going to work, but the fact that she is thinking in these terms makes her, or her advisors, a lot smarter than stubborn social conservatives who will never bust through a certain ceiling of national support.

Certainly this is less important in the nomination race than in the general election, but making a serious run at the nomination surely also means cobbling together a coalition of supporters from both the hard-right and the pragmatic right of the Republican Party and Bachmann is at least showing that she gets that.

And if she's still around for the general election, at either the top or bottom of the ticket (God help us), she's got a way to talk about a very important social conservative issue that may not completely alienate swing voters.

Yeah, she's sucking and blowing at the same time, but is there really going to be any other way to get the GOP presidential nomination or for a Republican to get to the White House?

(Cross-posted to Lippmann's Ghost.)

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