Political bloggers and pundits have been talking for a few days about the fact that President Obama hasn’t publicly spoken out against Arizona SB 1062, even as others on the national political did. Both Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake spoke against the bill. Even Mitt Romney is on the record calling for a veto. But not Obama.
If you’ll allow me to be cynical for a while (and you really should, because it’s part of the title of this blog), I think this is reflective of an understanding of the heat Obama’s presence brings to any particular issue. Republicans might be fragmented and on the verge of splitting into two (or even three!) different parties, they might be realizing that hardline religious conservatism is a bad marriage for fiscal conservatism, but damn it, if there’s one thing that can bring those crazy kids back together, it’s how much they hate Obama and his progressive-fascist-socialist-liberal-anarchist-whatever-ist agenda.
If Obama made a comment on this issue, I think it’s a safe bet that Republicans would bunker down together and tell Washington “stay the eff out of our business” and promptly pass the bill into law. Would Jan Brewer, who was the last line of defense against this bill and is pretty famous for not really getting along with the President, have bunkered down with the rest of her party if the President had tried to tell her what to do?
Considering how the current Republican strategy is exactly that (do the opposite of everything the President wants to do), I think it’s likely.
It’s not like Obama needed to weigh in on SB 1062. His base isn’t going to start wondering, hey, does the President dislike gays? We know he’s our guy on this.
I think Democrats have realized the aggro effect Obama has on Republicans and hopefully this silence on 1062 indicates that they’ve realized how to weaponize it. Silence from the President denied the Republican party its one source of glue which allowed the fractures to widen; fractures which allowed Brewer to veto the bill without expending too much political capital within her own base.
Those fractures are turning into a canyon (Arizona metaphor alert!) and Brewer has one foot on either side on that canyon. Pretty soon she’ll need to jump to one side or the other, but that’s an issue for another day. Right now, what matters is that the President didn’t say anything and that kept the Republicans from building a bridge over their own chasm.
It’s fairly shrewd of Obama’s administration if that’s what they’re doing, even if it’s also depressing to consider how much it illustrates the level of dysfunction that’s going on if it’s better that the President didn’t get involved in this issue. Ah well. The bill is dead and that’s what matters.