Senators Clinton and Obama want your vote – the gay vote.
Both openly courted the gay vote during the much-ballyhooed Democratic debate held last August on the Logo channel. Most of us were so excited that the Democratic candidates were engaging in a debate all about us and our issues that we glossed over the fact that said debate well preceded the actual kick-off of their public campaigns and was buried on a late summer night at 9:00 pm on an obscure cable channel. A few mere crumbs of AP sound bites.
Since the great gay debate, both candidates continue to express their support of the GLBT community – when pressed. Senator Clinton has graced a few GLBT blogs with her promises of not leaving us behind; Senator Obama has been less visible in our territory, but says all the right things when asked directly. The glaring strike against the good Senator – one that makes him disingenuous to one of the two groups he’s courting - is his public misfire in hooking up with some notorious homophobes (who, among other things, publicly equate gays to murderers and prostitutes) during a three-day, gospel music campaign tour through South Carolina last fall. Be mindful of the company you’re keeping, Senator.
Yet with the well-oiled Clinton political machine falling further and further behind the Kennedy-esque mania swelling up around Obama (face it folks, with Oprah Winfrey and George Clooney onboard the Obama train, it’s looking like the last stop for Clinton), I figured it was time to learn a little bit more about the charismatic and seemingly articulate Illinois congressman who just may be the Democratic nominee. It’ll be a cold day in hell before I ever cast my vote for a Republican like McCain or Huckabee, so it’s the Democratic nominee by default. At this point in the process, I simply want to see if it’s by happy default or reluctant default.
Visits to both Clinton’s and Obama’s official websites – essentially, virtual calling cards in this age of electronic communication – yielded something I wasn’t prepared for: the conspicuous absence of the words gay or lesbian.
Hmm. Can’t be, I thought to myself as I scrolled through page after virtual page. There were position statements on myriad issues – sadly, not one of them was my issue.
For those curious about Senator Clinton’s views, she offers her official stance on the following on her website:
- Strengthening the Middle Class
- Providing Affordable and Accessible Health Care
- Ending the War in Iraq
- Promoting Energy Independence and Fighting Global Warming
- Improving Our Schools
- Fulfilling Our Promises to Veterans
- Supporting Parents and Caring for Children
- Restoring America's Standing in the World
- Championing Women
- Comprehensive Government Reform
- Strengthening Our Democracy
- Reforming Our Immigration System
- An Innovation Agenda
- Creating Opportunity for Rural America
Obama offers supporters and those on the proverbial fence an even wider-ranging litany of position statements on his official website:
- Civil Rights
- The Economy
- Energy & Environment
- Foreign Policy
- Health Care
- Homeland Security
- Seniors & Social Security
So there you have it. Two Democratic candidates actively courting our votes and happily accepting donations from our highly expendable incomes – yet neither willing to put us on their official agenda. Once again, we’re an afterthought, a back-burner topic to be gotten to later. They’ll break bread with us in our gay ghettos but shy away from inviting us into their public, mainstream domains.
Both are willing to go on record as saying that they’ll support civil unions that extend full marriage benefits to committed same-sex partners – but neither commits that to writing on their official virtual calling cards to America. Guess it’s harder to call them on something we haven’t screen-saved for posterity later in the game. And this is after I’ve cut them considerable slack on this particular issue – something many of my GLBT brethren refuse – allowing them the political folly of stopping short of the marriage moniker if it makes equal spousal benefits a more attainable reality. I “get” political reality. I’m not an idealist like the kindly, well-intentioned Dennis Kucinich who did take a public stand for full marriage rights – name included – and now sits with Shirley MacLaine on a front porch somewhere in the New Mexico desert watching for UFO’s after his snowball’s-chance-in-hell bid for his party’s nomination. I “get” that I’m likely to be considered second-class in the eyes of many during my lifetime. After all, I’m here, I’m queer, and I’m used to it. Frankly, as long as my partner of nearly 20 years and my dogs consider me first-class, that’s all that really matters. I understand that – for better or worse – civil rights gains have historically come in increments, over generations. But, for heck’s sake, if I’m going to meet the politicos halfway, I don’t expect to have to do so in a back alley under the dark cloak of midnight.
And, make no mistake, it is a game, folks. We're all simply pawns on the proverbial chessboard. For all Obama’s rhetoric about change, all of Clinton’s discourse on uniting the country, it’s business as usual. Don’t delude yourselves. We’re being marginalized, relegated to “when I get to it” status. It’s disheartening because we’ve been here before. We fall into the same trap every damn time – so happy are we that someone in the political arena will even talk to us, about us. But we need to demand more primetime, less after-hours coverage for the issues that affect us. Otherwise, it’ll be more of the same sloppy seconds – the horribly misguided “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” debacle and the midnight weekend signing of DOMA come immediately to mind, lest we forget.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be someone’s secret, wink-wink friend. I want a candidate who will proudly and equally list me on their agenda, proudly post a position statement on GLBT rights on the website the rest of their constituency visits.
For the record, I’ve been a staunch Clinton supporter. I do put great trust in her experience and believe she has the know-how to navigate through the intricacies of the Washington machine. Worst case scenario, we’ll add some dignified fashion sense to a country under siege by rounded tummies spilling out of belly shirts. As Hannibal Lechter once said, “Oh, Senator...love your suit.” Barama, for all the hoopla, is a relative unknown, an unproven commodity in the system. While I believe his words have the power to influence and excite, I’m not certain he’s got the substance behind his oratory skills to back it all up. There’s much at stake here, coming off a horrific eight-year run with the Bushmonger. I’m still rooting for the candidate who I think has the ability to lead the country from day one.
Just don’t ask me to like it right now.