,The New York Times has posted a fairly comprehensive guide to the Veepstakes. They may have put this on their site a while back, but today is the first time I saw it, and I think part of their assessment of Sam Nunn is worth discussing:
Mr. Nunn was known for the most part as a conservative Democrat, and he led a high-profile fight against Bill Clinton’s effort to allow homosexuals to serve openly in the military. Mr. Obama would certainly encounter some heat from his supporters if he turned to Mr. Nunn.
The Times is hardly the first outlet to raise the issue of Nunn’s record on gays in the military and it’s hardly a stretch to say this record doesn’t sit well with gay rights activists and much of the party’s base. But this is looking at the issue the wrong way.
On the whole, Nunn’s resistance to gays in the military – 15 years ago, it ought to be noted – would be a plus for an Obama-led ticket, not a minus. Obama, unlike John McCain, doesn’t really have a problem with his base in this election. Yes, a smattering of Hillary diehards will hold out until the very end, but Obama’s real challenge is to offer reassurance to voters in the center and slightly to the right of the center of the political spectrum – the folks who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Al Gore or John Kerry.
If these voters were to sense that Obama has made a V.P. choice that upsets his party’s most liberal voters, they will think better of him for it, not worse. Not only would he be demonstrating independence from the left, he’d also be establishing common cultural ground with moderately conservative Americans, who had many of the same reservations about gays in the military than Nunn had 15 years ago. And like Nunn – who seems to be evolving on the topic – many of them have been slowly rethinking their own attitudes. Choosing Nunn, and enduring the outcry of the left, would make Obama much more palatable to these voters.
And it’s not like the left will stay mad forever – especially if Nunn continues to walk away from his hard-line position of 15 years ago. When it comes to the base, Obama is in a much better position than any Democratic nominee in recent memory. To the left, he remains a once-in-a-generation candidate. They will forgive and understand the compromises he makes en route to the White House.
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