David Plouffe, the architect of President Obama’s two presidential campaign victories, is disputing the account in Jo Becker’s book of the president’s obviously fake “evolution” on marriage equality. Andrew Sullivan interviewed him on it, but is anyone naive enough to believe this?
AS: Becker’s book argues that the president’s position seemed stalled on marriage equality in 2011 and 2012 and that he likely did not intend to evolve any further on marriage before his second term. Do you agree?
DP: Absolutely not. The President made a decision that he was ready to “fully evolve” and announce his support for marriage equality. As he put it, “If I get asked if I was still a state legislator in Illinois would I vote to recognize same sex marriages as New York State did, the answer will be yes.” So the only question was when and how to announce in 2012 he would be the first President to support marriage equality, not whether to.
AS: What were the major and minor influences that caused the president to embrace marriage equality when he did?
DP: His evolution was not contrived as some suggest, but real. He spoke powerfully to some of his reasons in the Robin Roberts interview, but also the decision not to defend DOMA was instrumental, as well as the increasing number of states that were recognizing marriage. However, his family and friends and the discussions they had were likely the single greatest influence. His ultimate support for marriage equality was arrived at in a way that while public, was not too dissimilar to the journey many of us in the country took. Also, the President believed his support for marriage equality could change the opinions of some in his electoral coalition – witness the striking change in support in the African-American community which was illustrated in the Maryland ballot initiative results in 2012.
Given the Democratic convention and the Debates, where this issue was sure to come up, and that he had personally decided to support marriage equality, the plan was to make sure the announcement was made by June…AS: David Brooks argues today that judging from Becker’s book, this was a decision dominated by elite political strategists. Is that your recollection?
DP: Not all all.
Seriously, would anyone expect him to say anything else? He is one of those elite political strategists and he is the president’s right hand man, is it even conceivable that he would say anything that didn’t make this decision sound like one of pure principle rather than political calculation? All of this might be slightly more believable if not for one very inconvenient fact: Obama was for gay marriage before he was against it before he was for it again. When he first ran for the Illinois Senate, he filled out a questionnaire in which he said he was in favor of the right of gay people to get married. When he ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004, the year that more than a dozen states passed laws banning same-sex marriage, he was suddenly against it. Then when the polls changed dramatically between 2004 and 2012, his position switched again.
If you can believe that all of this was a matter of genuine indecision and principle, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. I think anyone can see that Obama was fine with gay marriage from the start but he didn’t think he would take that position in presidential politics until the polls shifted in his favor, so he lied and pretended he was against it. Why this would surprise anyone who pays attention to politics is beyond me.