by Wayne Besen
Anything But Straight
In 1992, the gay and lesbian community galvanized around Bill Clinton in what is now seen as the first “national gay vote.” The stark contrast between Clinton and the rabidly homophobic GOP, which declared a culture war at its Houston convention, was the reason for this unified support.
This year offers a similar disparity between the parties. The Democrats proved at their Denver convention to be GLBT supportive while the GOP in Minneapolis will most likely rail against equality for gays in their effort to bring home their socially conservative base.
It was made clear by the major Democratic stars – Ted Kennedy, Hillary and Bill Clinton and Barack Obama – that we, the LGBT community, are included in their vision for America. In Minneapolis, I suspect the few references to the existence of GLBT people will be as a threat to the family, with some speakers explicitly calling for a federal Constitutional Amendment to prohibit equal marriage rights. It is unfathomable that a gay person – except the most delusional – would be comfortable voting for such a party, no less trolling and tripping over conservatives in the convention hall.
McCain’s first nod to the conservatives came when he plucked a tyro from the tundra to serve as his gunning mate, er, running mate. Alaska’s moose stew-loving governor, Sarah Palin, energized social conservatives who quickly aborted their ostensible concerns about national security for their narrow desire to secure the termination of Roe v. Wade. They were so thrilled to have Palin on the ticket that the Family Research Council excused her teenage daughter, Bristol, for her out of wedlock pregnancy. Imagine the uproar from these Moral Majority types if this had instead been Chelsea Clinton!
Like a comedy sketch, John McCain’s wife, Cindy, said on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” that the inexperienced Palin was qualified to handle a resurgent Russia because, “Alaska is the closest part of our continent to Russia.” Isn’t that a bit like saying I’m an expert on Cuba because I grew up in Miami?
If Palin’s resume were any thinner, it could be a Vogue runway model. Prior to her two-year stint as Alaska’s governor, Palin was the mayor of Wasilla, an Anchorage suburb with 7,000 residents – which is probably less than the number of people who live on my block in Brooklyn.
Considering McCain is 72 and has had past health issues, Palin was a reckless and potentially ruinous choice. McCain’s main appeal was his experience, but elevating Palin makes it infinitely more difficult for McCain to credibly make this argument.
Let’s be honest. This is tokenism and selecting Palin as a substitute for Clinton is reminiscent of President George H.W. Bush nominating Clarence Thomas as a Supreme Court replacement for the legendary Thurgood Marshall.
This pander pick will win over few Clinton supporters following her eloquent, unifying speech in Denver. It is ludicrous to think that these educated women will be enthusiastic about Palin, who is anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-environment and who even supported arch conservative Pat Buchanan’s presidential campaign. Indeed, Buchanan told Chris Matthews on “Hardball” that Palin was a “brigader for me in 1996.”
Unfortunately, I still get a lot of e-mail from misinformed gay people who think that John McCain and Barack Obama have the same record on GLBT issues simply because they both oppose allowing gay people to marry. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth. Obama is light years ahead on our issues and a vote for McCain is a tragic mistake that will usher in four more years of discrimination and humiliation. I suggest those in doubt visit a new Web site, http://pride.barackobama.com, that highlights the superiority of the democratic nominee’s record.
In November, we can wake up to a new day where job discrimination is outlawed, openly gay soldiers are able to serve our nation with the dignity they deserve, LGBT people are finally included in hate crime laws, our families are offered a measure of protection and America will have a moderate Supreme Court for years to come.
Or, we can rise to a dark November morning that ushers in four more ugly years of persecution, right wing demagogues on the president’s speed dial, invisibility for our families, Arabic translators kicked out of the military because of their sexual orientation and a retrograde and a reactionary Supreme Court that sets our movement back decades.
The GLBT community needs to unify and rally around the Obama campaign as we did for Clinton in 1992, or we will live in a regime that rules like it’s 1892. The choice for the future is clear and stark. We must mobilize in swing states and win, or the GOP will be taking gratuitous swings at our families for the next four years.