As the nail biter of a presidential race becomes more uncertain, the only thing guaranteed is a good cry on Inauguration Day. Electing our first woman or black president will bring sobs of joy, just as the election of a Republican will usher in wallowing wails of woe.
However, there is one more issue that is worthy of tears, and that is how few Americans could imagine a gay President of the United States. At the age of 37, if I proclaimed that one day I would run for president, people would offer patronizing or quizzical looks, before they suggested a random drug test. They would say, "We won't see a gay president in your lifetime."
However, if John McCain wins the prize he will be inaugurated at the age of 71. If I ran for president at the same age as McCain, that would mean I could count on 34 more years of social change, which may be enough time for a gay or lesbian American to be a viable presidential candidate.
If this sounds implausible, consider that it was 34 years ago that homosexuality was removed from the American Psychiatric Association's list of mental disorders. The APA decision was only four years after the Stonewall riots. Since this time, we have lived though AIDS, passed a multitude of gay rights laws, have had openly gay members of Congress and witnessed same-sex marriage become a reality in Massachusetts.
Clearly, it is not inconceivable that in 34 years - 2042 - a gay person could theoretically become president. It is likely that our Barack Obama is now in grade school. This gifted gay individual will be charismatic and able to appeal to mainstream Americans to win the greatest prize in politics.
The question is, how are those of us who don't have a snowball's chance in hell of becoming president, paving the way for this young man or woman to achieve his or her dreams?
In order for our Obama to fulfill his or her potential, it is essential that the GLBT movement runs serious presidential candidates in the next election cycle. That's right, "candidates" in the plural -- meaning we run a Democrat and a Republican.
The Democrat would play the role of Jesse Jackson -- a trailblazer that will lose badly, but earn respect and lay the groundwork for the future. This sacrificial lamb will be known as "the gay candidate," so when our gay Obama is finally ready -- he or she can transcend sexual orientation and win -- or lose -- on the merits.
It is also crucial we run a credible Republican, in order to articulate the case for gay rights in front of conservative audiences. This not only would make the other candidates uncomfortable in their gay bashing, but this candidate could serve as a role model.
However, as the old sports cliche goes, "if you stay on the sidelines, you aren't in the game." By not having a gay candidate run, we accede the field to all heterosexual candidates and we are therefore largely invisible. Now, I can understand not running a gay candidate this time around in the Democratic primary, since the field was already crowded with history makers. But in the future, this is unacceptable and we ought to aim for fair representation in the next election cycle.
The bottom line is, that until we first have our Jesse Jackson, we will never have our Barack Obama. Just having an openly gay person on-stage allows young people to dream and imagine a world of unlimited possibilities.
The GLBT political groups ought to make it a priority to find the best Republican and Democratic candidates to run next time around. Aside from the historical aspect, it would be amazing publicity. Each time a gay candidate walked on-stage to debate, it would be worth millions of dollars of free advertising for the GLBT movement. I can't think of a better investment and use of our advocacy dollars.
There are three hundred million people in America, so no on can credibly argue that we can't find at least one gay or lesbian person up to the task. After all, you can't convince me that Rep. Barney Frank or former Human Rights Campaign leader Elizabeth Birch can't do a better job than Gary Bauer or Alan Keyes.
One stereotype is that gay people like theatre - so it is past time we come out from behind the curtain. By playing supporting on-stage roles in the next presidential election, our leaders can set the stage for our leading man or woman in the future.
Wayne, I don't see that happening. First of all, you have to be married to win any race nowadays, and you have to be christian and profess a belief system, the unspoken litmus test for any candidate. No other country conducts its campaigns or elections like this. What we need is a straight democrat who has a chance of winning and who believes in full equality. So far, neither of the two we have believe in that.
posted by Robert, NYC., at
2/06/2008 7:59 AM
Robert, Wayne thinks that in 34 years - - - there might be room for a gay candidate and the electoral panorama may have changed by then. It's possible. I think that all this religious stuff in this country is a fad and is bound to change in 25 years' time. You forget that we are dealing with America, which swings violently to the right and to the left. It would be nice to achieve normalcy status in 31 years for us I mean.
posted by richard schillen, at
2/06/2008 12:59 PM
If Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano would decide to come out publicly as lesbian, we'd have a viable Democratic candidate. She's already a potential VP candidate this time around.
