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Obama’s Informal Support

Some social issues seem almost unresolvable.  Unlike its clearly defined roles in straight-forward political issues, the U.S. government’s involvement with social choices has always been ambiguous.  Even the smallest of social choices, it seems, can be debated as constitutional or unconstitutional.  For this reason, gay-marriage is a frequently debated subject.  So, when a new development occurs that changes the political landscape on this issue, it has tremendous importance to many citizens who are tired of the persistent nature of this debate.  On Wednesday, May 9th, 2012, President Barack Obama announced his personal opinion on the matter.  Having been a supporter of civil unions originally, Obama stated that his views were, “evolving,” and that he now is a public advocate of gay-marriage.  Though his statement represented only his personal belief, this will have major political impact in both the president’s current term and his upcoming election.  Obama’s voiced opinion is also a great example of how a president uses his or her power.  This informal tool helps to depict how the president himself views his role as a leader.  President Obama has voiced a personal opinion on a frequently-debated subject, and has demonstrated his control over the powers that a president holds.

The main reason as to why this debate persists is due to the ambiguous nature of the constitution’s coverage of this issue.  Of course, the issue is not named specifically, so any arguments for, or against, gay-marriage must be inferred.  People supporting gay-marriage look to the Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause of the constitution to support their argument.  They assert that homosexuals are not being treated with equal protection of the law and are being dealt with unfairly.  The opposition look for a concrete definition of marriage and some believe it is solely between a man and a woman.  Either way, this issue has always been a state-level concern.  With President Obama’s support, the issue may now be a federal concern.

The manner in which the President shared his opinion is important as well.  His announcement to the public, which can also be called “going public”, is a powerful informal tool of a president.  New tools have allowed the president to persuade the public and members of congress in ways that have never been explored.  Obama announced his opinion, for example, on television, but the announcement has spread like wildfire through the internet and is the subject for many radio programs.  Virtually any source of media has given the president a new route for winning the public’s hearts, with the main goal of persuasion.  Simply with this informal tool, the president has made an issue relevant and important, and put some building pressure between him and any congressman who would oppose the president if this issue was brought up for federal legislation.

It is astonishing that Neustadt’s Presidential Power and the Modern Presidents: The Politics of Leadership, a book written in 1960, can hold so much political relevance today.  Obama, modern presidents before him, and assuredly future presidents will all use these formal and informal tactics to achieve political persuasion.  Even with an issue as difficult to solve as gay-marriage, informal powers of the president might just create enough pressure or gain enough support to solve the problem.

-Paxton S

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