Thursday, February 13, 2014

Gavin Newsom helped re-elect President Bush

Photo, George Nikitin, Associated Press

From yesterday's SF Appeal:

“None of us expected what was going to happen,” Newsom said. He added, “We still have a hell of a lot of work to do…17 states isn’t 50 states.” Lee gave Newsom a key to the city, noting it was the first time he received one after giving out many as mayor. “He took a stand against injustice and changed history right here in this Hall,” Lee said. Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, recalled learning of Newsom’s plans in 2004. “It felt really risky,” Kendell said. “What an amazing thing we started and look where we are.” Deputy City Attorney Therese Stewart, who argued on behalf of same-sex marriage for the city in the federal case against Proposition 8, called Newsom’s directive “a really courageous stance” and “a visionary act.”

It's never pretty when San Francisco is in self-congratulatory mode, especially when it's
based on a historical falsehoods like celebrating the tenth anniversary of Gavin Newsom's gay marriage initiative in February, 2004. (The SF Examiner is in permanent civic narcissism mode, since its style book insists on "The City" usage when referring to San Francisco in its news stories.)

I have to float a turd in the celebratory punch bowl here.

Advancing the gay marriage cause was/is a Good Thing, but Mayor Newsom's timing was poorly-considered, to put it mildly, since it was a presidential election year. Why give the campaign to re-elect President Bush that November any extra ammunition?  Why not wait until after the election is a question that's never been answered---and no one is even asking now. Future historians surely will, however, since President Bush was re-elected over John Kerry in a very close election.

After Newsom's initiative, anti-gay marriage initiatives were put on the ballot that year in eleven states. All passed overwhelmingly.

After Kerry's defeat, Senator Feinstein was critical:

"I believe it did energize a very conservative vote," Ms. Feinstein said of the same-sex marriages here. "I think it gave them a position to rally around. I'm not casting a value judgment. I'm just saying I do believe that's what happened. So I think that whole issue has been too much, too fast, too soon,'' she added. "And people aren't ready for it."

So were other Democrats, like Representative Barney Frank:

Mr. Frank was opposed to the San Francisco weddings from the start and told Mr. Newsom as much before the ceremonies began....In a telephone interview on Thursday, Mr. Frank said he felt vindicated by the election results....Constitutional amendments against gay marriage won handily in 11 states---including Ohio, an important battleground---in large part, Mr. Frank said, because of the "spectacle weddings" in San Francisco. Mr. Frank said Mr. Newsom had helped to galvanize Mr. Bush's conservative supporters in those states by playing into people's fears of same-sex weddings...."The thing that agitated people were the mass weddings,'' he said, adding, "It was a mistake in San Francisco compounded by people in Oregon, New Mexico and New York. What it did was provoke a lot of fears."

Newsom's supporters can claim that Bush would have won all of those states anyhow, which is more or less true. But historians will probably closely examine the important exception of Ohio:

The gay marriage ban carried Ohio with 61% of the vote, while Bush eked out the Buckeye State with 51%, his smallest margin of victory in any major state. Had Bush not carried Ohio and its 20 Electoral College votes, he would not have won reelection. In a state contest that close, any number of factors are potentially decisive. However, one set of Ohio findings from the VNS exit poll is especially intriguing. Even though Bush improved his overall share of the vote in Ohio by just one percentage point from 2000 (50%) to 2004 (51%), he registered much bigger gains among three groups that strongly oppose gay marriage---blacks (Bush got 16% of the black vote in Ohio in 2004, up from 9% in 2000); those who attend church more than once a week (Bush got 69% of those votes in 2004, up from 52% in 2000) and voters ages 65 and older (58% in 2004, up from 46% in 2000).