Obama’s gamble

The President has finally weighed in on the so-called Ground Zero mosque, supporting the right to build it.  Why?

The simplest reason would be that he believes in it.  That’s true, but doesn’t get us too far.  He more than likely believes in gay marriage too, but has come out against that.  The big reason is electoral.

With the midterms coming up, Democrats need something to bring the base out (or, less cynically, demonstrate why Republican governments are bad).  The economy is in the doldrums, so that leaves ratcheting up the culture war.  The mosque is a battle that Dems can win – people may not like it, but they will really hate the Republicans’ attacks on it, which will inevitably go too far, crossing over into racism and bringing out the worst of the right.  We’ve seen this before, when Palin’s rallies turned to angry mobs and played a role in driving people to Obama.

Speaking of Palin, she benefits from Obama’s move.  Her interests have been aligned with the President’s for a while now – they both want her to have a large role as the face of the Republican party, ideally as the 2012 nominee.  Indeed, he might be playing a long game to energize her base and sucker the Republicans into nominating her or someone similarly toxic.

Let’s not get too cynical, though.  It is a gamble, it is courageous, and the President does deserve our support on this.  But it may not be a bad move even from a pragmatic point of view.

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