posted by Lisarayn, at
2/06/2008 7:25 PM
Richard, maybe, but my personal gut feeling is, it won't happen by then. With republicans and democrats vying for office every four years and as long as there is a republican party that will NEVER believe in LGBT equality, I don't see how any potential Gay candidate stands a chance. The Log Cabiners have not succeeded in changing their party from within, not one iota, in fact its become more extreme than ever. There are few straight democrats in favor of full equality and those who are would never get the nod, just look at Kucinich, Gravel. Look at California, Girly Man twice vetoed marriage equality. New York state which has marriage equality legislation pending won't pass as long as the republicans control the state senate headed by that evil piece of work, Joseph Bruno. When he steps down, another will take his place. I'm not as confident as Wayne about the possibilities 30 or so years hence. We've waited far too long for our full civil rights, we need them NOW and we won't get them with the likes of Clinton or Obama either. We have to stop supporting them altogether until they learn their lesson. I don't like my vote being taken for granted, let them earn it. This country should have been the leader, not the trailer if it purports to be a democracy and a believer in the constitution that all men are created equal. We're NOT, never have been, never will be as long as these clowns run the show.
posted by Robert, NYC., at
2/07/2008 8:09 AM
The question is not about this or that individual candidate. Even, or should I say especially, the most populist sounding candidates entered politics simply to get rich and quickly sell out to the highest bidder and then the next highest bidder, etc. LBJ. Nixon and the Clintons are clear examples. The question is who controls the parties, who has the clout, who calls the shots?
Neither party is controlled by their constituent groups. In the Democratic Party many self appointed ‘leaders’ who should know better mistake participation in speech making, lunch taking and getting ‘atta girls’ and ‘atta boys’ clout. They ‘re people who claim to represent working people, unions, environmentalists, GLBT groups, immigrants, African Americans, civil libertarians and the aged, etc. Even if they had identical agendas and their clout was squared they wouldn’t have a tenth of the power of the rich and the corporations. The rich are everywhere and ever-present in political life and their money gets them what they want. Votes, delegate counts, platforms and campaign promises are just hype. Money rules.
Gore Vidal described their politics when he said“"[t]here is only one party in the United States, the Property Party...and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat. Republicans are a bit stupider, more rigid, more doctrinaire in their laissez-faire capitalism than the Democrats, who are cuter, prettier, a bit more corrupt—until recently... and more willing than the Republicans to make small adjustments when the poor, the black, the anti-imperialists get out of hand. But, essentially, there is no difference between the two parties."
posted by Bill Perdue, at
2/07/2008 1:06 PM
scott - I might vote for some one like Wayne, Matt Foreman, Jackson or Sharpton depending on their program, but I wouldn't consider it if they ran as Democrats.
posted by Bill Perdue, at
2/07/2008 1:13 PM
For all of those who think change doesn't happen quickly once the ball really gets rolling just look across the pond at Britain. Just 20 or 30 years ago they were MUCH more socially conservative than we were when it came to gay issues. Now they are very progressive and even their conservative Tory party is becoming much more gay friendly knowing that the gay bashing ways of the past just won't win elections.
Things can change very quickly once the scales begin to tip.
Bill, I'm with you on that. I unregistered as a democrat years ago and joined the Greens, not the perfect party but damn better than the two parties we keep electing every four years. Of course, Gore Vidal's statement is not far from the truth. Come November, I doubt if my views will have changed much to induce me to get behind either of the two contenders who really don't want me to have full equality.
posted by Robert, NYC., at
2/08/2008 8:21 AM
anonymous, across the pond in the UK its a very different animal you're dealing with. The British never really had the kind of religious loonies that seem to find fertile ground in the U.S. and the middle east. Their Labour (Democratic) party was always further to the left than our own although Blair was a centrist, much like the Clintons. Having said that, I give credit to Blair for pushing ahead on granting LGB people all the rights and privileges of marriage at the national (federal) level, supported by over 80% of the populace with little resistance from the established Anglican church. The Tory party (republican lite) for the most part supports equality, unprecedented in their history with openly gay shadow government members in its midst. That will never happen in our own even though the Log Cabiners believe they can change it from within, very wishful thinking that will never come to fruition.
Then there is the question of those states which prohibit same-sex marriages or civil unions. How would Clinton or Obama address that having said they'd support civil unions at the federal level?
Unlike the US, the UK's government is centralized in London where legislation is enacted that covers the entire nation, an easier system than our complex system of federalism with 50 states acting like independent countries. Would that we were that fortunate.
posted by Robert, NYC., at
2/08/2008 8:36 AM