Guest Blogger

Why I am Endorsing Obama for President

Filed By Guest Blogger | February 02, 2008 1:13 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Politics
Tags: Barack Obama, campaign 2008, Democrats

[Editor's note:] This guest post is by Eric J. Stern. Eric is the former Executive Director of National Stonewall Democrats and the former Director of LGBT Outreach for the Democratic National Committee. He currently serves as the Associate Director of Career Development at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall)

Thumbnail image for ericstern.jpgAfter much thought, careful consideration and dozens of conversations with friends and mentors working on both the campaigns of Obama and Clinton, I, along with David Mixner and 22 of our fellow Edwards for President LGBT Steering Committee Members decided yesterday to enthusiastically endorse Barack Obama for President.

Personally, I am supporting Obama because of his consistent opposition to the war; because he, like John, is not taking any money from special interest groups—which will allow him to be the most effective agent for change; and because as our nominee Obama will present a clear choice to voters trying to decide between hope and fear.

I also believe Obama has articulated and begun to demonstrate the clearest vision for making progress on issues of importance to the LGBT community.

I shared the same concerns many had when the McClurkin incident occurred. However, I gained a great deal of respect for the candidate and the campaign in watching how they responded. This incident I believe actually accelerated both the campaign and Obama's learning curve on LGBT issues. In directly acknowledging and addressing the concerns of the LGBT community, Obama's personal response demonstrated a recognition that he needed to immediately and aggressively make his commitment to achieving progress on our issues crystal clear.

Obama could have ignored this opportunity based on the premise many past and present Democratic candidates have taken—that LGBT voters have nowhere to go and will vote Democratic anyway. Instead, he seized the opportunity and engaged in massive personal outreach (rather than simply letting his campaign speak for him)---immediately interviewing with The Advocate and posting a blog on The Bilerco Project in which he laid out the MOST specific plan of any of the candidates for achieving progress on issues of importance to the LGBT community. And since that time, he has been the candidate who has spoken the most about the need for progress on LGBT equality while campaigning before mainstream audiences in the early states, in predomintately African-American churches, and more recently when accepting the endorsement of gay rights legend Ted Kennedy.

On Tuesday, millions of LGBT and allied individuals will make have the opportunity to make history. I will be voting on Tuesday for Obama because I believe he is the candidate who will continue John Edwards' mission to ensure that the American dream is available to EVERYONE and I hope you will consider voting for Obama on Tuesday and joining us on this historic journey.


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The Force is with you, my son. You have resisted the pull of the dark side and found your way to the light. :)

Welcome, Eric. Glad to have you on the side of justice, not politics.

Michael Bedwell | February 2, 2008 6:50 PM

STERN OPINION: “I am supporting Obama because [he] .. like John, is not taking any money from special interest groups”

FACT: As recently as December 22nd, “Obama slammed John Edwards at a town hall today, saying he ‘talks the talk’ but doesn't ‘walk the walk’ when it comes to the influence of special interest groups.” Edwards denied it and condemned Obama for his tactics.

See: http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2007/12/22/531377.aspx

Just LAST WEEK, the focus shifted to Obama’s own hands: “’I'm really disappointed that Sen. Obama has not called on his friends at Vote Hope to pull these ads down’," said Eric Bauman, chairman of the Los Angeles Democratic Party, who has not endorsed any candidate. ‘He harshly criticized Sen. Edwards when supporters ran independent ads on his behalf. And now that it's happened for him, he's not said a word’."

SEE: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/01/25/BA3TULQIT.DTL

STERN OPINION: “because as our nominee Obama will present a clear choice to voters trying to decide between hope and fear."

FACT: As Bilerico contributor and black lesbian minister Irene Monroe pointed out, to the contrary, Obama was playing both hope and homophobia in South Carolina. “In the highly competitive race for black evangelical votes in South Carolina, McClurkin just might give Obama the needed edge. However, that edge will come at a cost far greater than having McClurkin at his side. It comes at revealing how Obama is not only a vote-whore, but a race-card user as well.”

SEE: http://www.bilerico.com/2007/10/obama_the_votewhore_with_exgay_at_his_si.php

STERN OPINION: “I also believe Obama has articulated and begun to demonstrate the clearest vision for making progress on issues of importance to the LGBT community.”

