By Bernie Quigley
For The Hill on 5/9/12
If I recall correctly, last year when New York Governor Mario Cuomo celebrated the legalization of gay marriage in New York, the same week, President Obama’s support in North Carolina dropped 14%. Two things: As Rick Perry said about Mitt Romney, how can you change your mind as a grown up man about things so essential to life? It is not a change of mind; it is a change of feelings. Which may be worse. By what mechanism? Do we just change who we are, simple to conform to the floating standards? It is the curse of a very large country run purely on bright lights and sensory apparatus – TV, movies, movie stars and pounding music at every turn - constantly bombarding, and leaving in the end, so little to remain between the generations; so little to remain at all. Last year Obama opposed gay marriage. Last week he was “evolving.” (Wow.) Now he has evolved. There was, at the beginning, little to this man. Now there is less.
The second thing: People in the country live differently than those in the city and that is why North Carolina recedes when New York ascends. As historian Frank Owsley wrote of this it was Hamilton and the New Yorkers vs. Jefferson and the country people. The New York/North Carolina binary paradigm is still the perfect model. And the struggle is always about, to quote Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master . . . .” My last count, there are about 8 big city states (like New York) and 43 country states (like North Carolina). And the country states are motivated.
John Kerry would have been president in 2004 but in the thick of war, Massachusetts brought forth a celebration: Gay marriage had been seen to be legal by the authorities in Massachusetts. But there seemed to be then (and I worked as a volunteer for Kerry) in my opinion a good degree of transference; Massachusetts was in a panic about the war on Iraq and instead of focusing on the positive program against that which both Kerry and General Wesley Clark who introduced Kerry at the Democratic Convention had come forth with, they promoted themselves to the outside (those 43 country states) instead as supporters of gay marriage. In the same period, above the border as liberal prime minister of Canada Jean Chrétien was leaving office, he announced with a flourish that the big issues ahead would be gay marriage and the legalization of marijuana. You could feel in his comments a “Take that, you Texans!” But Kerry lost and the party seems from then to now unable to discipline itself or repair itself. And liberal Canada has never recovered. In the last race the liberal party’s showing was the worst in its history.
Obama’s problem is that he is a kind of sense/feeling guy and assumes what is around him. Not like Carter in that regard and not at all like Kerry, but this will deliver him now exclusively to the city people; the people who live on the eight or so edges of America and it will drop his standing in the 43 states in the middle.
Obama today brings a direct challenge to the middle of America. And the middle of America will accept the challenge.