Tuesday, September 23, 2008
by Wayne Besen
It is easy to get depressed when analyzing the elections. With serious economic and international crises facing our nation, we have voters like Gordon Maddox who may vote against Barrack Obama because he wrongly fears that his wife Michelle isn't sufficiently proud of America. "Those things, for people who are patriotic and love their country, that turns them off," he told USA Today.
These are what I call "Pompom Patriots" - people who think that our complicated problems will be solved by their loud cheerleading. "Go America!" Yeah, that ought to extricate us from Iraq and bail out the financial markets.
In my view, the most patriotic Americans are those - like some gay activists or public interest grassroots organizers - who work to make this nation better than it was the day before. Boldly proclaiming that "we're Number 1" -- in instances when we are actually falling behind other countries -- only compounds our problems. Such attitudes breed complacency and a false sense of security which leads to stagnation. American exceptionalism should only occur in areas where we are truly exceptional.
If the past two elections are any indication, America is a divided nation and this presidential contest will be unnervingly close. When it comes to polling, race still matters and you can shave 3-6 points
off Obama's numbers. However, Obama is such a charismatic figure, that he may bring in enough new voters -- young people, African Americans, and Independents -- to overcome the race factor.
The one major advantage Obama has over John McCain is the question of, "who America trusts with change." The collapse on Wall Street and continued economic woes favor Obama -- because people can vividly see that conservative government has not worked out so well. Given the current mood of the nation, if Obama outperforms McCain in the debates, he will likely be the next president.
Since the rise of modern Reagan/Falwell conservatism in 1980, which led to the Gingrich revolution, and crested with the nightmare of George W. Bush, the GLBT movement has grown used to bitter disappointments. Still, we have somehow made substantial social progress during this macabre political winter. This success makes landmark advancement palpable if the political stars finally align.
It is time to take a deep breath and imagine our lives in merely two months if we achieve a grand slam at the ballot box. Picture a trifecta in beating back three anti-gay marriage initiatives in California, Florida and Arizona. Envision Obama arriving in Washington in his motorcade, flanked by an expanded Democratic majority.
Within two years, it is conceivable that it will no longer be legal to fire someone for being gay. Sexual orientation will be included in federal hate crime laws. With marriage legal in trendsetting California, other states won't be far behind. Within a few years, a soldier's sexuality will not bar him or her from service. In short, we will have won the brutal culture war of the 1990s.
The question for gay rights advocates is where does the movement go after its main goals have been accomplished?Marriage:
Three marriage victories in this election cycle would decapitate the anti-gay marriage movement. It would show that they were on the wrong side of both history and public opinion. This would shift the fight to all 50 states -- where a patchwork of civil union and marriage laws will take form over the next twenty years. It is likely that entire regions of the U.S. will grant equal marriage rights, while others lag behind for decades -- with the Supreme Court eventually ruling on the issue.Religion Battles:
An intensification of the fratricidal warfare within mainstream denominations will occur. We got a glimpse of this ugliness in the fight over Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson. If most of the original goals of the movement are accomplished in America, it will free up the resources and time to wage a worldwide campaign for equality within churches.International:
The Internet allows us to see flagrant abuses of GLBT people across the globe. Gay activists at home will increasingly turn their attention abroad and launch campaigns against anti-gay countries. I predict a boycott against Jamaica, which could be successfully launched against cruise ship companies in Florida.Transgender:
Once equality has been largely achieved for gay and lesbian people, much energy will turn towards the inclusion of transgender Americans. Lobbyists, who now walk Capitol Hill on behalf of gay people, will turn much of their focus to educating legislators about trans issues.Social Campaigns:
You can change the laws of the land, but there will still be much work to do on changing attitudes. As less money is devoted to influencing legislation, more will be spent to create tolerant environments in schools and communities.
