It’s pretty clear that when the President talks about his views on marriage equality as “evolving,” as he has in recent days, he’s not talking about his actual views, but the political climate. Obama supported gay marriage in 1996 when he ran for the Illinois State Senate. He continues to support gay civil unions and protest “discrimination” in policies like California’s Prop 8. But he refuses to come out and say he supports marriage equality at this time. He’s waiting for the political winds to shift.

Today on Good Morning America, Vice President Biden basically confirmed this, by saying that marriage equality in America is inevitable.

I think the country is evolving, and I think there is an inevitability for a national consensus on gay marriage. That is my view — but this is the President’s policy. But it is evolving. I think the country’s evolving.

I remember the first time he met with the Joint Chiefs, I was with him, he met and he said, “Gentlemen, I want you to prepare now. I want to end Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” And so he prepared the ground so it was so widely accepted as it is today by the military. And I think the same thing is happening across the country with regard to the issue of marriage.

There’s a weather-vane quality to this, but nothing Biden said was really wrong. Throughout history on most civil rights issues, the country leads, not the politicians. We’re seeing gradual leadership on marriage, with the first poll registering opposition below 50% this October. Before long that will translate into plurality and then majority support. A few politicians have taken the leap to support marriage equality, mostly in the states where it’s already legal and along the coasts. But usually on these civil rights matters, the people lead. And they are leading.

Elsewhere, the Vice President said that spending cuts would not fall in 2011, and that the major deficit commissions both said that near-term reductions in government spending would negatively impact the economy. That’s the right plan, but I don’t know if there’s anyone who thinks that unemployment will be at a normal level by 2012, so it’s an odd distinction to make.

David Dayen

David Dayen