Thursday, May 10, 2012

And now supporting gay marriage, it is President Obama

It certainly has been an interesting week for those who support gay marriage. On Tuesday, North Carolina became the 30th state to ban gay marriage. Wednesday, President Obama became the first sitting president to support gay marriage. To that, I say jt's about damn time. I would be lying if I didn't immediately think it was a political move. So, here is how a cynical person might respond to the announcement. My apologies for any misspellings, I am writing this on my touchpad.

A cynical person might think it's interesting that President Obama waited until after North Carolina passed their amendment that gay marriage should be banned. President Obama stated that his change in stance was due to his evolving beliefs about gay marriage. In the 2008 election, North Carolina was one of the few states in the South that voted for President Obama. It is now seen as a "swing" state that might influence the 2012 presidential election. The amendment in North Carolina with nearly 20 percentage points. President Obama's stance is obviously not going to be popular in North Carolina where nearly 500,000 ballots were cast early, a record for a primary in North Carolina. North Carolinians are fired up over this issue. While President Obama does not need to win every "swing" state that votednfor him in 2008. Most analysts estimate that President Obama only needs to retain about 30% of the swing states that he won in 2008. If it doesn't make sense at the state level for North Carolina, does it make sense at the national level?

As reported here earlier, the majority of Americans now approve of gay mariage. The last polls I saw showed that 50% of Americans approve of gay marriage with 46% of Americans disapproving and a small percent being undecided on the issue. So obviously, President Obama is making a decision based on the popularity of the decisiom. But wait, if we remember anything from middle school government class, we know that the Preaident is not elected by a straight popular election vote but rather an electoral college vote. President Obama won that vote quite handily in 2008 and in all probability do it again in 2012. If we are to assume that President Obama made this decision on political grounds then we have to assume that his campaigm did polls in swing states that showed that they held the national average or higher. You would have to assume that states like Virginia, Ohio, Florida, etc all support gay marriage either at the national average or much higher. Without having access to the numbers, I am unsure if that is the case. My example is that Arizona which might be seen as a swing state even though Nate Silver disagrees, in 2008 voted a narrower version of their resolution to ban gay marriage. It is unlikely that their views "evolved" to the point of now supportinggay marriage. Additionally, states like Iowa, also a "swing" state might be sick of the passage by the state's Supreme Court to allow gay marriage. There's a theory in philosophy, medicine, etc.which is Occam's razor. The theorem suggests that if faced with two hypotheses that are equally right, the one that is simpler is the one that is more correct. There's an episode of Scrubs that explains this theory in a simpler way and definitely is more entertaining. There are two competing hypotheses here, one is that President Obama supports gay marriage because he feels it is right, the other hypothesis is that this is a shrewd political move. You would certainly have to do more research and show more work to prove that President Obama is making tnis tance due to his political career. If we are to accept Occam's razor then we are forced to conclude that President Obama is making this stand because he actually feels it is right. Sorry cynics.


  1. There are a couple things wrong with your analysis. Occam's razor does not favor the simplest hypothesis, but the hypothesis that makes the fewest and smallest assumptions. The fewer assumptions, the less likely a hypothesis is wrong. Second, the reason people are cynical is not that they don't beleive that the president is genuine in his statement. We are skeptical of the timing of the statement. I think we both agree that the president is sincere. But to claim that simply because he is sincere, that he is not motivated by politics is quite a leap. The preisdent did not reach his position by being sincere and ignoring politics. He reached it by being more shrewd than his opponents. It seems like a pretty huge assumption to beleive the president decided to put away the one thing that he is best at (politics) when commenting on one of the most divisive issues in the country.

  2. Fair enough on Occam's razor. I agree that his statement is politically motivated to an extent. There are some that argue his timing of the statement is merely used as a distraction from the economy and stuff like that. The New York Times has reported that a number of politicians are already abandoning bringing up the gay marriage issue. I am not sure that it is as politically motivated as some have claimed. While the majority of Americans do support gay marriage, North Carolina obviously does not, my analysis is based on the judgments of political opinions on "swing" states. If his pollsters and analysts agreed that other swing states support gay marriage to the extent that the national polls suggest then it might be a shrewd political move. The data isn't publicly available to me whether Ohio, Virginia, Florida, etc. support gay marriage. The cynical response to me makes a number of assumptions that I do not find credible. I am not naive enough to think that he is not thinking politics about his decision or any decision. After all, it doesn't matter what his stance is if he's not re-elected.

    The response that many Democrats have had about the president's stance has focused on the timing of his statement. It's a harder argument to knock down but it's not surprising that President Obama made this statement on the week of the primary vote in North Carolina. It's not surprising because the issue was going to be brought up at some point and what better time then after outrage after the North Carolina vote? But again, we would have to assume that President Obama and his staff know that he can retain the swing states with this stance to get re-elected. While his team might have done this analysis, it's not publicly available (that I know of, if it is I would certainly welcome a link) so it's an assumption that this move is going to go over well in those states.

    I think that I'm missing something from your comment or am just misunderstanding it. If so, I am probably misunderstanding the argument from those skeptical because of the timing. If there is something that you disagree with in my posts, feel free to comment, I'll respond and try not to be a jackass. I honestly don't think I have all the answers but I do enjoy discussing things.