FACT: Generalities about generalities. Where’s the beef? Even a slice of beef jerky on a Ritz Cracker? Most of Obama’s comments about advancing LGBT rights only involve the verb “support.” There is no plan of action; there are no details. Though not LGBT-related per se, he does advocate adding another five billion dollars to the programs to fight global AIDS. Of course, Sen. Clinton calls for TWENTY billion more.

STERN OPINION: "I shared the same concerns many had when the McClurkin incident occurred. However, I gained a great deal of respect for the candidate and the campaign in watching how they responded. This incident I believe actually accelerated both the campaign and Obama's learning curve on LGBT issues. In directly acknowledging and addressing the concerns of the LGBT community, Obama's personal response demonstrated a recognition that he needed to immediately and aggressively make his commitment to achieving progress on our issues crystal clear."

FACT: [give me a moment, please, while I clean the oatmeal that I just spewed off my keyboard]. While Sen. Clinton apologized after being told that her initial response to the homophobic remarks of Gen. Pace were too tepid, and condemned the troglodyte, Obama’s personal response to criticism about elevating “the poster boy for African-American ‘ex-gay’ ministries” to star in a major campaign event ultimately amounted to “Go fuck yourselves!” As Rev. Monroe pointed out, when the controversial racial attitudes of Obama’s very own pastor were brought up, the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, the man who inspired Obama to join the United Church of Christ, to write his book “The Audacity of Hope,” who performed his marriage and baptized his daughters, Obama’s personal response was to suddenly cancel his invitation to Rev. Wright to deliver a prayer at the huge rally where he would formally announce his Presidential candidacy.

Yet, after urging from his shocked gay staff members and prominent gay donors, after a conference call with the Human Rights Campaign, after pleas from the National Black Justice Coalition and black writers including Keith Boykin, Pam Spaulding, Rod McCullom, and Jasmyne Cannick—all to cancel McClurkin’s participation in the Obama campaign gospel show—the show went on and McClurkin screeched to the adoring thousands into a microphone and on a stage paid for by Obama, “God DELIVERED ME from homosexuality!” McCullom wrote that Obama, “folded like a deck of cards. If he is going to fold on the campaign trail, why would we not think he'd fold in the Oval Office?"

“Gay City News” seems to have the same curious memory problems that Mr. Stern does, for its editor said at the time, “to offer up Donnie McClurkin as a take-it-or-leave-it proposition, and then suggest that gay Americans unhappy at the prospect of him being a ringleader in Obama's ‘big tent’ are culturally insensitive is flat out wrong. It is clumsy. It is insulting. And it is cynical.” Even requests for Obama to simply tell the audience that night that he disagreed with McClurkin were ignored. He appeared by video, only saying, “The artists you’re going to hear from are some of the best in the world, and favorites of Michelle and myself.” That’s from the same candidate now running ads in which he insists, “You’ve got to tell people what they need to hear not what they want to hear.”

STERN OPINION: Obama “seized the opportunity and engaged in massive personal outreach … immediately interviewing with ‘The Advocate’ and posting a blog on Bilerico” in which he laid out the MOST specific plan of any of the candidates for achieving progress on issues of importance to the LGBT community.”

FACT: "massive"????? To paraphrase the old man joke, only an Obamaite would look at a map and equate an inch with a mile. “The Advocate” has since revealed that they had been requesting an interview with Obama for months but were ignored until he got his, uh, credibility caught in McClurkingate and needed to launch a damage control offensive. As I recall, they also said he put a limit on the discussion of 15 minutes, which resulted in his ability to run out the clock with excuses, generalities, and bromides of how much he luvs the gays rather than be faced with questions about ANY plan for "achieving progress on issues of importance to the LGBT community.”

One amazing explicit statement—a lie actually—stands out in that interview. Obama said he, “was a chief cosponsor of and then passed“ “the human rights ordinance in Illinois.” The easily demonstrable truth is that after belatedly [in the first instance four months after someone else introduced it] signing on as a cosponsor to three similar bills that eventually died in committee, Obama let nine months go by while the bill which eventually passed was being debated without joining as a cosponsor. After failures over three decades, Equality Illinois and black LGBT groups in the state lobbied feverishly for the bill against the opposition of highly-financed right wing religionists, celebrating when it passed by only one vote. Neither Equality Illinois nor the gay "Windy City Times" make any reference to Obama in their detailed accounts of the nearly year-long fight. He didn’t even actually vote for it as by then he couldn’t as he’d resigned to take his US Senate seat.

