Check this out from Naomi Klein and Jeremy Scahill:
Many argue otherwise. They say that if we want to end the war, we should simply pick a candidate who is not John McCain and help them win: We'll sort out the details after the Republicans are evicted from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Some of the most prominent anti-war voices--from MoveOn.org to the magazine we write for, The Nation--have gone this route, throwing their weight behind the Obama campaign.
This is a serious strategic mistake. It is during a hotly contested campaign that anti-war forces have the power to actually sway U. S. policy. As soon as we pick sides, we relegate ourselves to mere cheerleaders.
Honestly, that could be applied to pretty much any left-of-center movement, not just the anti-war movement that Scahill and Klein are involved with. We could just as easily make it the LGBT movement.
It's something that I've seen this primary season in proportions that I haven't before - people turning from generally intelligent and critical folks into people persuaded of the perfection of their own candidate. I was quick to say back in December that, of the Democratic candidates, Obama's supporters were definitely the most willing to deny reality to support him. But now it's definitely Hillary's, what with many of them suddenly blind to racism, attacking Obama from the right, and repeating whatever talking point Mark Penn puts out there (plagiarism? seriously?).
So maybe it just has to do with whomever is losing.
But either way, I can't help but imagine the opportunities lost here. I remember just a few months ago I started seeing these debates among queers trying to defend their candidate as the best one on LGBT issues. And not in some expansive "everything is an LGBT issue" sense, but in the highly essentialist, HRC-questionnaire way. Even though they all had the same responses on that list of issues.
The top three all fell in line on ENDA, couple recognition, DADT, and hate crimes legislation. Hillary gave that bizarre answer at the HRC/Logo debate about only wanting to repeal section 3 of the DOMA, but section 1 is the title, section 2 was redundant of who knows how much law in this country, and if a law came before her eliminating the whole thing, I think the safe money is on the side that she signs it.
The real question is: will either of them push on those issues? And the answer's looking like a solid "they won't really have to." Gays still turnout twice as often to the polls than the general population and we vote Democratic three-quarters of the time. It's not like anyone needs to court us in the general election. Where we have the power, as Klein and Scahill point out with relation to the anti-war movement, is in the primaries. Digby adds:
You know how these things work. They move left in the primary to get the nomination --- and then rush to the center in the general. If you're a liberal, you need to get your candidate to position himself as close to you as possible before they do that so they don't wind up being Joe Lieberman when the whole thing is said and done. And during the primaries, when candidates still care about what you think, you can play them off against each other to get there. It sets the terms of the debate and creates a mandate that otherwise will likely end up being "finessed" once they have to compete with a conservative.
I would imagine that it was pretty hard for us queers to leverage any sort of influence this primary season with this sort of garbage in a magazine that proclaims itself the voice of the community:
"Just why are we so in love with Hillary?...it's Clinton whom gay voters are carrying the torch for this campaign season....[She's] the one who captured our hearts long ago, and neither of us will let go. Only Obama has cast a similar spell, but as much as he's called a "rock star" (so cliché!), it's Hillary who's the true megawatt one-named wonder of fame -- and Obama's record on gay issues pales in comparison to hers."
Yeah, that'll show Clinton! She'll know that she has to fight for those gay votes now! And Obama will know that there's a reason to even try in the first place!
That Advocate article didn't happen in a vacuum. There was a general feeling that Clinton had us in the bag from the start, and McClurkin made it seem like it was impossible to get us over to Obama's side. And then there was Joe's fawning performance for Hillary at the HRC/Logo debate. And each candidate put out lists and lists of prominent LGBT's giving up their positions as powerful undecided's and endorsing one of them. Etc.
While these candidates' positions on those issues asked of them in LGBT contexts aren't all that bad (I can't bring myself to care all that much about what they each think of state governments recognizing same-sex marriage, sorry), we allowed our ability to want to become wholly restricted to a narrow range of policy options and we didn't require any sort of specific plan from either of them to go through with their stated policy goals.
Sure, we got them to say that they'd support the Matthew Shepard Act, but what about funding for sexual orientation and gender ID inclusive diversity education? They both support a fully inclusive ENDA, but what about civil rights legislation that encompasses housing and public accommodations and eliminates the huge loophole in the current ENDA for religious organizations? They both support increased funding for AIDS prevention, research, and treatment, but what about a single-payer health care system?
And what's making them expend any effort to do any of those things they've promised to do for us?
Political power doesn't come from lining up behind any of these candidates, unless one were so awful that he just had to be defeated (i.e. McCain). That sort of power comes when it seems like we have something to offer in terms of political support, something that can be taken away when our demands aren't met.
I'm not saying nothing will happen positive on these issues in the next four years if a Democrat is elected. At the very least, we'll have a president who's not a brick wall against any sort of sexual liberation or LGBT equality. But I can't help but think of what we could have done this primary season if we had played our cards a little better and didn't just fall in line behind any of these candidates.