Thursday, May 7, 2009

Are Gays the Democrats' "Christian Right"?

Just like in the past the so-called "Christian Right" was a constituency the Republicans courted but didn't actively embraceat least not nearly as much as when George W. Bush and the neo-cons showed up on the national sceneit seems to me that gays have become their counterpart in the Democratic party. Granted, gays have had more of a presence in Democratic politics than, say, evangelicals in the GOP in the latter part of the 20th century. But this New York Times piece (check out the byline—ha!) got me thinking:
Mr. Obama — who has said he opposes same-sex marriage as a Christian but describes himself as a “fierce advocate of equality” for gay men and lesbians — is under pressure to engage on a variety of gay issues that are coming to the fore amid a dizzying pace of social, political, legal and legislative change.

Two of Mr. Obama’s potential Supreme Court nominees are openly gay; some advocates, irked that there are no gay men or lesbians in his cabinet, are mounting a campaign to influence his choice to replace Justice David H. Souter, who is retiring. Same-sex marriage is advancing in states — the latest to allow it is Maine — and a new flare-up in the District of Columbia could ultimately put the controversy in the lap of the president.

Mr. Obama’s new global health initiative has infuriated activists who say he is not financing AIDS programs generously enough. And while the president has urged Congress to pass a hate crimes bill, a high priority for gay groups, he has delayed action on one of his key campaign promises, repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule.

Social issues like same-sex marriage bring together deeply held principles and flashpoint politics, and many gay activists, aware that Mr. Obama is also dealing with enormous challenges at home and overseas, have counseled patience.

But some are unsettled by what they see as the president’s cautious approach. Many are still seething over his choice of the Rev. Rick Warren, the evangelical pastor who opposes same-sex marriage, to deliver the invocation at his inaugural, and remain suspicious of Mr. Obama’s commitment to their cause.

The President has quite a few former members of the Clinton White House surrounding him. As a pragmatistbut not necessarily a big fan of Bill ClintonI say, why not? Why not get pointers from the people who advised and worked for the first Democrat to serve two terms as president since FDR? Sounds good to little ole me. So, I'm pretty sure one of the lessons this administration has learned was how the effort to dismantle the aforementioned "don't ask, don't tell" policy was handled by the 42nd president and his advisors. And how, in the end, nothing changed except feeling the harsh sting of failure and disappointment thanks, in large part, to ill-advised timing.

That doesn't mean I believe it is or isn't prudent for the President to heed the calls of his gay supporters at this moment. Frankly, I have no clue as to whether it is politically advantageous or not at this time. But I have a gut feeling Obama and co. will remember the lessons of the past and proceed cautiously and accordingly on this matter.

It should get interesting.

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