Ever since President Obama announced his support for marriage equality people have been speculating as to his motives. Was it a matter of feeling a moral obligation to take a principled stand, or did he do it to gain a political advantage? Or the sleeper option, he did it because he’s gay himself, and presumably surreptitiously planning his very own same sex wedding, sometime in 2017. As much quality reality tv as such a union would provide, I’m pretty sure it won’t be happening.
Throughout the Republican primaries, conservatives said they couldn’t trust Mitt Romney’s commitment to their cause, because he’d come to them later in life. They thought he was insincere in his convictions, had only moved to the right to further his doomed presidential aspirations. To be fair, it’s hard to say they’re wrong. It does seem awfully convenient, his being so much more moderate when he was trying to become governor of liberal Massachusetts. If he wanted to make himself a viable candidate for the GOP nomination, he had to shift some of his positions. No one can make it through the Republican primary process without asserting his or her abiding love of the unborn, as often and as loudly as possible, for instance. What I’ve yet to figure out, though, is why they cared so much.
Nor do I understand why anyone cares about Obama’s reasons for voicing his support. He’s not my friend or family member. He has no obligation whatsoever to share his thoughts with me. Fortunately, I’m not terribly interested in them, it’s his words and deeds with which I’m concerned. They have the potential to change lives. As far as his motivations, well, that’s his business.
The assumption around the internet seems to be that an action motivated by political expediency somehow matters less than one born of principle. But the reality is, it’s the electorate’s responsibility to hold elected officials, presidents included, accountable for what they say. If we can’t be bothered to do the necessary work, that’s our failure. Arguably, a position stated
by a politician who wants to be reelected, or is pondering his or her legacy, is more likely than others to be maintained and acted upon. Self interest does tend to be a powerful motivating force.
The real question, though, is why anyone thinks this merits our attention. President Obama is a politician, and quite a skilled one, at that. Politicians by definition do things for political reasons. It’s just what they do. Not every decision is politically determined, but no decision is made without an examination of the probable political consequences. Of course, a position or action not accompanied by political advantage isn’t going to happen. That’s just how this works. So can we please stop pretending otherwise, and change the subject already?