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Gay Marriage: Obama Puts His Finger to Political Wind (Le Journal du Dimanche au Quotidien, France)


“This is very clear political exploitation of societal issues. … Obama has a keen perception of these issues: he is never very far out in front, even as he maintains himself slightly ahead. … I am betting that the president will speak next of a multi-religious America. That would be a new way of pushing Republicans back into their trenches, and for their part, they will reaffirm that the heart of America is Christian.”


-- François Durpaire, author and historian on American political life


Interview Conducted By Arnaud Focraud


Translated By Mary Kenney


May 10, 2012


France - Le Quotidienne du Journal du Dimanche - Original Article (French)

Author, historian and America watcher François Durpaire: He anticipates that gay marriage will be the first of a series of societal issues that the Obama campaign will use to win in November.

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Six months out from the American presidential election, Barack Obama, who is seeking a second term, spoke Wednesday night of how he is personally in favor of homosexual marriage - a first for a sitting U.S. president. And a perfectly-calculated choice, according to François Durpaire, historian and specialist on American political life.*


leJDD: Why did Barack Obama declare himself in favor of homosexual marriage, six months before the American presidential election?


François Durpaire: First, he understands that a majority of Americans favor gay marriage (52 percent, according to a recent poll). And then, in terms of political strategy, there are two elements: it is a way for him to win over the independent [or centrist] electorate. Of those, 57 percent are in favor of this right. And this also allows him to wave a red flag at the Republicans. It forces the position of his opponent, Mitt Romney, to the right. The more the latter swerves right, the better the chances the American president has of winning. That has already worked, as on Wednesday night, the Republican immediately reiterated his opposition to gay marriage on.


leJDD: Isn't there a risk of dividing the American people over these issues?


François Durpaire: It is particularly divisive for the Republican Party, which is experiencing identity problems between moderates and conservatives. Along with homosexual marriage, that camp has an entire narrative on abortion, religion, etc. It is an overarching way of conceiving of the family. The most conservative have very strongly-held positions, but Mitt Romney is less comfortable on these topics. He is part of the Mormon community, which is politically more moderate.

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leJDD: Will the Republican be in trouble for attacking Barack Obama on this issue?


François Durpaire: He will have to do so, while remaining aware of the risk of losing a percentage of independent voters; that is to say, the very lifeblood of winning a presidential election. This is very clear political exploitation of societal issues.  


leJDD: Why would the American president use the word "personal" to describe this right without also wanting to legalize it?


François Durpaire: He has a keen perception of societal issues: he is never very far out in front, even as he maintains himself slightly ahead. In 2008, he didn’t take this position, but was already nuanced on the question (he had declared himself in favor of "civil unions"). We must also remember that with his current position, he incurs no liability, since it is Congress, the Supreme Court and the states of the union that decide on gay marriage. The executive branch has no say in the subject. Nevertheless, the "personal" position of a sitting president six months from reelection is no trivial matter.


leJDD: But can voters understand this change of position?


François Durpaire: Barack Obama has cautiously evolved. Wednesday evening, he said he wasn’t at first strongly in favor of this right, but that his "entourage" convinced him. He spoke of his two daughters [stating "Malia and Sasha have friends whose parents are the same sex"] - and this is important: he meant "our children will understand, they will be living in another America." That way of demonstrating evolution on issues like these is typical of American pragmatism.


leJDD: But can't Republicans attack him over this change of position over a period of four years?


François Durpaire: Yes, except that it is better to argue about this when most people think the same thing! Barack Obama is no political fool: he senses the wind direction - the way in which society is beginning to evolve. If he had come out in favor of abolishing the death penalty, he would have been committing political suicide - because the population issue isn’t yet grappling with this issue.


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Franve TV, France: Is France Behind America on Same-Sex Marriage?
NU, The Netherlands: Marriage in America: ‘Man, Woman and God’
Guardian, U.K.: How Obama's Gay Marriage Move Changes Presidential Race
CenarioMT, Brazil: Gay Marriage: 70 Years from Disease to Presidential Blessing
The Zimbabwe Mail, Zimbabwe: Obama's Gay Stance Called ‘Worst Form of Satanism’
La Informacion, U.S.: In Latin America, Only Argentine Leader Stands with Obama
Liberation, France: Mr. Obama and Gay Marriage: ‘Courage’
Mail & Guardian, South Africa: South Africa: Pride, Vigilance, on Gay Rights
Globa & Mail, Canada: From Obama, a Bid to Broaden Stream of American Life
Toronto Star, Canada: Obama Tilts Scales Toward Compassion and Equity
Macleans, Canada: Obama Passes the Leadership Test
Irish Times, Ireland Mr. Obama's 'Brave and Welcome' Move
Irish Examiner, Ireland: Let's Be Honest About How We Live Our Lives
Independent, U.K.: 'Full Marks' to President Barack Obama
Independent, U.K.: At last, Obama Asks U.S. to Open Door to Acceptance
Guardian, U.K. Obama's Historic Affirmation of Gay Marriage
Economist, U.K.: Good for Obama; But Bad for Gay Marriage
Telegraph, U.K.: Import of U.S. Culture War Backfires on Cameron



leJDD: American Vice President Joe Biden had already come out in favor of homosexual marriage on Sunday. Was this a way of taking the temperature before to Barack Obama's declaration?


François Durpaire: Precisely - that was a trial balloon. With this statement, Obama was able to assess the reactions of citizens and the opposition before making a final decision. This demonstrates that is political communications have been extremely well thought out. And that this is very clearly a political exploitation of societal issues. It is obviously a political argument. This suggests that other topics of this nature will be raised. I am betting that the president will speak next of a multi-religious America. That would be a new way of pushing the Republicans ack into their trenches, and for their part, they will reaffirm that the heart of America is Christian.


*François Durpaire is author of Barack Obama’s America [L'Amérique de Barack Obama], Édition Demopolis, 2007.




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[Posted by Worldmeets.US May 14, 5:29am]


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