Friday, February 22, 2008

Be Careful What You Wish For

The Democrats have their flaws, but they are our best chance for progress.
by Steve Charing

SOME GAY ACTIVISTS and observers continue to wring their hands and wag their fingers at the Democrat-led Congress for failing to achieve any substantive results midway through the term. They condemn the tepid LGBT-related stances taken by the DNC and accuse the Democrats of taking our community for granted.

To make a point, these folks consider "punishing" the Dems by withholding contributions, not voting for the party’s candidates or worse, voting for GOP candidates. But they are doing so at their own peril. They truly need to see the bigger picture, which is that of a giant elephant in the room called the Republican Party.

As we hear every four years, this presidential election will be another significant one for the LGBT community. But this time around, we are on the cusp of actually making substantive progress in the Federal arena.

An acceptable version of ENDA would be welcome for starters—something that has languished for over three decades. A repeal of the insidious "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy has a good chance. And a hate crime bill that will include sexual orientation is ever so close.

But absolutely none of these will succeed if John McCain is our next president. A Democratic victory—either by Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama—could be part of a Democratic movement that may bolster their existing but not yet dominating majorities in both houses of Congress.

Despite the debatable accusations that the Democrats take us for granted, who would gays rather see in the White House? For their part, Clinton and Obama back those potential initiatives. Moreover, they would like to see at least the nefarious portions of DOMA repealed (even though that’s a pipe dream). While they do not favor same-sex marriage, both indicated support for civil unions with Federal benefits.

OBAMA CHIDES THE Republicans in his stump speech for dividing the electorate and specifically cites "gay and straight" as an example of these divisions. He has also tried to address, in a public way, homophobia among African-American ministers. Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, maintains strong popularity among gays.

Nearly all of the Republican candidates had been generally anti-gay, especially in their pronounced support of the Federal Marriage Amendment. McCain, to his credit, had opposed the FMA. But watch out!

John McCain is held in suspicion by many of the GOP’s hard line conservatives; they simply don’t trust him based on his record on taxes, immigration and gay marriage. To goose up the enthusiasm within the party’s faithful and placate his critics, McCain will either veer to the right on these issues or select a vice-presidential candidate who can shore up the potent religious right wing.

Mike Huckabee—you know, the man who would have "quarantined" AIDS patients—is still in the race as a way to burnish his vote-getting ability and to impress upon McCain and the party’s big shots that he is the best choice for VP. That’s not likely to happen though.

While Huckabee is the darling of the evangelicals because of his clear views on abortion, gays and marriage, he lacks other conservative credentials regarding immigration and taxes. Plus his populist views on the economy don’t sit well with deficit hawks.

BUT SOMEONE WHO has a broader conservative appeal, especially a person who is Huckabee-like on social issues, will be on McCain’s ticket. Gays again stand to be demonized, and it will be more evident should the California State Supreme Court rule favorably on same-sex marriage during the campaign. You know where a McCain-Huckabee-clone ticket will stand.

On the surface, the GOP is in trouble moving forward. While Clinton and Obama duke it out in the coming months, the Republicans can coalesce, albeit unenthusiastically, behind McCain. But they must face an electorate who winces at the prospect that the war in Iraq could go on for as much as 100 years as McCain believes would be necessary to "win." Furthermore, the country’s economic woes will easily be tied to President Bush’s stewardship of the economy.

Nonetheless, a Clinton candidacy will mobilize the GOP faithful like no other, and with McCain’s ability to draw independents to the fold, the Republicans could overcome the policy weaknesses and still pull it out.

That would be horrific for the LGBT community. It would mean one term of McCain, and his right wing VP in position for eight more years.

If nothing else would bother those LGBT activists who deride the Democratic Party, the thought of McCain and Co. selecting two to three more justices to the Supreme Court should.

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