November 3, 2010 | by Kevin Naff
Elections over, there’s still time for change

With the midterm elections over, we now move full-tilt into 2012 campaign mode. The coming months will bring answers to tantalizing questions, like whether Sarah Palin will run for president (most likely) and whether President Obama will replace Joe Biden on the ticket with Hillary Clinton (less likely).

More critical is the question of whether Obama will face competition from within his own party or from a third-party candidate like Michael Bloomberg.

Make no mistake that Bloomberg is considering a run. He has campaigned for moderates from both parties and is involved with the new organization No Labels, which seeks to unite moderate Republicans and Democrats. No Labels describes itself as a “citizens movement” aimed at overcoming “the tyranny of hyperpartisanship.”

A challenge from Bloomberg could siphon votes from the Republican nominee as well, but Obama has the most to lose in a three-way race. Bloomberg, a former Democrat who switched to the GOP only to switch again to become an independent, holds many progressive views, including support of same-sex marriage.

That puts him to the left of Obama, for now. Last week, Obama gave us the first hint of what to expect if he wins re-election: support for marriage equality. In an interview with progressive bloggers, Obama told Joe Sudbay that, “attitudes evolve, including mine.” Obama, who supported same-sex marriage rights in 1996, backed off that position during the 2008 campaign and endorsed civil unions, an increasingly untenable position given recent court rulings that describe alternative forms of relationship recognition as unconstitutional.

If Obama wins, we can expect him to confirm publicly what he must already believe privately: that same-sex couples deserve the same rights as married heterosexuals.

Asked during the blogger interview about his LGBT critics, Obama replied, “I’ll be honest with you, I don’t think that the disillusionment is justified.”

A week later, the Ninth Circuit accepted the government’s request for a stay of the injunction barring enforcement of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

The administration’s handling of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal has sparked outrage across the country, leading to protests by members of GetEqual. And although those protests are justified (and welcomed), they have overshadowed a laundry list of off-the-radar accomplishments.

In addition to expanding the federal hate crimes law, the Obama administration has added benefits for partners of Foreign Service officers; barred discrimination based on gender identity in the federal (civilian) workforce; expanded hospital visitation rights; and appointed a record number of openly LGBT officials.

The reason for the anger among gay critics is that Obama did not campaign on making incremental change around the edges. He campaigned on substantive change on the marquee legislative issues that have eluded us for decades. The last two years have not brought that change, but progress has been made. Consider that the Blade once published a front-page story after then-President George W. Bush uttered the word “gay” in public. Obama officials who are puzzled or angered by our impatience must understand that we lived through eight years of Bush’s attacks, including the push for a federal marriage amendment. Many of us saw 2009-2010 as the window for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and, at the very least, hearings on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and passage of the Domestic Partnership Benefits & Obligations Act. None of those has happened.

Now we move into a new era with a House speaker who earned a whopping zero on HRC’s congressional scorecard and freshmen Tea Partiers bent on wasting the next two years trying to repeal health care reform. LGBT issues will be off the table until after the 2012 election.

Winning back strong LGBT support for that election is not a lost cause for Obama. He should aggressively push senators to include “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal in the lame duck session. With the elections over, moderate Republicans like Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe won’t face intense pressure to vote the party line, opening the door to those 60 votes needed to advance repeal. He should also expand his inner circle and listen to a wider array of opinions, something made possible by the departure of Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. And he should finally take questions from the LGBT media. Speaking directly to LGBT constituents and our concerns would help undermine accusations of arrogance and aloofness made by gay critics.

The first two years of Obama’s administration are a decidedly mixed bag for LGBT Americans. But the disappointments remind us that civil rights struggles aren’t won in two years — or even 40. Obama has let us down, but there’s still time for redemption before 2012.

Kevin Naff is the editor and a co-owner of the Washington Blade, the nation’s oldest and most acclaimed LGBT news publication, founded in 1969.

16 Comments
  • Kevin,

    It is too bad you could not offer any suggestions / vision as constructive and useful as this BEFORE the midterm elections. As the razor thin magins in races like that in Virginia’s 11th Congressional district show, we all needed to pull together leading up to that vote. Maybe next time…

  • For the gay community today makes no difference from yesterday. Obama is a failure for the community and for other progressives. He will be a one-term president and history will judge him very harshly. What a waste. I wanted Hillary anyway . . .

    • So shut the hell up and bring a GIVE US HILLARY CAMPAIGN!

      • @Chris – I notice that you are responding at 3:45 a.m.. You are either drunk or high — either way, you aren’t making any sense. Seek help, it’s out there for you.

    • It amaze me how folks can have such short memories.. All the stuff that LGBT community is fighting for is the same stuff that your beloved Clintons signed into LAW.. You guys give Clinton 8yrs in-spite of all his short comings.. When it comes to this Black President Obama in office for only 20months is a different story.