By the time he issued the epistle only to GAY venues such as Bilerico, he’d thought better about insulting the records of Dennis Kucinich and others when he angrily told “The Advocate,” “If there’s somebody out there who’s been more consistent in including LGBT Americans in his or her vision of what America should be, then I would be interested in knowing who that person is,” now contrasting himself only to “leading candidates.”

Still, it was no “specific plan”—let alone “MOST”—just more amorphous promises to do this and that. It does however BEGIN and END with ARROGANCE. He entitled it a "Call for Full Equality" and wrote of never compromising on our “real equality.” While Obama's own mixed-race parents could once have been imprisoned for marrying, he reiterates his refusal to support gay marriage equality [despite the fact that his own denomination, the United Church of Christ, does support it]. I don't know how Mr. Stern defines "compromise" and “REAL equality” and "FULL equality" but my dictionary reads differently. In the same document, Obama references his dishonest political hat trick about promising to repeal meaningless Section 2 of DOMA while keeping up his sleeve his support for any state’s right, regardless of DOMA, to legally ban gay relationships whatever they’re called. Nor does he mention that he also supports a state’s right to ban gay adoption.

But Mr. Stern apparently deepthroats, as so many have, Obama’s misrepresentations of what he’s actually said about us in speeches.

STERN OPINION: “he has been the candidate who has spoken the most about the need for progress on LGBT equality”

FACT: Outside of interviews [which few voters actually see/read] and debates [which few voters actually watch] where he is asked, as all candidates are, to explicitly answer questions about us, many of his speeches [to which undecided voters flock] have no reference to gays of any kind. And when they do, they are almost universally passive “blink-and-you-miss-it” references with NO mention of
“the need for progress on LGBT equality.” All he said in 2004 was, “we've got some gay friends in the Red States.” Since, he’s mentioned not blaming gays for whatever, of “embracing” us—as all those good Christians who “hate the sin but love the sinner” were already eager to do. In instances where it’s entirely left up to Obama what to say or not say, anything more explicit exists in Mr. Stern’s well-intentioned imagination.

Perhaps he missed Sen. Obama’s victory speech in South Carolina, the scene of McClurkingate. Over nearly 20 minutes, he gave aggressive shout outs to 21 different kinds of citizens, some multiple times, such as blacks, whites, Asians, Latinos, Native Americans, the elderly, Wal-Mart workers, etc, but never mentioned gay residents of the state where 78% of voters had changed their constitution to ban gay marriage barely a year before. We WERE there in spirit—the spirit of homophobia referenced in the undulating sea of signs behind him that read, “Stand For Change,” purposely echoing the title of McClurkin’s Grammy-winning gospel hit, “Stand!”

As for Sen. Obama’s use of the Gay-word in his remarks after those of Sen. Kennedy—the pre-released text shows it wasn’t planned, but he could hardly not mention us after Sen. Kennedy did. Would that he would follow some other examples: "Homophobia is like racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood." No, those are not the words of Barack Obama but of Coretta Scott King, and she said them ten years ago.

One does not question Mr. Stern’s accomplishments nor sincerity, but sadly sees the symptoms of the blissed-out True Believer kneeling before a font of facts smothered in the steaming gravy of the false Gospel According to St. Barack.

No, I do not believe that Sen. Obama is antigay, as such. But his inconsistency, his compromise, and his contradiction suggests we are far lower on his list of priorities than he would have us believe. And nothing proves that more than the fact that his official 64-page "Blueprint for Change—Barack Obama's Plan for America" contains not one sentence, not one word, not one syllable about LGBT issues. Did he run out of paper? JOHN EDWARD's plan devoted a page to LGBT causes! By that crucial measure alone:

NOTHING could be farther from continuing "John Edwards' mission to ensure that the American dream is available to EVERYONE" than voting for Barack Obama!

It also proves, that contrary to Mr. Stern’s belief, Sen. Obama learned little from McClurkingate except the gullibility of many to his simply repeating over and over and over the same indistinct promises, blowing the same air kisses, substituting a forceful voice for forceful words, carpeting over his lack of concrete plans with charisma, running as Elvis while actually running on Empty.

