If I recall correctly, last year when New York Gov. Mario Cuomo
celebrated the legalization of gay marriage in New York, the same week,
President Obama’s support in North Carolina dropped 14 percent. Two
things: As Rick Perry said about Mitt Romney, how can you change your
mind as a grown-up man about things so essential to life? It is not a
change of mind; it is a change of feelings. Which may be worse. By what
mechanism? Do we just change who we are, simple to conform to the
floating standards? It is the curse of a very large country run purely
on bright lights and sensory apparatus — TV, movies, movie stars and
pounding music at every turn — constantly bombarding, and leaving in the
end, so little to remain between the generations; so little to remain
at all. Last year Obama opposed gay marriage. Last week he was
“evolving.” (Wow.) Now he has evolved. There was, at the beginning,
little to this man. Now there is less.
The second thing: People in the country live differently than those in the city, and that is why North Carolina recedes when New York ascends. As historian Frank Owsley wrote of this, it was Hamilton and the New Yorkers vs. Jefferson and the country people. The New York/North Carolina binary paradigm is still the perfect model. And the struggle is always about, to quote Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master.” My last count, there are about eight big city states (like New York) and 43 country states (like North Carolina). And the country states are motivated.
Obama’s problem is that he is a kind of sense/feeling guy and assumes what is around him. Not like Carter in that regard and not at all like Kerry, but this will deliver him now exclusively to the city people; the people who live on the eight or so edges of America and it will drop his standing in the 43 states in the middle.
Obama today brings a direct challenge to the middle of America. And the middle of America will accept the challenge.