The weblog of Joshua Drescher

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Obama: Separate but equal is fine if you’re gay.

May 20th, 2008 · No Comments · Politics, Rants

From TNR:

“Barack Obama has always believed that same-sex couples should enjoy equal rights under the law, and he will continue to fight for civil unions as president,” the Obama campaign stated oh-so-carefully in response to this week’s California Supreme Court decision striking down the state’s ban on gay marriage. “He respects the decision of the California Supreme Court, and continues to believe that states should make their own decisions when it comes to the issue of marriage.”

It was a gracious response from a man the court had just branded as the legal equivalent of a segregationist.

“[Affording] access to this designation exclusively to opposite-sex couples, while providing same-sex couples access to only a novel alternative designation, realistically must be viewed as constituting significantly unequal treatment to same-sex couples,” the court wrote. Those challenging the law “persuasively invoke by analogy the decisions of the United States Supreme Court finding inadequate a state’s creation of a separate law school for Black students rather than granting such students access to the University of Texas Law School.”

This is an outstanding example of the precise reason why I feel no obligation to the Democratic Party. They’re craven, court the polls rather than standing for their supposed principles and - in the end - it results in their accomplishing astonishing feats of mediocrity and cowardice.

Which is not to say that the GOP is any better - though they have a slightly better record actually trying to accomplish the things they claim to stand for - even if those things tend to be… well… evil.

The gay marriage issue is so goddamn straightforward that I can’t believe the Democratic Party lacks the simple conviction to stand up for true equal rights across the board. This is the party that’s stood firmly behind abortion rights for thirty years and I challenge ANY sane person to argue that that particular issue isn’t exponentially more complicated and ethically challenging than gay rights. But the pro-choice movement has broad, defined support nationally while gay rights remain a fringe issue that matters most to a group of people who - lets face it - are about as likely to defect to the GOP as Obama himself is.

To be fair, Obama is not unique in this. John Kerry made a shameful series of statements during the 2004 campaign supporting “civil unions” but not marriage. Gore was largely silent on this issue. Clinton was responsible for “don’t ask, don’t tell.” But none of those candidates ran on a platform of “hope and change.” Obama has yet to take a principled stand on a single issue that I consider legitimate when it comes to “hope and change.”

He talks a lot about universal health care but neither he NOR Clinton have put forth a truly comprehensive plan. Because such a plan would be politically dangerous. Telling Americans that you intend to totally de-privatize health care and build a system that supports all Americans equally would be… well… a real change. And it would be difficult to pitch - especially as the GOP argued that the dramatic increase on tax-burden would “cripple” working families (despite the dramatic DECREASE in costs that would come from not having to pay into a private insurance pool). But a true agent of change - a true supporter of the supposed “right” to health care would make that stand.

He makes a lot of hay over “refusing to take money from Big Oil” - without bothering to mention that NO ONE can take money from oil companies because it’s been ILLEGAL to take money from corporations. He claims he doesn’t take money from lobbyists - which is strictly true. He just takes money from the SPOUSES of lobbyists. Or from the law firm partners of registered lobbyists. I don’t blame him for taking the money. I blame him for trying to bullshit the public about it.

And I blame him for being cowardly on the issue of gay rights. There is no other way to describe it. I realize that there are political reasons why supporting “civil unions” is strategically smart, but it was “strategically smart” for George Wallace to oppose desegregation in the ’60s and ’70s. If Obama wants a “safe” position that allows him to support equal rights AND avoid besmirching the “sacred union of marriage” there’s an easy answer:

EVERYBODY is limited to “civil unions.” If you want to get “married” you can - but it’s a personal, spiritual, religious, etc. event - NOT a legal one. A church (or a knitting circle or a ship’s captain or a Star Trek fan club) can “marry” anyone it wishes, but the couple needs to be granted a separate “civil union” from the government in order to receive any legal benefits.

But the Democrats won’t even make THAT bold of a stand.

The lack of conviction, the out-right LYING about dedication to change and progress, the failure to stand up for what is right instead of what is popular. THAT’s why I’m not a Democrat. Or a Republican.

My deep and abiding disappointment in the Democratic Party is nothing new. Working early for Gore’s campaign in 2000 - in addition to a handful of Congressional bids that year - was actually what drove me from the party initially. I’d been a rabid partisan in college, but the more work I actually did IN and around politics, the more reserved and depressed I became. By the middle of 2000, I had decided not to vote at all.

Then Ralph Nader came to town.

Say what you will about the man and whether or not you’re convinced that he helped to “steal” the election from Gore, Ralph Nader at that moment in time had the force and the spirit and the energy of ACTUAL change behind him in an incandescent way. If you didn’t see a Nader rally that year firsthand, it’s hard to explain. His campaign rolled into town and he held rallies that make Obama’s speeches seem tame and uninspiring - not because of HOW he was saying things, but because of WHAT he was saying.

And he didn’t just talk in generalities about change and hope and progress. TRUE universal health care, full gay rights, clean energy (though he’s maintained an ignorant opposition to nuclear power since the ’70s), massive overhauling of corporate oversight, the utter destruction of corporate influence over government - it was the only truly inspirational political platform I’ve ever been offered. So of course he had no chance to win - but I voted for him anyway.

Nader’s campaign then and his campaigns ever since have never been about winning, they’ve been about trying to pressure the Left to finally do the right thing. Nader hasn’t always done a great job of getting that message across, of course, and it’s cost him dearly in terms of his reputation and legacy. Nevertheless, he HAS always stood out as a strong advocate of true progressive values. But the Democrats have never bothered to take a chance and embrace Nader’s kind of optimism and call for change. They’re content to talk generally about it, then do nothing significant.

And that’s why - every time I hear Obama speak - I find myself getting annoyed, because I know he’s just more of the same. Younger, handsomer, “historic” and blacker - yes. But at his core, more of the same.



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