Take a look at John McCain's face during his interview with Ellen DeGeneres today. She confronts him about his view on her right to marry the woman she loves. His answer, fresh from a can, is that they have a respectful disagreement about whether gay people should be allowed to marry. Except that when you watch him you can see he's squirming. But why is he squirming? Would Pat Buchanan or Mike Huckabee squirm? No - because they feel good about their view on this issue. Not only does McCain appear to realize that his comments diminish Ellen's humanity; it strikes me that he doesn't even seem to believe them. And if he loses in November, I won't be at all suprised if he changes his position. Who'd have thunk he'd later call his Confederate Flag flip-flop an "act of cowardice"?
I do know this. McCain's presence on Ellen's show was designed to telegraph something. Possible somethings include: a) I'm not so doctrinaire that I can't sit next to a lesbian who plans to get married and wish her well; b) I'm actually a liberal on this issue, but I can't admit it in words so I'll telegraph it through my actions; c) I'm going to show my conservative base that I can appear in Ellen's lair and stand up to her demand that I support gay marriage. I frankly doubt (c); I think that McCain risks appearing like he is appeasing gay rights activists by even speaking with Ellen.
I can't imagine that Obama wants any part of this conversation either because many of his supporters would gag at the sight of him parotting McCain - which is what he'd presumably be forced to do. Or he'd say: "I think it's wonderful that you've chosen to live in a state that shares your view of marriage. I respect California's decision." And many of his supporters would think: "Dammit, Barack, can't you just say gay people should be allowed to get married?"
Alas, the Kabuki Theater which we all accept (because, really, there is no option) requires this expedience. But for social conservatives, a chill wind blows. A couple of years ago, I thought widespread gay marriage was still a generation into the future. With California's Republican governor backing it, and McCain barely able to utter his opposition, I'm now betting that a bundle of large states will authorize it within a decade. My hope, however, is that it will be legislators - not courts - that usher in this new era.