Friday, May 23, 2008

Will 2008 be another 2004?

Cruising through George Packer's article in the current New Yorker magazine ("The Fall of Conservatism," May 26), this paragraph on John McCain campaigning in a small Appalachian town in Kentucky brought me up short:

John Preston, who is the county's circuit-court judge and also its amateur historian, Harvard-educated, with a flag pin on his lapel, said, "Obama is considered an elitist." He added, "There's a racial component, obviously, to it. Thousands of people won't publicly say it, but they won't vote for a black man---on both sides, Democrat and Republican. It won't show up in the polls, because they won't admit it. The elephant's in the room, but nobody will say it. Sad to say it, but it's true." Later, I spoke with half a dozen men eating lunch at the Pigeon Roost Dairy Bar outside town, and none of them had any trouble saying it. They announced their refusal to vote for a black man, without hesitation or apology.

Add that reality to the re-emergence of the gay marriage issue just in time for the November election, and one gets a feeling of deja vu and dread. Will 2008 be a replay of 2004, when Gavin Newsom's poorly-timed gay marriage initiative handed the Republicans the issue they needed to defeat John Kerry? 

After Newsom's well-publicized initiative in February, 2004, 13 states put measures banning gay marriage on their ballots, and all of them passed the following November. Newsom of course had no control over when the California Supreme Court issued its recent decision supporting gay marriage, but the genie is out of the bottle again. All the high-fives about that decision among the city's progressive elite seem way premature, since the gay marriage issue could help elect John McCain president.

Keep in mind also the Bradley Effect, which tells us some white voters don't tell pollsters the truth about voting for black candidates:

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At 6:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Equal rights should only be granted when it's convenient huh?

At 9:31 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I don't have any problem with gay marriage. But if your profession is politics---as it is for Gavin Newsom---timing your policy moves is important. Newsom's gay marriage initiative in February, 2004 was a disaster for John Kerry, the Democratic Party, and the United States. Why didn't he wait until after the election? Instead, he handed the Republicans an issue that helped elect Bush to a second term. That issue---and of course the racial issue---may doom us again in 2008.

At 7:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gays are not responsible for John Kerry loosing the 2004 election. If John Kerry had run a competent campaign, or the Democratic Party run a decent candidate they might have had a chance.

At 9:01 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Of course my point isn't that gays were responsible for Kerry losing the 2004 election but that gay marriage as an issue surely helped Republicans and George Bush win. Newsom should have waited until after November, 2004 to make his gay marriage initiative. Kerry wasn't a good enough candidate? Compared to which Democratic candidate in recent history?

At 1:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

John Kerry couldn't win against an unpopular president who'd gotten us into a war. It's sad that was the best the Democrats can muster.

At 12:42 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Obviously Bush wasn't unpopular way back in November, 2004. And Kerry was a waffler on the war in Iraq, which hadn't yet developed into the political burden for Republicans that it is now.


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