Just say No to being assimilated by the Barack Borg. Sen. Obama can be taught, and I suggest that his first lesson begin Tuesday when LGBT voters reject HIS definition of “full equality,” after which he might actually put us IN his “Plan for America.”

I have to admit, Eric. I've swung over to Obama's camp. My #1 got knocked out too.

Michael Bedwell | February 2, 2008 9:35 PM

What is it, Bil, that compensates for you in relation to Obama misrepresenting his position on states' rights and gay relationships; on misrepresenting his role in the actual passage of a LGBT rights bill in Illinois; on his misrepresenting what he actually says in his speeches [frankly, I don't know why he bothers since so many choose to hear what they want to hear anyway]; on his needlessly but wilfully surrending the word "marriage" to the religionists; on telling us that partially full and full equality mean the same thing; on being unwilling to devote the same about of increased funding to fight AIDS that Clinton would [the same number Edwards supported]; on not having introduced any challenge in the Senate to DOMA or DADT even though he says he's always been against them, etc.?

I would sincerely and respectfully like to know.

Thanks.

Michael,

Thanks for asking. I have to admit, I've not made a public case for Barack just because I don't think he was the best choice for our community. That said, Richardson didn't make it through, so I have to pick someone.

My choices currently are: Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.

I like Barack's optimism and the spirit of hope and change that's he's brought to the campaign cycle. He gives me that feeling when I watch him speak that tickles the bottom of your belly - that there just might be a different way that politics as usual. Will he live up to that? I doubt it. Anyone put on a pedestal usually ends up getting knocked off of it.

But mostly I'm supporting him just because he's NOT Hillary. I just don't like her.

I don't think we should go Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton. It concentrates too much power in the hands of two families. It starts to look more like political dynasties controlling our country.

I don't like Hillary's personality. During Bill's original bid for the Presidency, I got to spend quite a bit of time around the two of them. (I wasn't part of the campaign's close advisors or anything - not by any means! Hillary and I spoke person-to-person only a couple of times, but I was around to observe a LOT.) I can honestly say that I've met very few women who were bigger bitches; she was just hateful and ugly when not on stage looking like little Miss Good Wife. I'll have to do a post about Hillary and the headbands and the screaming match that ensued when she was told to stop wearing them because they made her look like a pre-teen girl.

I don't like Hillary's ambition. From the time I knew her to what I've seen now, I've not seen any difference in her "at any costs" drive. There's nothing wrong with being ambitious, granted. But from her Rove-like influence in her husband's presidency (and fights with him over her role) to her carpet-bagging into a New York Senate seat so she could launch a bid for the presidency later, I've not seen any other side of Hillary other than the willingness to climb over her own mother if she got in her way.

As for the LGBT issues, I don't see that big of a difference between the two, honestly.

Marriage - neither is willing to say "marriage" only civil unions.
ENDA - both say they're for a fully inclusive ENDA
DADT - both say they'd end it
DOMA - Obama says get rid of it/Hillary says get rid of one section
HIV/AIDS - Clinton has a more thorough plan, but after seeing this before, what's on a plan gets changed dramatically. I'd imagine both of their plans will get fleshed out and tweaked before anything happens.

Obama may not have challenged DOMA or DADT in the Senate, but neither has Hillary. To hold it against him and not her seems rather silly. For that matter, neither did Edwards, Kerry or, even, Ted Kennedy...

For me, it's about the inspiration. Clinton doesn't inspire me. I've seen her ugly side and it's what I remember.

There is little to no difference between Obama and Hillary on any LGBT issue. What differences exist are mainly semantic. Obama is not exactly a friend, what with his kissing ass with the anti-gay African-American preachers and all.

The real question here is which of them can lead this country and which is most likely to stand up to the right wing onslaught that is guaranteed to follow the Democratic sweep that is coming in November. We will have to move them on our issues. I believe they are both moveable in our direction, but I think Hillary will be the most likely to move faster and more decisively for our issues.

I will say this again for everyone. The reason you can't pick Obama apart is because he hasn't done anything to find error with. Hillary has years in the spotlight and has had encounters with literally millions of people. She was in the spotlight directly or indirectly for 8 years. There was a lot of shit slung and little if any actually stuck. That's telling.

When the right wing machine comes after you, if you've ever stepped on a spider in malice they will expose it and call you a murderer.

