NEWS ANALYSIS: DOES AMENDMENT ONE MEAN OBAMA LOSES NC?
The final numbers were not pretty.
The controversial Amendment One ballot referendum that establishes a constitutional ban against same-sex marriage, in addition to outlawing domestic partnerships and civil unions in North Carolina, passed Tuesday night 61 to 39 percent, unofficial election results show.
North Carolina already has a state law banning same-sex marriages.
It becomes official once the primary election results are certified by the NC Board of Elections, making North Carolina the 31st state in the nation, and the last state in the South, to do so.
Opponents promise to rigorously challenge it in court.
Given that President Obama took the usual step of joining his fellow Democrats here in coming out against the measure, does the significant vote margin for Amendment One signal a problem for the Obama campaign winning North Carolina in his re-election bid this fall?
Especially after the president finally admitted to ABC News Wednesday that he does, in fact, now support same-sex marriage?
Indeed conservative pundits will be quick to muse that North Carolinians, by and large, supported the constitutional amendment that reaffirms marriage in this state is legally between one man and one woman, not only because of the traditional Bible Belt that runs through North Carolina, and the conservative politics that increasingly is controlling public policy, but also because the Democratic president of the United States – who ironically doesn’t fully embrace same-sex marriage – weighed in.
There is no doubt that Obama strategists thought if the president could successfully ”rally the troops” in the state to defeat Amendment One, that would be a telltale sign of his ability to win North Carolina once again in November, as he did in 2008.
Tuesday’s dire results, despite a vigorous and expensive campaign to defeat the Republican-sponsored measure, may now be a cause for alarm for Democrats, and the Obama campaign in particular.
Or is it?
Given the record-breaking early voting totals, there is no question that Amendment One drove thousands of voters, pro and con, to the polls across the state.
Interestingly, unlike most other public referendums, Amendment One crossed partisan lines, with over forty percent of Democrats supporting the gay marriage ban.
Much of that Democratic vote in favor was from African-Americans, who traditionally hold a religious bias against homosexuality and the gay lifestyle. Even though leaders, such as NCNAACP Pres. Rev. William Barber, traveled the state warning blacks that the same-sex marriage amendment ban was really a right-wing ploy to divide the Democratic base, and codify discrimination, religious convictions won out.
”The troubling nature of this vote– is that it’s led by an ultra conservative tea party extreme, right-wing ideology, backed by known hate groups like the Family Research Council, and the intentionally divisive strategy of the National Organization for Marriage,” Rev. Barber said in a statement.
”The voters of North Carolina were led to vote on a trick amendment that now places hate discrimination and division in our constitution,” he continued. ”An amendment that violates the fundamental protections of equal protection under the law, and sets up the precedent of majorities voting on the rights of minorities.”
”Furthermore, and even more troubling, is that this was done in a way that will hurt children and even heterosexual domestic unions,” Barber added.
So what the Republican backers of Amendment One wanted to have happen, worked.
The Democratic base – of which blacks and progressive whites constitute a large part – split, just as the GOP had planned.
Their challenge now is to exploit that split going into the Democratic National Convention in September, and certainly the November presidential election.
There is no question that the white progressive vote is extremely supportive of the gay community, especially since much of the gay community makes up a significant percent of that white progressive Democratic vote.
And there’s no question that much of the black Democratic vote is extremely supportive of Pres. Obama, and will vote for his re-election.
But if the final numbers hold true that a significant portion of the Democratic African-American vote Tuesday went for Amendment One, that could fracture that coalition with white progressives, and weaken Obama’s support.
That plan follows the script found in papers uncovered in a Maine federal District Court several weeks ago, belonging to the National Organization for Marriage, a conservative group that had been found plotting since 2009 how to cripple Obama’s black-gay community voting coalition.
The same group poured in $425,000 to North Carolina’s Vote for Marriage
campaign, almost half its $1 million warchest, published reports note. The campaign effectively used churches, including black churches, along with a full-page ad in major newspapers featuring Evangelist Billy Graham urging support for the amendment.
In the end, white Christian conservatives and black Christian moderates and liberals joined forces to pass the controversial amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
For many in the black community, it was a difficult choice between their faith and their politics.
Even ABC News pointed out this week that Pres. Obama straddled the fence on his position on same-sex marriage until Wednesday because it is such a divisive issue for his base.
”President Obama’s coalition–minority voters and young voters — have very different views about gay marriage, evidenced in 2008 in California, when young voters came out to oppose an amendment that would ban gay marriage, while African Americans supported it,” ABC reported Wednesday. ”And then there’s the money, according to the Washington Post, one in six bundlers — the people who raise the big bucks for the Obama campaign — is gay. They are still raising money for a man who continues to twist himself into a pretzel over gay marriage, and whose White House still can’t figure out how to message it. Why? Because they believe wholeheartedly that he actually supports gay marriage, and if re-elected he will come out in full support of it and flip his position.”
That was Wednesday morning. By Wednesday afternoon, the president sat down with ABC News, and straddled no more.
”I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married,” Obama told ABC News’ Robin Roberts.
If the Republicans exploit during the general election the fact that Obama supports gay marriage, could that turn off a number of religious African -American voters, who would support the president for re-election otherwise.
Coupled with the plethora of voter ID laws passed by Republican-led state legislatures across the nation that are designed to minimize the black, Hispanic and youth vote, the ultimate goal is to deny Pres. Obama the numbers he needs to win again.
When the GOP-led NC General Assembly reconvenes next week, it is fully expected that it will try again to override Gov. Beverly Perdue’s veto of the voter ID law it passed several months ago.
If it does override the governor’s veto, coupled with lessening the early voting period, eliminating ”Souls to the Polls” Sunday early voting, and combined with the Amendment One victory this week, whether Pres. Obama can win North Carolina again in the fall will remain an open question. It’s already predicted to be a razor tight election.
In 2008, out of 4.2 million votes cast, Obama won North Carolina by just 14,000 ballots.
If the Republicans are successful this time in shaving off thousands of votes before the fall elections even get started, who knows?