      • Please – the man promised to be our “fierce advocate,” and had supermajorities in the House for his first two years. All he had to do was to deliver on what he promised. How many votes did he loose from progressive and liberals voters last week? He without question hurt his party. And don’t inject race into something where it is not there.

  • Bloomberg has little chance of actually winning but would be in a position to push Obama further left on LBGT issues during the mad scramble for gay votes and cash. Also, if a fiscal conservative like Bloomy were to come out for gay marriage, this would make the entire issue slightly less politically taboo. I still put my money on Hillary in 2012–just a gut feeling–but think she will need to play it ‘safe’ on most social issues when the main issues will be jobs, jobs, and jobs. Obama is just a failure on just too many levels.

  • I don’t believe that Hillary will run against Obama for the dem nomination. Further, race will be used as an issue AGAINST Hillary — particularly in our community. The politically correct will not support her, despite her electability, against Obama. We are a stupid community. We’d rather support a president who CLEARLY is not a friend than a woman who has proven abilities and credentials and would support us. At this point, Obama is unelectable in 2012, but that could change depending on the economy. I’d start looking at what might be the best in the repub party for a presidential candidate. It’s about electability friends, not politically correct.

    • Please just shut up. You sound ridiculous!

      • @Chris – you responded to two of my posts. My reply to you for both of these is to STFU, twice. Can you do this, or are you challenged?

      • @Chris – I notice that you are responding at 3:45 a.m.. You are either drunk or high — either way, you aren’t making any sense. Seek help, it’s out there for you.

    • Race used against Hillary in the gay community? Please. Hillary had incredibly high unfavorable ratings among independents and Republicans. Obama was viewed much more favorably. And experience? Being first lady doesn’t qualify you to be president. And the one big thing Hillary did handle, health care reform, was a total disaster. And who was the unexperienced guy that actually managed to move the ball forward: Barack Obama.

      Oh yeah, race is definitely an issue. The issue is that white people constantly ignore their own racial bias. As if gay people are “friendly” to ethnic minorities. You’re not going to find many gay people of color signing on to that notion.

  • Everyone wrote off Reagan, Clinto and W. after the midterms. It’s an easy trap to fall into but it has proven, at least recently, that the opposition party tends to overreach and blow their chances in a presidential election. Don’t count Obama out. With the Tea Party loonies in Congress for the next 2 years, America will be waxing nostalgic for sanity.come 2012.

  • @ BMF and Similar – It is so obvious as to be unworthy of a response that “the community” with all of its multicultural diversity will use race against Hillary – as the gay/black community did in 2008. It is undeniable that Hillary has far move political experience than Obama. NObama was in the senate for all of 18 months before moving toward the 2008 nomination. In addition to being First Lady, something that I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss, Hillary by had by that time been a US Senator for eight years – eight years! Obama never wanted to be a senator; he began raising funds and lined up political media consultant David Axelrod as early as August 2002, long before he formally announced his candidacy in January 2003. He was sworn in as a senator in January 2005, simply as a stop-gap along his presidential campaign. He ran a masterful new media campaign, long on sound bites and very short on substance. So what do we have now, but a president without the experience and leadership skills for the job – a true failure to those he pretended to support – and that includes progressives and the LGBT community. There is an excellent piece by David Milbank on in today’s WashPo on “Would we be better off under a President Hillary Clinton?” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/05/AR2010110505214.html?hpid=opinionsbox1). My answer is a decidedly, yes!

  • The main reason so many gay men vote for BIG GOVERNMENT is because they believe the gay lifestyle requires a big NANNY STATE.. Every year since the discovery of the HIV virus, gay men have led the USA in new infections.  In fact. a nurse of 35 years told me that the average cost of government money to AIDS patients is $500,000 per patient’s lifetime – housing, utilities, food, medicine, MEDICAID, MEDICARE.  The next time you go to a gay bar and joke about someone being a “whore”, think about what you are paying for…IDIOT DEMOCRATS !!!

    • Why not just make it up as you go along? Nanny State? It is the responsibility of the government to manage epidemics; HIV/AIDS is an epidemic. Look at the NIH which has entire institutes dedicated to fighting specific diseases (e.g., cancer, eye, diabetes, heart). And that “nurse” who told you about the $500,000 figure . . you might want to do some research and demonstrate a more significant understanding yourself. Gays are not the leaders in AIDS. At present blacks are the leaders in U.S. HIV cases. Many of these are black men on the down-low who would hardly consider themselves gay, and the black women who are their sex partners. Finally the attack on democrats is just crazy — party affiliation has nothing to do with a virus.

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