Obama has barely what you can call a record. What record he has is not stellar. He admittedly plays politics with important legislation. He's linked with Illinois' own Jack Abramoff in this Rezko guy (and those are no small links.) Obama has a very short history in politics and in the public eye. Who knows if he's really the stuff or if he's just all talk.

Which brings me to the final point about Obama I wanted to make. What on Earth makes you think this guy can deliver? Name one important thing he's even tackled, let alone worked his ass off to make happen, in the Senate. He is not distinguished for anything other than his ability to demagogue (quite eloquently at times.)

In the debates, he's been a blathering mess more than he's been inspirational. When pressed, he starts to look pissy and purses his lips like he's ready to burn Wolf Blitzer's beard with his laser eye beams. He only looks presidential when he makes speeches and lots of people are watching. Otherwise, he looks rather precocious and often very petulant when things aren't going his way. He comes off as very arrogant to me.

Would I vote for him if he got the nomination? In a heartbeat. Do I believe he is destined for great things and probably could and should be the first black president? Absolutely. But I just don't believe now is his time. He is untested under real fire. He's young enough to run again and again for the next 25 years - there is plenty of time.

Hillary Clinton has a better health care plan. She has a better education plan. She has a better economic vision. Hillary Clinton is just as much or more of an agent of change and I support her completely. Anyone willing to give the country over to another inexperienced guy we'd like to have a beer with apparently have forgotten the nightmare of the past 7 years.

I don't think for a minute Obama is remotely as bad as W, but having had some experience with this stuff goes a long way in know what to do when you've been in office only a short while and a crisis hits. Considering the state of decay of our infrastructure, the state of the world after BushCo's rape of our friends and foes alike, and the state of our economy in a time of massive debt, economic downturn, and a seemingly bottomless dollar, I want someone who can go in and fix the damned place.

I am confident in Hillary's ability to do so. Not so much with Obama.

Michael Bedwell | February 3, 2008 1:02 AM

Jerame, MARRY ME! Wait, aren't you already "married" to....? O-M-G ! Your sex life must rock the Soldiers & Sailors Monument! :- )

Thanks to you both for your feedback. And I agree with Bil about one thing—Barack would look TERRIBLE in a headband!

:- )

I shared the same concerns many had when the McClurkin incident occurred. However, I gained a great deal of respect for the candidate and the campaign in watching how they responded. This incident I believe actually accelerated both the campaign and Obama's learning curve on LGBT issues. In directly acknowledging and addressing the concerns of the LGBT community, Obama's personal response demonstrated a recognition that he needed to immediately and aggressively make his commitment to achieving progress on our issues crystal clear.

Wait, when did he directly acknowledge anything to the queers? All I remember was that he gave us a guest post that was basically a cut-and-paste job from his LGBT issues site with a jab at Hillary added in and an interview with the Advocate where he said the queers don't know anything about religion.

Did I miss something?

I've seen all of the debates, and been to various political events. Throughout the course of the campaigns, which by the way, I consider way to long and expensive, my choice has changed several times.

When Bill Clinton came to Denver to give a speech for Hillary, there were a couple of thousand people who showed up for it. When Senator Obama spoke, it was to a crowd of almost 10,000 people. For those who haven't seen it or read it, I would merely suggest that you do so. It was a speech of hope vs. fear, and putting an end to the rampant divisiveness that has driven the political scene for the last seven years.

But when I saw an interview with Soledad O'Brien of CNN and Michelle Obama, I was convinced that she would be a better "first-spouse" than Mr. Clinton. She is brilliant.

When I go to my local precinct caucus, I will be voting for Senator Obama. Is he the perfect candidate, and would he be the perfect President? No, but at this point I'm not looking for perfect, just better. I think he's the best of the remaining candidates in either party.

I will vote for Hillary Clinton in next week's "Potomac Primaries," but am fully prepared, in the event that she does not win the Democratic nomination, to gleefully jump on board the Obama train and ride it all the way to November with no regrets.

We have two candidates left in our party, and both of them would be phenomenal leaders who will reverse the terrible tide that two terms of our current Petulant-Cowboy-in-Chief has wrought on our nation. Either would be an historic choice. If we decide at this moment to support one or the other during the primary season, but to enthusiastically support whoever the eventual nominee is, there's no stopping us.

Let's not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory yet again, shall we? C'mon, people ...