Thursday, September 25, 2008

Progressives and Obama (Part 3)

The latest issue of The Gay and Lesbian Review has a number of articles about the upcoming U.S. presidential election. For instance, in an essay entitled “The Critical Moment”, Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank proposes that from the standpoint of GLBT rights, 2008 may well be the year that “the political system caught up with the country.” Frank is adamant that “on the question of protecting people against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, the voters have been ahead of the politicians.”

Timothy Patrick McCarthy also has an interesting essay in the “Election 2008 Issue” of The Gay and Lesbian Review, one in which he asks: “Is Barack Obama the Real Deal?” Following are excerpts from this particular essay.


One of the many things I admire about Barack Obama is his willingness to admit his imperfections. “I am not a perfect candidate,” he is fond of saying, striking a chord of humility that makes him seem more human than most of our politicians. Obama wants us to know that he is fallible, yes, but not irreparably flawed.

After eight torturous years of a flawed administration that seems constitutionally incapable of admitting its own fallibility – even as it has presided over so many failures at home and abroad – it is refreshing to have a presidential candidate who can admit that he doesn’t have all the answers. So many of us are hungry to vote for a candidate who seems to understand that strong leadership requires an openness to new and different ideas, a willingness to grow and evolve, a capacity to learn from one’s mistakes. In light of the Bush Administration’s grotesque hubris, such humility seems almost revolutionary.

. . . When it comes to GLBT issues, Barack Obama is not a perfect candidate. His acrobatics on marriage equality suggest that he has a capacity for calculation just like any other politician. But we cannot withhold our support because of one issue, as important as it is to so many of us. Indeed, perhaps the “marriage issue” raises another important question: can we condemn Barack Obama – or any other candidate, for that matter – for failing to embrace all the positions we hold near and dear when we ourselves have not yet achieved a consensus about what we believe? Many of us want the right to marry, but not all of us by any means. And as we witnessed all too clearly in the recent ENDA vote in Congress, our community still has its own internal debates about the politics and priorities of GLBT civil rights. In other words, we too, are still struggling to form a more perfect union.

. . . Jesse Jackson was correct in saying that progressive change occurs whenever there is a combination of “an enlightened president and an energized electorate.” Together, we in the GLBT community, as with American voters in general, are as energized as we’ve been in recent memory. It remains to be seen whether Barack Obama will become the truly enlightened leader he seems to be. But if we continue to engage him in good faith, if we continue to press our demands on him, I am confident that he will become a more perfect candidate insofar as gay rights are concerned – a powerful straight ally who stands with us, rather than against us, in our ongoing struggle for freedom and equality. Together, Barack Obama and his queer supporters may just yet perfect the union.

- Excerpted from “Is Barack Obama the Real Deal?” by Timothy Patrick McCarthy (The Gay and Lesbian Review, September-October 2008).

NEXT: Part 4

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Progressives and Obama (Part 1)
Progressives and Obama (Part 2)
An American Prayer

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