Worse than Rove (updated) or: The Gay After Tomorrow


Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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55 Responses

  1. Not to mention how important it is that our President be able to appear on just about every talk show in a two week span, and film commercials for a comedian’s show on TBS, and deliver any number of speeches to any number of groups on any number of topics.Report

    • Exactly right. What we watch if Obama wasn’t on TV???Report

    • Okay, Mark, you can’t on the one hand say that Democrats and Obama lost control of a healthcare debate that should be theirs and then turn around and criticize the President for trying to regain control of that debate via the broadest and most accessible medium available to him.Report

      • That’s a fair point, Scott. I guess my point is that the administration seems okay with tackling EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE….except, you know, the gay issue, or the get-out-of-the-war issue…Report

        • Part of the point of my post was that by taking an “all at once” approach, the administration was doing a poor job of everything on its plate. So now all you’re asking is for a poor job of supporting gay rights. If that strikes you as the best way forward then more power to you, I suppose, but I would offer an administration that takes the time and maintains the focus to achieve its agenda/mandate in a comprehensive manner winds up doing more good for those impacted by that agenda.

          And if you’ve been looking to Obama as a “get-out-of-the-wars” president, you’ve been looking to the wrong guy from the get go.Report

          • Here’s what I’m saying – all Obama has to do to help out the gay community for now is sign an executive order. The rest can come later. One sign of the pen to stop all these service men and women from getting booted from their jobs. It would be a constructive step and a symbolic action. That’s it. That’s all he has to do.Report

            • I see where you’re coming from, I do. I suppose my point of departure is that I’ll save my condemnation on this front for if and when Obama fails to follow through on “the rest”. I’d rather see him take it all on at the same time and really put himself to not just repealing DADT and DOMA, but make the effort to create or at least initiate the attendant systemic changes required for lasting and meaningful equality.

              The question that really looms, though, as I mentioned in the comments of my post, is whether Obama is going to be the guy to do that. The more I talk about it, the more I’m not so sure.

              Is his wavering on the small stuff and indication of the larger stuff? Maybe it is. If that’s the case, then certainly unleash with hell’s fury. But as North says below, at nine months I’m just not sure we can know.Report

              • If that is the case (Obama’s not the guy), then perhaps putting his feet to the fire on DADT as the best that can be expected because it won’t really cost much and may have long term impacts a la Bob’s suggestion below is what needs to happen.

                Hmmm, I might be flipped on this, but I still don’t think it’s unreasonable to see Obama take that step once the healthcare debate is finished. And, of course, that is a big if about how supportive he really is that I’m posing. It’s an if I don’t have an answer to. But it might be the best bet for gay rights activists to hedge their bets and push hard now, regardless. Kind of cynical real politik, but that’s life.Report

            • Avatar Luke in reply to E.D. Kain says:

              I wish that it were a ‘stroke of the pen’ issue; though this is sort of like Kennedy’s support of American Americans’ right to citizenship, and subsequent walk back, plus the campaign by the SCLC and others sending him pens for such an executive order.

              I like the symbolic stroke of the pen, and it’s an appealing symbol. But it risks votes on health care, which is more important than gay rights and more time-critical as it’s underway. Once it’s off the table, there’s more room to inhabit and more ways to maneuver–though the Republican Party will throw itself on the floor for a grand tantrum about the “homosexual agenda” and “special rights.” There’s also the internal dynamics of the Congress to be worked through; given the ire over Prop. H8 and other issues, you’ve got some good members building momentum in their committees for DADT/DOMA Repeal, but there aren’t enough votes to pass things on the floor of either chamber.

              I also think the tenor of this post is a bit rich; firstly, Obama’s participation in the Olympic bid confuses his symbolic and official roles (this is why England keeps the Queen; she cuts ribbons, doesn’t write bills.) On the flipside, he got the stimulus and the first Latina on the Supreme Court, and has gotten further on health care reform than anyone since LBJ; as core generational ambitions and obligations of the Democratic Party (Kennedy-Dingell), that’s a lot, and a lot to stop total screaming economic meltdown.

              Second, Obama’s not worse than Rove, that’s plain hysteria and rhetorical flim-flam. It’s been alleged that Bush was not a sincere bigot with regards to gays; but he was willing to gay-bash to get elected and reelected, and did nothing to change his party’s inane behavior. I’d have been happier with Sam Brownbeck; he’s a reactionary of the first order, but an honest monster in his hatreds. If you exploit hatred for political gain (like kicking off your campaign on the graves of civil rights workers to celebrate ‘States’ Rights’ and the dangers of ‘welfare queens’) but lack that same hatred, you’re worse than a mere bigot; there’s something special in aiding and abetting bigotry and the abuse of a minority when you think it’s wrong to do so (one of the /Vanity Fair/ Articles about the Bush Presidency and the Latimer book both describe events where Bush admits he doesn’t want to tell gay kids they can’t marry or whatever, but then he realizes he’s not made of stern stuff and chants “Faggot faggot hahahah bigotry yay” because the other thing might be politically risky, but morally righteous. Hmm, there’s a religion that likes compassion and helping the meek. Not sure I can remember what it is…nevermind)

              Obama and his campaign activated, registered, engaged, and mobilized a bunch of voters who are more multiracial and more liberal than the electorate as a whole; he’s also inherited a gigantic mess, and it’s only been nine months (in which the GOP is holding up great swathes of his staff). The Lily Ledbetter Act had a closer causal outrage to drive it forward. To some degree, the Prop. 8 outrage has dissipated into new and different fights (Beware! Mormons marching on Maine!).

              Either the Congress will move forward after health care, or after health care the White House will draw outlines and engage but let Congress write the bill.

