Saturday, October 16, 2010

Obama's Gay Problem

The following is based on a comment I made in a discussion on the Joe.My.God. blog about the Obama justice department choosing to appeal the recent court ruling overturning DADT.

At the state of the union address this year President Obama urged Congress to repeal DADT. It passed the House, and then stalled in the Senate, eventually being voted down, opposed by all the Republicans and two Democrats, toward the end of the recent Senate session. Meanwhile Obama mobilized his chiefs of staff to oppose DADT, while also endorsing a study of the impact of repealing DADT on the armed services that looked to some as a delaying tactic. I have written elsewhere on The Cahokian on my mixed feelings on this issue. Meanwhile a lawsuit against DADT brought by, of all things, gay Republicans during the Bush adminstration finally bore the fruit of a federal judge ruling that it was unconstitutional, and immediately nullifying its enforcement throughout the American armed forces. Despite the fact that Obama has repeatedly stated his opposition to DADT, his justice department decided to defend the law of the land and appeal the decision banning DADT.

Immediately many in the gay community, especially its highly vocal blogosphere, have cried foul. Obama has even met vocal opposition to this move at town hall meetings for the upcoming midterm elections. He responded by affirming his intention to end DADT "on his watch." Many in the gay blogosphere are now calling him a homophobe, a failure, a liar, and worse.

I acknowledge this is frustrating and confounding. But all this crap about Obama being a homophobe is a conspiracy theory no different than the ones the right wing is spinning. Many in the gay community are caught up looking for simple answers to complicated problems. They're being swept up in the same know-nothing anti-intellectual media shitstorm that the teabaggers are swimiming in. But there is no actual evidence that Obama is a homophobe. The gay community has hurt feelings, and some in the blogosphere are quite shrill in their accusations. But the gay blogs tend to avoid reporting on how some Obama supporters defend his strategy of seeking pure legislative overturn for DADT...and contrary to the additional conspiracy theories floating around the blogs, not everybody who believes that Obama is actually committed to what he says he is on this instance is a paid agent of the Democratic National Committee or the mainstream gay lobbying organization the Human Rights Campaign.

I'm not sure I agree that the president has chosen the correct strategy here. I freely admit I don't understand the ramifications of either possible path based on the DADT court ruling. But I am absolutely certain that the response of so many in the gay blogosphere is way off base.

I think it's quite interesting in a perverse way that this discussion has been going on since 2007. While Obama had a lot of gay support, large sections of the gay community lined up behind candidate Hillary Clinton, and bitterness endured past the Democratic primaries. By and large the sides haven't changed much: many in the gay community unhappy with Obama now were unhappy with him them. It's been established that white men are the constituency least behind Obama; this is mirrored in the gay white male community though it's certainly not true that the only gay people having huge problems with Obama are gay white men. But I do think the distrust between the white gay community and the black community does color this continuing distrust and worse that many gays have with him. I've read gay men, for instance, suggest that Obama learned to hate gays at the hands of "anti-gay preacher" Jeremiah Wright, not knowing that Obama's old and now-renounced spiritual mentor was in fact thoroughly pro-gay, wrongly assuming that he was just another anti-gay Christian preacher.

Let's look at the past, at the things that pissed us in the gay community off before. Donnie McClurkin, a hugely popular gospel star who also happens to be a bigot: Obama bridged his fans and supporters and us for votes. End of story; we won that when Obama got elected. Megachurch leader Rick Warren: The guy made a bumbling inarticulate speech at the inauguration and now, as an acknowledged Obama supporter, we haven't heard too much from him in two years; in fact he was even shamed into denouncing his friends in Uganda. Obama bridged his fans and supporters and us because, like it or not, he's all of our president. I think we won that one, too.

DADT, DOMA [the defense of marriage act which bans gay marriage], ENDA [the employment nondiscrimination act which would ban discrimination in hiring]: Some strategic choices were made here. I would rather this whole fight was over ENDA not DADT. I'm not sure who to thank for that, HRC maybe. But even the one thing that as many point out has 75% popular support, repeal of DADT, wasn't able to get through Congress. Because of the Republicans, not Obama, not the Democrats. And the blogosphere is saying this is just SIMPLE? Are they fucking nuts? For that matter can we imagine getting a bill calling for ending discrimination against transpeople through the current senate? Really???

I believe Obama honestly opposes DOMA. I also believe there is not a snowball's chance in hell of touching it in congress. DOMA is hugely popular on the right and center, and even Hillary Clinton wasn't for its blanket repeal.

I don't think any of us foresaw the massive teabagger reaction to Obama's election. We all thought, oh Obama can win, the country must have changed magically from the nightmare of the Bush years. Well maybe it didn't. It's frustrating. It's confounding. But this country is a mess. And coming up with lefty conspiracy theories to match the right wing ones is just stupid. And that is all the notion that Obama is a homophobe is, it's a conspiracy theory.

I HATE Obama's foreign policy. But it's pretty much what I expected, it's what American presidents do. I want socialized medicine. But I also want a beach house in Puerto Rico. I hate the money that was given to banks. But I'm pretty sure I would hate living in a cardboard box and going to breadlines more. I'm sorry Obama is a flawed human being. I wish he was still going to Jeremiah Wright for advice. But things could be so so much worse. I remain unregretful of how I spent my vote. I wish there was a Democratic Socialist party out there to give the Democrats and Republicans a run for the money. But there's just not.

These are frustrating, dangerous times. There's an election in a couple weeks. I'd rather see a frustrating party that struggles to get things done remain holding the reigns of power than the teabagger movement. I think that's a simple choice. It is not a blanket endorsement of the Democratic Party. But when the shitstorm is swirling around on election day and everybody's pissed off at Obama, even if some of the people are pissed off from the left and some from the right, when the teabaggers win we're all gonna be swimming in shit and nobody's gonna care who the stink came from.

(Photo snagged from the CS Monitor)


  1. DADT is an issue that always pissed me off. I think its repeal is important, but it's such a trendy thing to be against. People who think they're all "against the man" and "fight the power" are expending all their energy on DADT, while having no knowledge of DOMA and ENDA: both of which have bigger, more important consequences. Shit, ENDA could even be interpreted to do what the repeal of DADT would do anyway.

    Whenever someone mouths off about DADT, I always ask why they aren't so vocal about DOMA, and no one ever knows what the acronym even stands for. People aren't aware of their government, they're just aware of what the coolest thing to fight is.

    So good on you, Ish, for knowing what's up. DADT should be repealed, but I think stopping DOMA is a much bigger deal.

  2. Right, freebones!! ENDA and DOMA effect society as a whole, which I guess makes them bigger hurdles but makes progress on them bigger successes.