What Obama's All About

Chris's picture

Like a lot of people, I've always been unclear about what exactly it is that Barack Obama stands for.  I liked it when he was honest enough to point out that wearing a flag pin had become "a substitute for true patriotism," but in the grand scheme of things, how far does refusing to wear a flag pin go?  He's been sold to us as a fresh alternative to the Beltway crowd, but he's given very little to back that up beyond having more more charm than his fellow Dems.

Now, I know what Obama stands for, though: like I always suspected, he's just old wine in a new bottle.  This week he showed his inner Lieberman by announcing a three-stop campaign tour through South Carolina that included performances by gospel singer Donnie McClurkin.  Two things creep me out about this tour: first, the use of religion to denote political virtue.  If you want a clue about how much the Democrats have swallowed the Republican agenda hook, line, and sinker, just listen to how piously they talk about the importance of "faith," in their own personal lives as well as a definition of our national character.  All Americans are "people of faith"  -- that is, all the ones who count.  So to show that he's a Real Christian American, Obama rounded up three famous gospel singers to back his campaign.  Including Donnie McClurkin.  McClurkin is not only a gay-basher, he's the worst kind: an "ex-gay" who supported Bush and sang at the 2004 Republican National Convention. McClurkin has attributed his own homosexuality to being raped by an uncle when he was a teenager.  Now, he "counsels" teenage boys on how to fight "the curse of homosexuality."  Keith Boykin quotes McClurkin:

"There is a moral aspect that was overwhelmingly a part of Bush's appeal," said McClurkin, who also appeared in Michigan with Bush during the campaign. Shortly after, he was quoted on the Christian Broadcasting Network's (Pat Robertson?s organization) web site saying: "I'm not in the mood to play with those who are trying to kill our children." So now gays are trying to kill children. That's completely absurd and there's no proof to validate that statement.

So what's the great savior of progressive politics doing bringing a devoted hatemonger along on his campaign?  Ever since he started trying to take that mantle, Obama's been afraid to show the clear definition of principle that would justify it.  In spirit, he's a child of the Clinton Democrats, who have run the entire party into the ground over the last ten years through their philosophy that Democrats can only win by selling themselves as Republicanism Lite.  The safe ground is to go for the religious Blacks who are one of the most politically organized sectors of Black communities and who are often either overtly or covertly homophobic.   In 2004, a lot of those voters went for Bush because of gay marriage.  (McClurkin himself being one of them.)  Obama needs to trim Hillary's lead, and if that means tossing gays overboard in order to align himself with a popular singer and actor with street cred among the churchgoers -- so be it.

And if all the holy roller stuff seems to be pulling a few leaves out of Joe Lieberman's book, the really dismaying thing is that Obama doesn't even have the integrity of Holy Joe.  Because he's been called on his association with McClurkin, and he came back with this very clear "no-no-no-I'm-not-a-homophobe" statement:

I have clearly stated my belief that gays and lesbians are our brothers and sisters and should be provided the respect, dignity, and rights of all other citizens. I have consistently spoken directly to African-American religious leaders about the need to overcome the homophobia that persists in some parts our community so that we can confront issues like HIV/AIDS and broaden the reach of equal rights in this country.

I strongly believe that African Americans and the LGBT community must stand together in the fight for equal rights. And so I strongly disagree with Reverend McClurkin's views and will continue to fight for these rights as President of the United States to ensure that America is a country that spreads tolerance instead of division.

No sign of what that means in practical terms, though, because as of this writing, McClurkin is still going to perform at the event, and McClurkin hasn't issued any statement saying that he's changed his mind about those filthy gays.  In short, our man from Illinois wants to have it both ways.  He really is turning out to be like a new JFK; Kennedy tried to have it both ways with civil rights, standing tall in the public eye as an embodiment of liberal tolerance and assuring the black communities that he was with them, but giving them nothing but token acknowledgment except when his ass was pushed to the wall by MLK and others.

And let's be honest: a lot of the blame for this rests on the shoulders of the mainstream LGBT communities, especially the national activist organizations.  As queers have gained more access to the halls of power, they've left a lot of people behind.  A lot of what passes for queer activism these days is actually gay marketing.  "Gays" are white, professional, affluent, and cultured, and that makes them very easy to sell in the corporate or legislative worlds.  That leaves the queers who don't fit that description stranded.  It makes it easier, for instance, for the idea of homosexuality as a white thing to gain traction in black communities.  It makes the closet  (or the "down low") even more necessary as a survival tactic for black queers.

But be that as it may, Obama's cowardice is strictly his own fault.  But although it's his fault, it's our problem, and will be as long as the Democratic party makes a policy of avoiding principle.