Terrance Heath

Voting for Ourselves

Filed By Terrance Heath | January 04, 2008 5:31 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: candidate endorsements, Democrats, Dennis Kucinich, election 2008

Now that the Iowa caucuses are over, I've noticed posts on several of the blogs on my regular reading list with titles blaring "So-and-So for President" or "Why I'm Supporting Such-and-Such," followed by reasons why candidate This-and-That deserves even more support. I guess it's to be expected, now that the presidential campaign has begun in earnest.

However, I'm not going to jump on the bandwagon, for a couple of reasons. First, I've already declared who I'm supporting in the primaries. And, second, I already know my candidate isn't going to get the nomination, because he doesn't even have the support of progressives who hold the same positions he does.

I know, because a few weeks ago I sat around with some other progressives, talking about the election, the issues, and the candidates. Once we went through all the issues, someone asked the question that was hanging in the air, or at least it was in my mind. "So if he's right on all of the issues, why isn't Kucinich our guy?" The question got the typical response, but it left another question looming in my mind. If we aren't voting for what we want, what are we voting for? More to the point, who are we voting for?

The reason I'm even thinking about this is because when I initially read that my candidate asked his supporters to back Obama if he didn't make the cut-off in Iowa, I was worried that perhaps he might not last out the primary season. (Whether, or how much, that contributed to Obama's historic Iowa Victory, I can only guess.) And that's because the primaries are the only time I can actually vote for what I want, instead of settling for what I can get.

As gay man with a partner and a family, that comes in to very sharp focus. But as I look around I can't help wondering why so few of us are doing he same, and why. Far be it from me to tell anyone else how to vote or who to vote for, but when buckets of gay dollars and hordes of gay volunteers touch down in Iowa, and a major gay organization appears to be deploying resources in New Hampshire, for a candidate who can't even divorce herself from DOMA (and who may be "the least supportive" of the Democratic candidates [Via Queerty.]), I find myself wondering if the Republicans aren't the only geniuses at persuading people to vote against their own interests.

Two major candidates have at least come out in favor of a full repeal of DOMA. That's not support for marriage equality, but it's a step towards removing a significant barrier to marriage equality. How, then, do we support a candidate who would leave most of that barrier in place, given the problems that "leaving it to the states" creates for our families?

The intro to Kucinich's Advocate interview pretty much sums it up.

Let’s review: Of the seven Democratic contenders, only former Alaska senator Mike Gravel and Kucinich support gay marriage. The rest are content with federally recognized civil unions or domestic partnerships. On other important gay issues, Kucinich, like his competitors, supports a trans-inclusive employment nondiscrimination act, a federal hate-crimes law covering sexual orientation and gender identity, the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” access to survivor benefits, equal tax treatment for same-sex couples, unfettered gay adoption, and funding for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.

But let’s say you’re like the 79% of gays in the Hunter poll who don’t consider gay rights the most important issue affecting your vote. In that case it might be important to note that Kucinich is the only Democratic candidate to oppose the Iraq war from the outset, when it was political suicide to do so. He supports not-for-profit universal health care, withdrawing from the North American Free Trade Agreeement and World Trade Organization until all countries agree to the same environmental and human rights standards, and raising the minimum wage. He’s pro-choice and pro–medical marijuana, and he introduced impeachment proceedings against Vice President Dick Cheney.

In short, he’s the candidate we’ve been asking for. So why aren’t you voting for Dennis Kucinich?

Kucinich himself provides the answers, in his responses to the interview questions. But what stood out most to me were the consequences of not voting for what we want when we have the rare chance to do so, and thus essentially vote against ourselves instead of for ourselves.

Playing it safe means forgoing marriage equality. That’s accommodating a system that’s ready to deny people fundamental human rights. To me, the minute you stop fighting for your rights is the minute you start losing your rights. That’s what’s happening in America today. The wiretapping, the eavesdropping, the government going into people’s health records and financial records. We’ve stopped fighting for our rights. The peace movement has basically given up.

