H. Alexander Robinson

First Thoughts: Reflection on the 2008 Elections

Filed By H. Alexander Robinson | November 06, 2008 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: African-American, Barack Obama, civil rights, election 2008, first black president, gay rights, John McCain, President-Elect Obama, presidential elections

All across America there is celebration of the election of Barack Obama as our 44th President of the United States. The disappointing setback represented in the passage of marriage bans and anti-gay legislation does not diminish my hopefulness for positive change.

The son of a black father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas, the Democratic Senator from Illinois sealed his victory by defeating Republican Senator John McCain. A huge crowd in Grant Park in Chicago erupted in jubilation at the news of Obama's victory. Some wept. In cities across the country scenes reminiscent of a New Year's Eve celebration erupted.

Senator Obama soaked up most of the votes from the nation's blacks, Hispanics and women and siphoned off enough white support to leave John McCain with no way to win.

Senator Barack Obama accomplished this feat the way many people of color have in the United States - by outperforming his opponent in such huge ways that his actions border on near perfection. The suggestion of a divine hand...

Exit polls show that John McCain won the votes of 55% of white voters, whose strong support has been vital to the success of winning Republican presidential candidates. However, he did not get a wide enough margin to compensate for the lopsided support that Obama drew from other voters who make up a quarter of the electorate.

Joe Solmonese of the Human Rights Campaign reported that exit polls showed that LGBT voters made up 4% of the electorate and 70% of those voters supported President-elect Obama.

Obama, who will become the first black president and at age 47 one of the youngest, ran away with the youth vote. He won the under-30 crowd by 34 percentage points, even better than Democrat Bill Clinton's 19-point advantage when he defeated Bob Dole in 1996. He was the choice of nearly seven in ten first-time voters of all ages.

Obama inspires optimism about race in America. He drew the votes of two-thirds of Hispanic voters and 95% of blacks who went to the polls. About 60% of Obama's voters believe race relations will improve over the next few years, and only 7% predict they will deteriorate. In contrast, almost two-thirds of McCain's voters expected racial tensions to stay the same or worsen. Obama attracted 56% of women voters. He split the overall male vote with McCain.

Obama cleaned up with his effort to mobilize potential supporters who had never voted before. Among first-time voters, one in five was black, almost twice the proportion of blacks among voters overall. Another one in five was Hispanic. Two-thirds of new voters were under 30.

President Obama is likely to preside of the greatest advancements in LGBT rights since the beginning of our movement. With a new progressive congress and an energized liberal movement, which includes gay civil rights advocates the prospects of passage of federal hate crimes and employment protections, is within reach--as is finally ending the tragic Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

The efforts to ensure that all American have access to health care just got a needed shot in the arm with the election of a president commitment not only to ensuring that all Americans have health insurance but that we end health disparities as well.

The results in Arkansas, Arizona and Florida where we saw laws passed to discriminate against loving, committed couples and families are disappointing. However, we must see these not as defeats but wake-up calls and a rallying cry for fair minded Americans on the quest to create that "more perfect union".

Early exit polls in California showed that 70% of blacks, (black women at 74%) voted for the Proposition 8, the marriage ban. That was about 20 points higher than any other racial group. Furthermore, 71% of African American voters are said to have supported Florida's Amendment 2.

So what is the message of the gay civil rights movement?

"For those of us who are black and gay, a group too often marginalized within a marginalized community, I see this as a clear signal to the LGBT advocacy community. There hasn't been enough outreach to those groups who voted against us. We haven't reached them; there hasn't been enough effort expended", said Pam Spaulding an award winner black gay blogger.

"I've been blogging for years about the need to discuss race in regards to LGBT issues. I hope that this is now the wakeup call for our "professional gays" out there who represent us to come out of their comfort zones and help bridge this concrete education gap."

The entire nation and indeed the world are taking a deep breath today, searching for the message of the seminal event in America's history. Obama does not owe his election, Wall Street, K Street, the Democratic Party or any of old-line power brokers.

"The Obama campaign has also transformed the nature of political campaigns for at least a generation. By bringing the principles and practices of grassroots community organizing to the national political stage," said Dorian Warren an assistant professor in the department of political science and the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.

In his article for The Daily Voice Warren wrote, "training and empowering everyday people with the political skills to talk to neighbors, call strangers, knock on doors block-by-block, and host house parties of friends, colleagues and relatives. From the abolitionist, women's and labor movements, to the civil rights and gay rights movements, organizing is the time-honored political strategy that has been at the heart of all American movements for social justice".

The LGBT civil rights movement has no less soul-searching and political analysis to do in light of the new political order about to be ushered in. In the American of today, African Americans and Latinos have only begun to flex their political muscle. Young Americans have taken the reins of power and President-elect Obama has promised to draw a new political map.

Our movement must develop a real ground game. We have to get a bit more "dusty" if we are to win--more person-to-person contact. We must invest in real coalition building with people of color.

Our movement would do well to take stock of where we are and how we get to where we want to be.

Our movement must look like the crowd in Grant Park, "...young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled - Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America."

As President-elect Obama has said, "The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America - I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you - we as a people will get there."

Yes, we can!

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What a bunch of crock. If I hear one more time how I a gay white man am to blame I am going to vomit! Yes, Yes the great Obama will make everthing better...I will believe it when I see it. Why should he waste capital figthing for GLBT rigts, we just got our asses handed to us. I am bitterly disappointed after standing in line 2 hrs. to vote for this man. Perhaps it is to soon to tell and my anger is misplaced, but I suspect not. In 8 yrs when we still have DOMA, DADT, and no right to marry maybe you Queers will wake the hell up!

Dave, I sense a great deal of hurt, anger and disappointment in your response—all of which I understand. However, your defensiveness seems misplaced. I read no blame of white gay men in this commentary.

We will only repeal DADT and DOMA when we as a nation stand up--undivided by race--in opposition.

It is a new day.If you wait around to see the results you are likely never to see the change which you seek.

I understand the great amount of disappointment that goes along with the excitement on the flip side of this election's turnout. Some people may still not be satiated, but I, for one know that change is on its way. Recently, I have learned that change really starts with every one of us. If we take it upon ourselves to make this nation something we can be proud of, it will happen. In doing some research on personal growth, I came upon this book: www.thevisionboardkit.com. You can download the first chapter for free, too! Let me know what you all think.

This is a big victory, and it's great that the groups from which obama drew support are mostly growing in political power!

Joe Solmonese of the Human Rights Campaign reported that exit polls showed that LGBT voters made up 4% of the electorate and 70% of those voters supported President-elect Obama.

Which is so incredibly sad...