Obama and Gays
by Dax-Devlon Ross
Columnist Jasmyne Cannick recently wrote a thoughtful editorial in The Black Commentator that I wanted to share with a broader audience. In the editorial she suggested that since Hillary has already pledged her support to gays, Obama should do the same. Her argument is morally based (it’s the right thing to do) and well-reasoned (“gays do vote and in numbers”), but there were a few points that came to mind while reading that I wanted to address.
Point #1: Ms. Cannick states that “Obama has so far benefited from having the support of Black America in his presidential bid.”
Response: In fact, Obama hasn’t earned the “black” vote yet, as the statement would suggest. The raging question of the moment is, ‘is he black enough?’ The 60 Minutes piece that aired a month ago suggested as much. It’s a touchy point for Barack himself, who’s had to defend his “blackness” in the face of allegations that he isn’t “really black.” I think it’s imperative that we keep in mind that he is in it for the long haul and that there has to be a strategy, one that includes making inroads one step at a time.
Point #2: “I am proud to stand by your side,” Clinton said in a keynote speech Friday to the Human Rights Campaign. “I want you to know that this is exactly the kind of partnership we will have when I am president,” Clinton told the group. “I want you to know that just as you always have an open door to my senate office, you will always have an open door to the White House and together we can continue this journey.”
Response: Just because Hillary made a public statement that, for her, is not politically risky considering 1) allegations about her homosexuality over the years and 2) her status as a woman, and therefore presumably partial to other “others,” does not mean Barack should follow suit. In fact, it’s best, in my opinion, that he not begin a reactionary pattern of following Hillary. Doing so would be political suicide.
Why is Hillary so openly courting the gay vote so early in the game? What is her reasoning? Here’s one suggestion: She knows she’s a lost cause with certain demographics so she’s grabbing who and what she can before anyone else can make their appeal. It’s expedient for her to align herself with gays now because, unlike Barack and Edwards, who may be able to woo voters from opposing spectrums, she won’t because her name and her history have made her a pariah in certain influential circles.
Why is Hillary not concerned with alienating other voting groups, such as blacks, who Cannick suggests are homophobic? Here’s one suggestion. She knows and understands that black voting patterns are in flux and that blacks no longer vote as group because their interests have been fragmented (see the ’04 election where record number of blacks voted Republican) through class stratification and integration.
Just because Hillary made an unannounced appearance before a group of gays and lesbians should not mean all gays will or should support her. What she’s doing is preying upon the wounded soul of a maligned group that longs for inclusion, something we saw her husband do in office by symbolically aligning himself with blacks while passing anti-black legislation that wound up throwing hundreds of thousands of blacks into the prison system.
If gays allow their votes to be bought so cheaply (meaning without consideration of other pressing issues that affect them as Americans and not only gay and lesbian Americans) then they are setting themselves up for disillusionment. They will see, over time, an erosion of their voting power a la blacks in the Republican (pre FDR) and Democratic Party (post- Clinton).
Lastly, Connick quotes from Obama’s Audacity of Hope to show Barack’s undetermined opinions on the question of homosexuality. He hasn’t yet decided where he stands on the controversial issue of gay marriage, but what the quote shows is a man struggling with his faith and his role as an elected official. It is, in my opinion, the struggle and the frankness with which he speaks about it that we should be focusing on. Few politicians would admit their willingness and openness to alternative points of view. That, I think, is the mark of the kind of leadership we need in order to extricate ourselves from situations such as Iraq.