With the imminent demise of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” compromise that did not, in any case, repeal DADT (even though the NYT and other lazy journalists like to claim it did), and the imminent demise of the Democratically-controlled House of Representatives, President Obama is about to have accomplished a record zero of his top promises to the gay community. A record that, if we lose the House, will likely remain at zero for the next six years, if the President is so lucky as to win re-election.
We were told that the President simply couldn’t get to his promises to our community in his first two years in office because we are a nation at war, and he had to work on health care reform, the economy, and many other issues that were meant to believe were far more important than our basic civil and human rights.
And now, after all the pandering by all the pro-Obama apologists who said that we were wrong to ask the President to address our community’s needs during his first two years in office, that we were wrong to warn of the imminent loss of a Democratically-controlled House, and how that loss would stymie gay rights progress for years to come, and that we were wrong to suggest that this President would never, ever get to addressing a real repeal of DADT and DOMA, and the passage of ENDA – after all that, it turns out we were right.
Barack Obama is on the precipice of accomplishing a grand total of none of his major promises to gay and lesbian Americans in return for our supporting his candidacy with our votes and our money. I’m not smelling change.
What do the apologists, who criticized our criticism at every turn, say now?
1. That it’s not Obama’s fault that we’re about to lose the House? Perhaps, though I would argue that it’s precisely Obama’s fault that Democrats are in such a sorry state. After all, who’s the leader of our party? Who took the lead in setting our agenda last year, and took the lead in dumbing down every single Democratic accomplishment from the stimulus to health care reform so that none of them would have a significant enough impact to win over the American people, cure our economic and health care woes, and thus create a strong case for maintaining Democratic control of Washington?
(Obama was warned that the stimulus wasn’t big enough, that the economy wouldn’t rebound fast enough, and that it would not only hurt our chances for a second stimulus, but would also hurt our chances at retaining control of Congress. And what did he do? He asked for a stimulus that he knew was one half the size of what was needed, and then handed 35% of it to Republicans in the form of near-useless (in stimulus terms) tax cuts. And now the economy is f’d, the voters are pissed, and Democrats are about to lose control of the House. This is a class-A f-up. And it’s one that the President walked right into, with full knowledge of the consequences. But he did it anyway. And now we’re f’d. Tell me again why I shouldn’t be pissed at the man?)
If Barack Obama’s fear of confrontation, and his incessant need to compromise on everything, regardless of whether such compromise was necessary, didn’t set the agenda for the Democratic fall, and fail, then what did?
But let’s put that aside for a moment.
2. It clearly was Barack Obama’s choice not to move ahead with any of his major promises to the gay community in the first two years of his administration. No one else is to blame other than the President for that simple decision. That decision may have killed any chance of ever passing ENDA, or repealing DADT and DOMA, for the entire four years that President Obama in office. It was Barack Obama’s choice not to even touch DADT until this year, and then not to push for a full repeal, but rather some make-shift compromise that may, or may not, lead to some kind of change in the policy at some future date (though what kind of change, for the better or the worse, isn’t a guarantee). We simply weren’t important enough, and now it appears we are getting nothing.
What is the point anymore?
Democrats like Andy Tobias lecture us like we’re children, like we’re naive to expect President Obama to actually keep his explicit promises to us during the campaign. We were told that Obama would be our “fierce advocate.” We were told that by Barack Obama himself. That, my friends, has turned out to be a crock. The President is not our advocate, and on no issue, gay or otherwise, is the man fierce. Yes, he appointed a lot of gays to decent, but not the most senior, positions in his administration. Is it somehow now a great accomplishment for a Democrat not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in hiring and firing for lower and mid level jobs, but to discriminate on such a basis for cabinet jobs, senior White House position, and positions on the Supreme Court? Tell me again who is gay in the senior reaches of this White House – can anyone name even one person? And how about the Cabinet? And spare us the “head of OPM is gay” line. First off, OPM isn’t a cabinet-level position. Second, the appointee’s previous job was running the National Zoo. He’s not involved in any serious discussion of federal policy on the largest issues of the day. And if he is involved on gay issues, he’s clearly failed.
So what was the point of voting for President Obama, over Hillary, for example, if you’re gay? If he wasn’t going to keep his top promises to our community, then how was he any better than Hillary, or any other Democrat running at the time? Does anyone honestly think Hillary wouldn’t have appointed more gays than any previous administration? Does anyone honestly think Hillary wouldn’t have signed the Hate Crimes bill? President Obama has done nothing on gay civil rights that any other Democrat wouldn’t have done in his stead. Such is not a definition of fierce advocate. It’s the definition of business as usual. And it’s not a very compelling argument to justify voting for one Democrat over another in the future, if words and promises are meaningless, and the candidate’s actions in office are indistinguishable from any other Democrat.
And finally, there’s DNC Treasurer Andy Tobias’ favorite argument. Sure the President lied to us, Tobias seems to imply, but he’s a nicer liar than John McCain would have been. And Andy is right. As much as we seem to have now been betrayed by the Obama campaign’s false promise of hope, John McCain would have been an even bigger liar and worse president (though, at least, McCain wouldn’t have lied about what was coming). But as I’ve written before, I’m not a big fan of being betrayed by friends, even when I know my enemies would have treated me worse. I expect my enemies to treat me like a pariah. I don’t expect my friends to do the same. And in many ways, it’s worse when the indifference, and the lies, come from a friend rather than an enemy.
But, yes, Andy is right. A lying president who has repeatedly endorsed bigotry against LGBT Americans is still better than a flaming bigot who almost always endorses bigotry against us. I guess. And I’m sure Andy will keep touting his increasingly long, and ridiculously thin, list of mostly-minor Obama accomplishments on gay issues, such as our invitation to an Easter Egg roll, and the cocktail party thrown to make up for the President’s lawyers having invoked incest and pedophilia to justify his defense of the despicably bigoted Defense of Marriage Act. The President is still defending DOMA and DADT in court. And conservatives are having a field day quoting the President’s supposed new-found opposition to gay marriage (which is a lot like his new-found support for offshore drilling – kind of hard to explain a valid reason to explain either flip-flop) in order to justify their own bigoted views. But hey, we’ll always have that Easter Egg roll.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that Barack Obama is not an agent of change. He’s not out to fundamentally transform our government or our country, and he’s never going to be anyone’s fierce advocate. If gay voters want to hand their money and their ballots over to someone who won’t keep his major promises, who won’t significantly advance the cause of their civil rights, who will outright work against those promises as we attempt to advance our civil rights in courts of law, but who at least won’t be as big a bigot as John McCain, then they are certainly welcome to support him with all their hearts and wallets. I for one am not feeling an overwhelming desire to donate another $1,000 to, or raise another $43,000 for, a candidate who promises me the moon and then seems almost embarrassed of me the morning after the election.
Perhaps it is naive. But I expect politicians to at least try to keep their major promises. I never said they have to succeed. But they have to at least TRY. Our fierce advocate seems fiercely indifferent. And I fear that an increasing number of Democratic voters now share his indifference.