It makes you wonder: What were they thinking? (Actually, it also makes you wonder: Is it real or fake?)
The president’s campaign strategy has seemed strange and counter-productive for months.
Facing an electorate that has always voted to defend the institution of marriage, President Obama announced last spring that he was changing his position and was now all for redefining it. Facing a nation having lots of trouble getting jobs, but no trouble getting contraception, Obama’s administration spent its energy (and convention time, and moral capital) on contraception. Facing a record low percentage of Americans professing to be pro-choice, he decided to stress that he was against the right to life for the unborn.
It was enough to make a Catholic who considers each of these issues a slam-dunk for the opposite side wonder: Is he hopelessly out of touch, or am I?
It remains to be seen whether the president can squeak into a second term by stressing sexual freedom. Because that’s what he is betting on.
The redefinition of marriage puts “who I have sex with” not “who I have kids with” at the center of marriage, changing marriage from a vital social institution to an unnecessary personal contract.
The bid to turn contraception into the most important form of “health care” (life-saving drugs aren’t free; just life-stopping ones) turns pregnancy from the greatest gift you can receive to the most dreaded disease you can get.
And abortion is the ultimate safeguard of the sexual revolution — just as children are the ultimate argument against the sexual revolution.
How is it possible that this is happening? Why does the president’s campaign think that America is ripe for this kind of extremism?
It’s the sexualized culture, really. But one credible source that may be whispering in the president’s ear is the Huffington Post. This AOL website started as a blog for liberal pundits and thinkers — and you can still find thoughtful commentary there. But now its bread and butter isn’t ideology, but sleaze and snark: wardrobe malfunctions, public nudity and celebrity put-downs.
Conservatives sometimes say they are embarrassed by the excesses of the Fox network — a marriage of conservative commentary and tasteless television. But in truth, the commentary on Fox is not very challenging (when was the last time you heard marriage seriously defended there?) and broadcasting rules mean the tastelessness has to stop short of Huffington Post’s NSFW (“not safe for work”) Internet standard.
In a short span of time, liberal rhetoric switched flagships. It went from the high tones of the Gray Lady to the low blows of the Huffington Post. Could the president’s campaign be looking at the big traffic the Huffington Post generates with quasi-porn and attributing the success to the site’s ideology? Or maybe it’s more direct than that: Maybe Huffington Post led to the politicians in its readership to forget that Americans still prefer decency in their public life.
It would explain so much: The emphasis on sexual issues, the new strange ad, even the emphasis on snark instead of substance in the campaign’s crucial final weeks (“binders full of women,” “horses and bayonets,” etc.).
In the Huffington Post bubble, being uncool is the greatest sin, sex is uncomplicated fun, to defend marriage is to “attack gays,” to accept the status quo on contraception is a “war on women,” and to defend babies regardless of the circumstances of their conception is shocking extremism.
At least I hope it is a bubble. It could also be that the Huffington Post is just reflecting where the culture is now.
We’ll know a lot better on Nov. 6.