So far, I’ve studiously avoided writing about politics on my blog. I have friends who write about political events and issues, but I’ve felt a little weird about doing so myself. Partly this is because my blog started as primarily an academic outlet for me rather than a place to comment on current events. I also know that some of my students and former students read my blog from time to time, and I don’t like to feel that I’m exposing myself too much here. (I’ve also avoided a lot of other topics for this same reason.)

But maybe that’s being too careful. Too sheltered and defensive. So, I’m reconsidering that exclusion.

This reconsideration is partially the result of what’s been happening in the past week or so between Barack Obama‘s campaign and gay rights activists. As just about everybody who follows politic knows, Obama has gotten into trouble for allowing a gospel singer, Donnie McClurkin, to sing at one of his events in South Carolina this past weekend. While other musicians at the event are also on record as opposing gay rights and issues, McClurkin has especially drawn the fire of activists, since he is “ex-gay” and routinely talks about homosexuality as a “curse” that homosexuals should be delivered from. Keith Boykin has a great article about McClurkin and his views. Americablog has also been reporting on this story. And finally Atrios has also covered it. McClurkin has also contributed to the Exodus International website. (Exodus International is an organization that claims it can cure gays and turn us straight. As an aside, one of the best articles I’ve ever read is Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Queer and Loathing” in Spin Magazine, June 1996. It’s a great look at a convention sponsored by the organization.)

So, to sum up, Obama’s campaign allowed this man not only to sing but also to speak about his views on homosexuality during this campaign event. When the campaign came under fire, they assured their critics that this was an attempt to open a dialogue between gays and the African American community, between gays and religious conservatives. The campaign argued that the Democratic party needs to be a “big tent” where we can all come together, debate our position, and most importantly defeat the Republicans. Activists insist that the inclusion of McClurkin was a huge political mistake and that Obama will lose support for this.

He’s certainly lost mine.

I started this political season hoping that Obama would run for president and looking forward to him winning the White House. More than electing the first African American president, I looked forward to the nation electing someone young and fresh, someone is as outside the Washington D.C. system as possible. I even bought The Audacity of Hope (which is actually kind of boring, I found). I really wanted to support him. The first part of this clip is part of why I liked him:

There’s a problem with the last part of his answer, however. How do we truly come to terms with homophobic religious people? How do we agree to disagree with people who fundamentally oppose us? Plus, in what way was this concert a dialogue? In what way did it “teach” homophobic people not be homophobic? After all, Obama wasn’t even there, and no one responded to McClurkin’s statements for more than a day. If Obama was so adamantly opposed to his opinion, why didn’t he meet with McClurkin to “teach” him? Why didn’t his campaign have someone there to refute his views?

For most of the past year, however, Obama’s campaign has stalled. He’s not gained much in the polls since declaring his candidacy, and Hillary Clinton has solidified her front-runner status. I should say that, due to my marriage to an Arkansan who loves the Clintons, I am required not to say anything bad about them. (Our rule is that I never speak ill of Hillary and he never speaks ill of Tina Turner — it’s one of the foundational rules of our relationship!) But even if I weren’t married to a man who fantasizes about being the long lost child of Bill and Hillary, I would probably admire her. I’m sure this is sexist one some important level, but I like female politicians and think all of our politicians should be female. Once women achieve equal status throughout government — and not just the Speaker of the House, but 50% of the House, of the Senate, of the governorships, etc — then I’ll worry about whether they’re leftist enough for me. (I only vote Democratic, so I’m not advocating voting for a female Republican, by the way.)

For a long time I’ve been torn between Obama and Clinton. This dilemma is the stuff of a liberal progressive’s wetdream — the first black president or the first female president. But I’m personally and deeply disappointed by the Obama campaign’s deafness on this issue. It really does seem that he’s desperate for votes and has consciously decided that there are more Southern black votes out there for him to win than gay votes. Some activists complain that the Clinton administration threw gays under the bus with don’t ask, don’t tell and DOMA, but at least they tried to do something positive for us — don’t ask, don’t tell started when Clinton wanted to allow gays in the military. Plus, 1993 was a very different time than 2007. Today, the Obama campaign should know better. If the senator really believes in gay rights and rejects McClurkin’s rhetoric of shame and condemnation, then they shouldn’t have allowed him on the stage. For me, this ends my affection for Barack Obama. If he somehow becomes my party’s nominee, I will vote for him — he still has to be better than a Republican. But I’m now supporting Hillary. I can’t imagine how excited I will be if our country elects the first female president next year. I think it will be a great thing if we do.

Advertisements