Obama has â€œbarack the voteâ€? by getting disinterested and disenfranchised Americans involved in his campaign for the presidential bid.
His promise to cease partisan politics and the old beltway boysâ€™ bickering has not only raised the hope of the American public, but it has also brought out untold numbers of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Americans to cast our vote for him. And with Obama’s win of the Democratic presidential primary in South Carolina last month, his inspiring victory speech “Yes, we can change” sounded a hopeful tune: not only can he reach across this nation’s dividing lines, but we as Americans can too.
“This election is about the past vs. the future. It’s about whether we settle for the same divisions and distractions and drama that passes for politics today or whether we reach for a politics of common sense and innovation, a politics of shared sacrifice and shared prosperity….” said the senator from Illinois. “Don’t tell me we can’t change. Yes, we can. Yes, we can change. Yes, we can. Yes, we can heal this nation. Yes, we can seize our future.”
But as Obama helps the nation to seize a better future, “the same divisions and distractions and drama that passes for politics today” concerning LGBTQ Americans civil rights seem to either haunt him or come out of his campaign closet.
With news outlets reporting that in 2004 Obama asked to not have his picture taken with San Francisco’s Mayor Gavin Newsom, because of the Mayor’s support of same sex marriage, we must ask if Obama can, himself, change.
“I gave a fund-raiser, at his [Obama's] request at the Waterfront restaurant. And he said to me, he would really appreciate it if he didn’t get his photo taken with my mayor. He said he would really not like to have his picture taken with Gavin.” former Mayor Willie Brown told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Four years later and a denial from the Obama campaign, Newsom told Reuters, “One of the three Democrats you mentioned as presidential candidates, as God is my witness, will not be photographed with me, will not be in the same room with me, even though I’ve done fund-raisers for that particular person – not once, but twice – because of this issue.”
Newsom’s a staunch ally to our community. He has neither publicly veered away from photo-ops with us nor from our allies promoting marriage equality.
Many LGBTQ supporters of Obama, however, will argue that Obama, then like now, must tactically do what he has to do to stave off the vitriol of religious conservatives to win.
But how is he then the candidate of change? And how does Obama’s political strategy reconcile with these words he spoke in South Carolina?
“We’re up against the idea that it’s acceptable to say anything and do anything to win an election. But we know that this is exactly what’s wrong with our politics. This is why people don’t believe what their leaders say anymore. This is why they tune out. And this election is our chance to give the American people a reason to believe again,” said Obama.
And to this, I can only go, hmm?!
While it is true, in Obama’s case, that a picture with us would perhaps now say more than his eloquent equivocating words on behalf of us, Obama can’t risk the political fallout.
Matt Comer, owner and editor of InterstateQ.com, stated in his article “President Obama – Why Gays Need to Worry” that “If Obama wins the presidency the LGBT community is in for four (and possibly eight) years of being subjected to a dangerously employed “big tent” strategy that places an oppressed group of citizens at the same table as their oppressors. Obama’s presidency would see James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Donnie McClurkin and other anti-gay leaders sitting down with LGBT community leaders telling them how much they are evil and going to hell while Obama sits back and says, ‘We should work together and hope for change.’”
And while many of us will rationalize and embrace Obama’s “big tent” strategy, in truth, Obama is on the “down low” with the LGBTQ community. He has repackaged a softer and gentler anti-gay platform than the Republicans which is perhaps why so many of us uncritically and defensively come to Obama’s defense.
“You and the white gay establishment are holding Obama to a double standard that is ridiculous and disingenuous. What about Hillary Clinton? If you’re going to judge people by the company they keep, it should be across the the board and not selective condemnation,” an avid critic of mine wrote me.
The argument that Hillary isn’t – and Bill wasn’t – any better on LGBTQ issues is true. However, that’s not the issue here.
Because Obama is the new guy on the block challenging the old establishment, he’s allegedly espousing a different political platform, one where he says if “we are met with cynicism and doubt and fear and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of the American people in three simple words – yes, we can.”
But Obama’s “big tent strategy” to ascend to the White House and his elusive and “down low” promises to the LGBTQ community plays us. And, consequently, if we neither hold him to his promises to us nor have him expound on them, we will closet ourselves and silently OK the disenfranchisement of our full and equal rights when he’s elected.
The real question on the table isn’t can we change, but can we get Obama to change.
And, if we can, will he want to.