Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Courting the Gay Vote

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

Huh? OK...

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
  • Disabilities
  • Education
  • Energy & Environment
  • Ethics
  • Faith
  • Family
  • Fiscal
  • Foreign Policy
  • Health Care
  • Homeland Security
  • Immigration
  • Iraq
  • Poverty
  • Rural
  • Service
  • Seniors & Social Security
  • Technology
  • Veterans
Alright, I’m thinking. Civil rights. GLBT issues must be mentioned here. Nope. The closest Obama comes to a stance on GLBT rights is a blurb about his commitment to hate crimes legislation, but falls short of using the actual words gay or lesbian. In fairness, the Obama website does have a search engine that will lead one to some speeches he’s made in which he addresses GLBT issues – hidden out of sight, but there. Clinton doesn’t even have that.

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, 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.

Your thoughts?


Anonymous said...

Hey Vince...long lost friend.

Thank you for your thoughts in this blog. I want to share them with friends I have on another board. I am like you, I am waiting for someone to actually stand up and say, "LGBT are people too." For me, I think politics bring about a lot of empty promises. Promise me the world, get my vote and then forget me. When will we get someone in office who realizes that civil rights, human rights are for everyone, not just those that fit in the status quo.

Good blog my friend.


Fran Friel said...


Excellent blog. As you know, I seldom weigh in on political issues, but you've offered a great platform for an intelligent discussion, plus I'm deeply concerned about the state of this nation's behavior in the world, as well as the civil liberties that continue to erode here in the US.

This choice is certainly a tough one. I, like you, have been waiting to hear a lot of things from the candidates and my fear is that no matter who takes office, it will be business as usual.

On the subject of LGBT rights and the best candidate, my thinking is a bit different, but I carry no certainty of my choice since I've lost my faith in the US political system (what little I had, that is).

My thinking is that Senator Clinton is from the old guard. Her age and her place of origin alone puts her in a category that tends to be less friendly to LGBT issues. That's a huge generality, I know, but she is also inferring that part of her experience is time spent in the White House, while during that time, the "don't ask, don't tell" policy was put into place. Not a shining beacon of support, plus it was enacted during a somewhat less rabid phase of Religious Right power. Consequently, I'm not as sure of Sen. Clinton's support of the issues at hand.

On the other hand, Senator Obama is a minority, of a younger generation, and comes from challenging and humble beginnings. I suspect by the very nature of his background he may be more supportive of the rights of the LGBT community. However, on the down side, I'm uncomfortable with some of his anti-gay friends in the religious community along with the black stereotype of homophobia. Being in a racially mixed marriage, I've experienced a fair amount of reverse discrimination. My point being, just because someone has come from a background of being discriminated against, doesn't guarantee sensitivity or support for issues of discrimination, hence no guarantee of Obama's support based on ethnicity. At least one thing in his favor on that front is his history as a civil rights attorney.

So, like I said at the start, it's a tough call. As you mentioned, there are no guarantees of support from either candidate, but personally, I'm ready for a serious change in D.C. and I'm definitely leaning toward Senator Obama.

I'll be watching the debate tonight like a hawk. Thanks for the thoughtful discussion, Vince.

Best Always,

Carolyn said...

I like your blog, Vince, and I think I know how important these thoughts are to you. However, I actually no longer expect Democratic candidates to really tell me what they are going to do. Over the years, those are the candidates that the Right goes after with everything they have got. When John Kerry got attacked as a traitor, despite his Vietnam record, I really felt I had seen it all. Probably, it is the lack of a strong platform that has allowed Obama to get this far. This is what I tell my circle of people who are squeamish about Obama. They don't see what is behind the eloquence. Well, if he let that out, he only makes enemies. Maybe he would be your enemy. But we need someone from the democratic side, someone who at least is telling us to look for something better, to aspire, to reach. It wasn't that long ago that a whole state got sidetracked over gay marriage, Ohio. I keep waiting to see what the Right pulls out of its hat to win this election. Earlier, I thought it might be immigration. All I am saying is, I don't really criticize Obama's people for not being very explicit. Edwards was far more explicit, and he is long gone. Being direct seems to be a death wish. Just a few thoughts saying--don't vote for Nader,or any other independent who rallies lefties, GLBTs, and anyone else feeling unrepresented. It doesn't work, and that is idealism, even I can't buy into. Also, I decided to read Obama's books. The first one is very good, although not a slasher! I am just a short ways into it, but much is revealed, I think, if you care to look. There is nothing I can see in his record or history that denies a progressive approach to our times and needs. If nothing else, I think he offers real hope for a change in how the rest of the world perceives us, and perhaps the possibility of a return to negotiation rather than war. Well, enough. Not sure I am very clear, and since I don't have the intensity of your passion for the GLBT perspective, I may be out of line on this blog. But I know you lead with your heart and soul, so I am just trying to respond in my own way. So far, I am giving Obama a chance, and we shall see. There is nothing like politics to disappoint.

Vince Liaguno said...

Crystal, nice to see you darlin'! How's school coming along? The writing? Miss talking to you.

Fran, nice to see you, too! How's the new story collection coming? Hope you'll honor DSM with the opportunity to review it. Your points are valid, and, admittedly, it's hard not to get swept up in the Obama surge. No one wants deep-rooted change - real change - more than the GLBT community (at least in terms of civil rights)right now. I just wish we knew more about Senator Obama --- seems to have swept in from nowhere. His lack of a profile gives me pause.

Carolyn, thank you for stopping by!It was nice chatting with you the other day, and I'll soon be making that appointment. I do understand the candidates' reluctance to be 100% forthcoming with their true ideals and stands on certain issues - particularly one as contentious as GLBT rights. It just sucks having to select my candidate from the dark, having to guess and cross my fingers that it all works out. Economy is one thing, civil liberties are another. I hadn't realized that Obama had written some books (What! No slashers?) and I will indeed give him a read, try to glean a little more about his ideologies.

As another point of reference, someone on a message board I frequent did point out that if you approach the candidates' websites in a rather roundabout way through a third-party search engine and search the word "gay" but restrict the search to just that site, you will get a decent amount of hits that will bring you to speech transcripts and some other areas where the candidates address some GLBT issues. It would appear that Clinton leads when searching their sites in this manner, with 100+ mentions versus Obama's 60 or so - I'm hard pressed to recall the exact numbers as I write this.

Still a clandestine backdoor nod, like the GLBT movement is being relegated to the children's table even though they've reached their teenage years.

Thanks for the insightful comments, ladies! Stop back often.

Anonymous said...

I think supporting the gay community would alienate less people than the candidates imagine.

I'm sad so many people have an axe to grind against Clinton. Socially retarded looks a lot worse on a woman than on a man, but there are far worse fates for presidents than sounding stiff. I think she's better equipped. Regardless, McCain scares the crap out of me.


Lisa Morton said...

It's a pleasure to read such a thoughtful and nicely written blog entry, Vince. My virtual hat is off to you!

I, too, have been curious about these where these two candidates really stand on LGBT issues, and, like you, I've been discouraged at their reluctance to discuss their stands openly. However, as an American woman, I'm also technically a second-class citizen (no ERA for me!), and it's astonishing to me to see a woman get this far in our political system. Even if these two candidates aren't the ones who will lead the way on LGBT equality, they prove to me that change can and WILL happen - especially with people like us calling for it!