When reading that HRC had endorsed Obama for President in 2012 my reaction was: “OK, so what?” There isn’t anyone familiar with HRC who would expect anything different. But there is a legitimate question to ask: why now? What new promise or commitment did HRC get from the Obama campaign that made them do this 17 months before the election?
Do I think there is a chance in hell that the Republican candidate will be better than the President on LGBT issues? Of course not. From all indications the potential candidates for the Republican nomination will take us backward.
Do I personally think that based on his record the President will and should be reelected, yes! But I don’t pretend to be bi-partisan. HRC is the LGBT community’s largest lobbying organization and they do make some pretense at being bi-partisan. No one can be blamed for thinking that pretense is over with this early endorsement.
HRC President Joe Solmonese in an Advocate commentary said, “Our endorsement now will allow HRC along with our community and allies to fully mobilize around what will be a difficult but critically important campaign. One need not look further than the records of the other candidates for a wake-up call about how important this election will be to LGBT people.”
Based on this it is not wrong for some to suggest that it may have been wiser to wait until the Republicans at least have their full field of candidates so that the pretense of bi-partisanship could be upheld. Then simply comparing the records and statements of those who would presume to be President on LGBT issues would likely make the endorsement inevitable. Judging by the announced and potential Republican candidates there doesn’t seem to be any question that President Obama would be the choice by a mile.
The benefit of at least the pretense of openness to all and working with everyone to try to move our issues forward can’t be underestimated. HRC will have to continue to work with Republicans in this Congress and most likely the next and for many years to come if they want to continue to lead the LGBT community forward to move repeal of DOMA, ensure there are no roadblocks to finalizing the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and pass ENDA and other pieces of legislation impacting our community. This early endorsement can only make that a little more difficult as it will make it harder to approach supportive Republicans whose help we want and need.
While the rationale that Solmonese makes in an Advocate article for this early endorsement by HRC may be the same one made months from now it seems too early. President Obama has served just over half his term. We must see completion of repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and may even need the President to protect DC marriage-equality depending on what Congress does. We must continue to push him to fully “evolve” on marriage-equality.
HRC’s vice president of communications, Fred Sainz’s comment that “decisions on financial contributions or other support that his organization will make to Obama haven’t been made yet” seems to indicate that this was a decision driven by the Board without actually allowing the staff to think through the entire issue and develop their plan to move forward.
The statement was a response to the Obama campaign and the DNC’s request for an early endorsement which they hope will help them raise money from the LGBT community. Having read recent stories about the fundraising, it clearly isn’t going quite as well as they had hoped in these early stages. Many unions and progressives are temporarily withholding their contributions as they continue to push the President on their issues.
Even without a formal endorsement one can share information on fundraising with all potential donors. That can be done by individual board members who are always free to endorse at anytime they want. But there should be recognition of the difference for an organization which claims to be bi-partisan and individuals on the Board.
From the information being touted by the campaign and the DNC it appears that the LGBT community is raising money for the Obama campaign across the nation and deservedly so. President Obama has been good for our community. He may not have done all we wanted or done it with the exuberance that we expected but no President has moved us as far forward as he has. He has appointed LGBT people to positions across his administration, many to high levels, and he may even have appointed a cabinet member though as has happened before in other administrations the cabinet member isn’t out.
I like President Obama but I speak for myself not for the broader community and like it or not our community does have many Republicans and Independents who have a right to expect that their major national organization will at least wait for the field to be clear before speaking out.