The alternative, of course, is three marriage defeats and a Palin/McCain victory. In that case, your best bet is to rent a U-Haul and move to Canada.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
by Wayne Besen
Until now, I have always thought there was a place for the Log Cabin Republicans within the GLBT movement. There was a need for a group that could advocate from inside the belly of the beast and do the dirty work that few intellectually honest people wanted to do. The logic behind this organization was that it made more sense to fight for the soul of the Republican Party than run away and support the Democrats -- which members of this organization have traditionally disagreed with on fiscal and national security matters.
However, the rationale for this organization has significantly eroded, as the GOP has shown itself to be corrupt, inept and incapable of good governance. It has become the party of cronyism, debt and diabolical deceit, while securing its power by enthusiastically pandering to its anti-gay base.
With the stock market plummeting, the real estate bubble bursting, the deficit exploding and gas prices breaking new records -- largely thanks to Republican deregulation of markets and failure to explore alternative energy sources - the myth of Republican economic responsibility has been fatally punctured.
Log Cabin Republicans also justify their party choice on grounds of national security. But, in eight years of mostly Republican rule, America has grown weaker. Our military is stretched thin, we are still bogged down in the bloody money pit of Iraq, Russia is resurgent, and Osama remains free in the same lawless Pakistani border where Al-Qaeda is plotting. Indeed, the 9-11 attacks took place with Republicans in power, including a president who failed to take seriously reports that an attack on America was imminent.
Based on this abominable record, gay Republicans can no longer say that their party's performance on other matters overrides its unyielding opposition to GLBT equality. Between the sullying of America's reputation abroad and the divisiveness on social issues at home, there is no reason that securing GLBT rights should not be the primary focus of Log Cabin Republicans. The choice they present between our equality and the safety and prosperity of this nation has proven itself false.
The final logic for Log Cabin was that it could create "Big Tent" Republicanism by nurturing friendly Republicans who could transform the party. Unfortunately, this election cycle shows that instead of changing the GOP, it is the "supportive" politicians who reinvent themselves to appeal to social conservatives.
Instead of standing on principle, ambitious Log Cabin favorites -- such as Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani -- made crass conversions and bowed to anti-gay zealots that an earlier incarnation of John McCain called "agents of intolerance." We even had a sophisticated actor, Fred Thompson, who surely must socialize with gay people in Hollywood, act like he just fell off a turnip truck in overalls.
The truth is, Republican politicians who are pro-gay have no future in the GOP. If they did, former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld would have been a rising star. The most famous moderate -- Arnold Schwarzenegger -- has his presidential ambitions chastened by the U.S. Constitution, thus allowing him a degree of autonomy. However, those who want to be president will pander to the preachers.
The Log Cabin experiment to remake the GOP has faltered and they should consider closing shop. At times, it has been a noble project, particularly under the principled leadership of Patrick Guerriero, who refused to endorse Bush in 2004 after the president pushed for the Federal Marriage Amendment.
It is obvious, however, that this organization has outlived its usefulness and has been soundly defeated by much larger, wealthier and influential anti-gay forces. The party is now rotten to the core and thrives on homophobic bigotry, anti-immigrant sentiment, small-minded populism and foolishly mocking our foreign allies at the expense of our long-term national security (remember freedom fries?).
Exactly where does a gay Republican fit into this intolerant scenario?
Log Cabin's tragic endorsement of John McCain exhibits an obdurate denial of his anti-gay record and a stubborn unwillingness to admit that their one-time hero is now hopeless. McCain's VP choice, Sarah Palin, a favorite of the fundamentalist fringe, should have lead to a reevaluation, if not reversal of their endorsement. Like Palin, they didn't blink, and are shamefully in cahoots with destructive forces that would deny GLBT people the most basic rights.
The only chance for gay Republicans to be legitimate players in the GOP is to have the party suffer a string of crushing losses. The defeats have to be so painful and substantial, that they lead to realignment, where the role of social conservatives is significantly diminished. Clearly, the Log Cabin Republicans can only save their party by helping to defeat it.
Both parties agree that this is the election of "change." Log Cabin can take the lead by changing its endorsement of McCain before they further harm the gay and lesbian community. Their suicidal tendency to help a party that despises them is the pink elephant in the room that needs to be discussed. If they can't reform the GOP -- and there is no evidence that they can -- it may be time to disband.
