The decision has us thinking and talking about same-sex marriage again, and that will affect the presidential election. McCain, Obama, and Clinton all take the same position on the issue — a weaselly triad of ideas they hope are not too touchy: 1. give equivalent rights, 2. don't call it marriage, 3. leave it to the states. But this doesn't mean the issue won't have an effect.
Adam Nagourney writes:
Even if Mr. McCain does not wield [the issue] as part of his fall campaign — and his political associates said he almost certainly would not — history suggests that independent conservative advocacy groups would seize on the ruling to try to define Mr. Obama and his party [and Mrs. Clinton!?] as culturally out-of-step....Would McCain do that?
[T]here are differences of nuance in how the Democratic and Republican candidates talk about the issue that could have resonance with socially conservative voters. For example, Mr. Obama’s campaign explicitly said that he “has always believed that same-sex couples should enjoy equal rights under the law, and he will continue to fight for civil unions.”
In California, Mr. Brown is leading an effort to force a voter initiative that would overturn the court decision. If Mr. McCain decides to back such an initiative, it could provide a point of contrast that conservatives could use to hurt Mr. Obama.
And an initiative could bring out more conservative voters at a time when Mr. McCain’s advisers see a small hope of putting California in play.That would be big, but I can't picture McCain making that move. As Nagourney points out, that would set him against Governor Schwarzenegger.
But isn't there something subtler that McCain can do?
McCain only needs to stimulate feelings that things are changing too fast, that courts are taking over too aggressively, and that unknown, worrisome things might happen— unless stable, restrained judges are put in place. McCain is, in fact, already doing that. Yesterday's strong example of judicial activism resonates with what McCain has already said about judges.
I think the fear of rapid change will affect voters in the presidential election, especially since we expect the Democrats will control both houses of Congress. Do we really want a Democratic President too? Do we want, in addition to free-flowing legislative change, a President whose judicial appointments will be rubber-stamped in the Senate?
Now, Obama's message has been change. He's committed to that message, and it can be turned against him — a feat that becomes easier in the aftermath of the California decision.