After the Massachusetts court decision in favor of gay marriage, I remember writing that though this was good for civil rights, we should not fool ourselves into thinking that it's anything but bad for the Democratic party. I thought I'd written that in TPM. But when I used the TPM search engine yesterday I couldn't find it using the obvious keywords. So it's possible that I wrote it somewhere else or even in a private letter. Who knows ...
In any case, over the last 7 or 8 months I think I managed to convince myself that this wasn't the case, which was obviously wrong.
Let me start by making an important distinction. Recognizing that a certain position cost a lot at the polls is not the same as saying the position should be discarded for political reasons. I know that on the surface it may seem that way. But they're not the same thing. And it's foolish to ignore these realities if you're going to make any headway at coping with them.
As many other have already noted, Rove and Co. cleverly managed to get anti-gay marriage initiatives and referenda on the ballot in a number of key swing states. And that seems to have played an key role in mobilizing 'peripheral' evangelical and culturally conservative voters.
Once they were at the polls, of course, they voted for George W. Bush.
Looking back over the week before the campaign I realize that I should have been more attentive to the reports I was picking up from readers about a wave of push-polls or robo-calls on the gay marriage issue -- some hitting the issue itself while others dug deeper and insisted that the issue was really whether homosexuality would be 'taught in schools' and so forth.
This issue clearly had potency without a phone-call campaign. But that added to it. The decision to get the initiatives on the ballot, followed by a carefully orchestrated campaign of push-polls and the like amounted to a effective campaign pincer movement. And it was one that, to be honest, I think fairly few on the Democratic side even saw coming. Gay marriage -- and the whole cluster of issues that surround it -- became the sub rosa issue of the campaign.
It may have provided Bush with the crucial turnout boost on the right that allowed him to remain in office.