...I think there's a winner's psychology, which the mass media propels, that promotes a false consensus. And actually it often disenfranchises people, because people keep voting against their own interests.

The one great gift the LGBT community has given to the world is personal authenticity, integrity, and the courage to be who you are in an open and uncompromised way. There’s real power there. You’re going to give that up to vote for someone because they might win and they don’t stand for marriage equality? To me, that’s antithetical to the entire movement and counterproductive to the point of being worrisome.

This is the one community that should be strong enough. If you make concessions on the issue of marriage equality, the possibility of it happening is going to diminish. The reason any gains have been made is because people were willing to go out on a limb. And you know what? That’s where the fruit is -- out on the limb.

It's the first sentence that keeps repeating in my mind. Backing down on equality, or putting it on the back burner is essentially making concessions to prejudice and discrimination, if only by allowing it to go on without a strong challenge. In that sense, there's barely a dime's worth of difference between an incrementalist and an accommodationist.

I understand the “win what we can win now” approach, because it’s nothing new. It’s the same gradualism that’s a part of ever civil rights debate. And, as in every other civil rights debate, the implication of gradualism is that some people will have to continue to endure injustice without remedy.

Its one thing to be an incrementalist and at least be honest about that last sentence. It’s quite another to declare that it is the right thing to do to ask others to continue to suffer injustice without remedy is the right thing to do, that they ought to be glad to do it, and that they are wrong for objecting to it.

…And for movements that are supposed to be about progress and equality, it’s a matter of of a certain degree of concession to the opposite of both.

…Power concedes nothing without demand, indeed. But what do we concede?

What do we concede? And why? We all know that, come the general election, there will be no major candidate who fully supports our equality, or at least who has the courage to do so publicly. But when we have a candidate who does support equality, we stay away in droves.

Maybe there are other reasons, on other issues, many of us are supporting other candidates who are less-than-supportive of full equality (at least in public), but looking at where things are headed, I'm reminded of a quote that echoes the question in my mind. Right now, it seems like an appropriate question for gay voters and the candidates many of us are supporting.

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?”

Yet another quote also seems appropriate.

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

Only slightly more bewildering is the willingness to accept lukewarm acceptance, with enthusiasm and even gratitude.

Not to mention voting for it.


Crossposted from The Republic of T.


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Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | January 4, 2008 5:58 PM

Excellent and thought-provoking post, Terrance!

I'm leaning toward Kucinich, too, for all your cited reasons. But he may have lost me when he speculated nominating Ron Paul for his running mate. I'm still thinking it over.

You know, I supported Kucinich through the convention last cycle just because I detested John Kerry. While I still love Dennis to death (his Department of Peace alone would have my vote!), I switched to Richardson just for the level of experience. Sadly, my support has again proven the kiss of death for a presidential campaign. *laughs*

Bill Perdue | January 5, 2008 10:13 PM

If Kucinich quit the Democrats and ran as a labor or socialist candidate whose goal was to take votes away from the twin parties it'd be easy to vote for him.

The Democrats are a dead end. You start by supporting some one actually on our side and then you end up with Obama, Clinton or Edwards. Tweedle dum, Tweedle dee, Tweedle twit. And then you hear the bugle call. This is the last chance for democracy!! It's the most critical electin in 100 years!! Everything is at stake!!

I've been hearing that since people tried to get me to vote for a peace candidate named LBJ who went on to murder a couple of million Vietnamese and over fifty five thousand GI's.

What they don't tell you is that whhen Gore Vidal says "There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party...and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat. Republicans are a bit stupider, more rigid, more doctrinaire in their laissez-faire capitalism than the Democrats, who are cuter, prettier, a bit more corrupt—until recently... and more willing than the Republicans to make small adjustments when the poor, the black, the anti-imperialists get out of hand. But, essentially, there is no difference between the two parties." he's telling the unvarnished truth.

There's no way to ignore that. The Democrats are an impediament to the democratization of the US. We have to break the roadblock of the twin parties to win our equality.