MILLER: Supreme Court Could Jolt Campaigns
Published: Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 4, 2012 03:10
A series of cases to be heard by the Supreme Court between now and the Nov. 6 election could make or break the Romney campaign.
In its upcoming term, the Court will hear several cases on topics ranging from social issues to election law. The timing of these hearings will likely have a dramatic effect on the rhetoric of the candidates in the debates and the messages coming from the campaigns in the homestretch of this election.
Both the Obama and Romney campaigns have thus far avoided addressing some of the issues that have moved to the background of the political arena as they move to the forefront of the judicial one.
One such issue is same-sex marriage. The common perception is that the Democratic candidate supports it and the Republican candidate opposes it. However, these presidential competitors’ stances on the matter are actually far more nuanced than that simplified portrayal.
While Romney does indeed oppose same-sex marriage, he has said on the record before that he believe that the decision of whether to confer upon homosexual couples the same rights as heterosexual couples ought to be left to individual states. That is a little-known — and not often touted — position that has the potential to redeem Romney in the eyes of voters who cast their ballots based on social issues.
Since the recent reversal of his 2008 campaign position against gay marriage, Obama has been extolled as the hero of the gay community. However, there are clear (if quietly discussed) limits that the incumbent is unwilling to move beyond. Most noteworthy, Obama will not go so far as to say that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right.
These nuances, as well as a general unwillingness thus far among either side to tackle the issue, highlights a crucial opportunity for the Republican candidate.
Instead of playing political hot potato with issues that the upcoming Supreme Court cases will likely bring to the forefront of public discourse, the Romney campaign should take the offensive.
This does not mean more attack ads. The general consensus is that this election cycle has been the most negative in U.S. history. This trend ought to be not just discontinued, but combated. Americans have become disenchanted and fatigued by such negativity.
Not only would a series of positive ads (that is, those about Romney’s own merits rather than Obama’s shortcomings) be a welcome breath of fresh air for voters, but it also would make those in the electorate more receptive to the message being conveyed.
In an election season characterized by nasty attacks and evasiveness on the issues, a change in tune and tone might just give the Republican candidate the boost he so desperately needs. Romney ought to take advantage of the topics brought up by the Supreme Court cases to clearly define and communicate his stances, which would not only add a much needed dose of positivity to the 2012 campaign but also force Obama to take a position on the same issues as well.
This is dangerous ground for politicians — especially those contending in elections — to tread on. It puts them directly in the line of fire for scrutiny and criticism. Furthermore, the electorate gives candidates little room to shift and redefine stances on issues.
I would push back on that tendency: It’s not flip-flopping or pandering for a candidate to change his or her position on an issue in light of polling results. After all, don’t we want candidates who are responsive to the sentiments, wishes and needs of the electorate? Let us, as voters, issue the call for clarity from our candidates and give them room to answer our demands.
The path to the presidency for Romney is unyieldingly steep and challenging. Caution will not propel the candidate to victory. Romney should take a calculated political risk and make the final weeks of the 2012 election about the issues. Bold gumption and pure politics are key ingredients to Republican victory in November.
Hannah Miller is a junior in the College.