Monday, September 01, 2008
by Wayne Besen
In 1992, the gay and lesbian community galvanized around Bill Clinton in what is now seen as the first "national gay vote." The stark contrast between Clinton and the rabidly homophobic GOP, which declared a culture war at its Houston convention, was the reason for this unified support.
This year offers a similar disparity between the parties. The Democrats proved at their Denver convention to be GLBT supportive while the GOP in Minneapolis will most likely rail against equality for gays in their effort to bring home their socially conservative base.
It was made clear by the major Democratic stars -- Ted Kennedy, Hillary and Bill Clinton and Barak Obama -- that we, the GLBT community, are included in their vision for America. In Minneapolis, I suspect the few references to the existence of GLBT people will be as a threat to the family, with some speakers explicitly calling for a federal Constitutional Amendment to prohibit equal marriage rights. It is unfathomable that a gay person â€“ except the most delusional - would be comfortable voting for such a party, no less trolling and tripping over conservatives in the convention hall.
McCain's first nod to the conservatives came when he plucked a tyro from the tundra to serve as his gunning mate, er, running mate. Alaska's moose stew-loving governor, Sarah Palin, energized social conservatives who quickly aborted their ostensible concerns about national security for their narrow desire to secure the termination of Roe v. Wade. They were so thrilled to have Palin on the ticket, that the Family Research Council excused her teenage daughter, Bristol, for her out of wedlock pregnancy. Imagine the uproar from these Moral Majority types if this had instead been Chelsea Clinton!
Like a comedy sketch, John McCain's wife, Cindy, said on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, that the inexperienced Palin was qualified to handle a resurgent Russia because, "Alaska is the closest part of our continent to Russia." Isn't that a bit like saying I'm an expert on Cuba because I grew up in Miami?
If Palin's resume were any thinner, it could be a Vogue runway model. Prior to her two-year stint as Alaska's governor, Palin was the mayor of Wasilla, an Anchorage suburb with 7,000 residents -- which is probably less than the number of people who live on my block in Brooklyn.
Considering McCain is 72 and has had past health issues, Palin was a reckless and potentially ruinous choice. McCain's main appeal was his experience, but elevating Palin makes it infinitely more difficult for McCain to credibly make this argument.
Let's be honest, this is tokenism and selecting Palin as a substitute for Clinton is reminiscent of President George H.W. Bush nominating Clarence Thomas as a Supreme Court replacement for the legendary Thurgood Marshall.
This pander pick will win over few Clinton supporters following her eloquent, unifying speech in Denver. It is ludicrous to think that these educated women will be enthusiastic about Palin, who is anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-environment and who even supported arch conservative Pat Buchanan's presidential campaign. Indeed, Buchanan told Chris Matthews on Hardball that Palin was a "brigader for me in 1996."
Unfortunately, I still get a lot of e-mail from misinformed gay people who think that John McCain and Barack Obama have the same record on GLBT issues simply because they both oppose allowing gay people to marry. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth. Obama is light years ahead on our issues and a vote for McCain is a tragic mistake that will usher in four more years of discrimination and humiliation. I suggest those in doubt visit a new website, "LGBT For Obama
," that highlights the superiority of the democratic nominee's record.
In November, we can wake up to a new day where job discrimination is outlawed, openly gay soldiers are able to serve our nation with the dignity they deserve, GLBT people are finally included in hate crime laws, our families are offered a measure of protection and America will have a moderate Supreme Court for years to come.
Or, we can rise to a dark November morning that ushers in four more ugly years of persecution, right wing demagogues on the president's speed dial, invisibility for our families, Arabic translators kicked of the military because of their sexual orientation and a retrograde and a reactionary Supreme Court that sets our movement back decades.
The GLBT community needs to unify and rally around the Obama campaign as we did for Clinton in 1992, or we will live in a regime that rules like its 1892. The choice for the future is clear and stark. We must mobilize in swing states and win or the GOP will be taking gratuitous swings at our families for the next four years.