              The wild cards on are the ongoing Mormon/Ken Starr attempt to annul all gay marriages (which would be a Pyhrric victory at best), the National Equality March, the various stupid referendums, and a variety of civil rights cases.

              I think it’s premature to think of an Obama-Democratic Party collapse over gay rights; most Democratic 2010 candidates are for marriage equality and DADT repeal, which is a useful barometer of what’s electable. Further on, the Obama voting base can shove OFA back just as much as OFA can mobilize them. Health Care is sucking up all the oxygen; once it’s passed, there’s space for three or four issues at once.

              Gay rights as political movement has the worst combination of black and Jewish minority groups. In the case of the former, there’s an array of laws that diminish our citizenship while demanding equal taxes, and a political party that stands to gain from keeping us as ‘those people of the broken window.’ In the latter, we can culturally integrate in most of the country and sometimes integrate locally politically without too much effort, as there’s no easy visual marker; but our allies often mistake social acceptance for political change and lose interest in engagement, and thus we’re the repressed minority.

              Of course, since seventies, there’s been a minority in the country that’s been able to be heard and arrange for the success of its agenda; the anti-choice movement has successfully used domestic terrorism to limit women’s access to reproductive health services and the rank and file of major political party has collaborated in the process; obviously, when judicial review and the political system don’t do as you please, that’s really the best thing to do.

              (In a big meta-point, America mostly thinks of upper middle class whites when it thinks of gay men; the alienness of Obama in the White House has on the one hand racheted up hate crimes in the Old Confederacy and the Rust Belt, but by virtue of holding office, and America’s various cultural hang ups about black men and sex and the GOP’s hobby horse of xenophobia, the Black President makes the White Gay less difficult to assimilate culturally.)Report

      • Fair enough, but how much of those appearances could be characterized as an attempt to regain control of the health care debate (I honestly don’t know the answer to that, by the way, since I don’t usually watch late-night talk shows; I’m ok with the appearances on the Sunday talk-show circuit)?Report

  2. Avatar Nob Akimoto says:

    How much use exactly is an executive order when it could simply be reinstated down the road by another administratrion?

    DOMA repeal requires congressional action, and likely a full fledged fix of DODT probably would, too.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

      Just doesn’t feel like it’s really much of a priority to him, Nob, ‘s all I’m saying….Report

      • Avatar Nob Akimoto in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        And do you think the present circumstances for Congress are good for the President pushing such a repeal through? The lunatic fringe is screaming enough over what should be a relatively nonpartisan set of health insurance reform measures. (For all the sound and fury really it’s not all that different from what the McCain camp also pressed for last year)

        What do you think a full blown culture war issue would do at this point? Make things easier?Report

        • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

          Well it’s gonna be harder when the Dems have fewer seats. Which they will after 2010. They won’t lose the majority, but they’ll lose some.Report

          • Avatar Nob Akimoto in reply to E.D. Kain says:

            I would argue that because that’s the case bigger legislation needs to come first. Climate change, financial regulatory reform, health care, are all high stakes issues that need as large a majority as possible because the construction of the Democratic party means certain caucuses within it won’t hold.

            Since there’s no hope of any bipartisan compromise on a gay rights issue, I think having a smaller majority in that case won’t be as big of a political liability…not to mention would anything rile up the “base” even more for 2010 than bringing DOMA and DADT into it?Report

    • Avatar Bob in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

      Let’s say Obama signed an executive order suspending DADT. Seven years later a new president is in office and is faced with a situation where gays serving openly in the military has worked out very nicely, a la other countries experiences. Could the new president credibly return to DADT?Report

    • Avatar Jim in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

      DADT is also statute, but an executive order would be a half-assed fix. Or how about a Bush-style signing order that forbid any implementation of DADT in the executive branch. A simple order to DOD – “Starting today don’t put anyone out for suspected or proven homosexual conduct. ” Who could object signing orders?Report

  3. Avatar Bob says:

    “And hey, it’s one thing to juggle health care reform, stimulus, climate change schemes – it would be awfully difficult to do that and support gay rights all at the same time. I mean, a gu’ys gotta rest. And it’s not like DOMA or DADT actually effect anyone’s real lives, do they?”

    Thanks E.D. for that. The full-plate argument demolished above is long overdue. After all the Prez has all those Czars to help clear the table and Bo, or whatever the dog’s name, can eat some of the scraps.

    Obama’s reticence on gay issues is an abomination.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Bob says:

      Oh, please. Where are they going to go? The Republicans?Report

      • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Jaybird says:

        The couch. That’s the real problem, ain’t it? And look over across the pond to the Tories. Times change. You don’t let opportunities pass you by…Report

        • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Bob says:

          “Where are the gay voters going to go – the Republicans?”
          “No, the couch. They’ll stay at home and not vote.”Report

          • Avatar Bob in reply to E.D. Kain says:

            E.D. my “what” was not directed to you, but I understand the confusion. I was addressing Jaybird responding to my comment. I in NO WAY implied or stated that gay would go GOP. Your comment was clear.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Bob says:

          To agree with Bob, the thing that distresses me (fsvo “distresses”) about Obama’s handling of the LGTBQQIA issues is that there are a small number of times where doing something dinky would have cost him nothing and he instead did nothing. This is pretty easy to understand, as these things go. He’s a moderate, after all.

          The problem comes that there are a handful of times that he could have done nothing and it would have cost him nothing and he, instead, was actively *BAD*.

          And that’s f’ed up, yo.

          He seems to be actively (rather than merely passively) taking the attitude “where else they gonna go?”Report

      • Avatar Jim in reply to Jaybird says:

        Damn, Jay, that’s genius! I never thought of a blackmail campaign! Cameras…. lights…. ACTION!Report

  4. Avatar North says:

    What Jay said. We have nowhere to go and even depressed turn out on our part won’t hurt him much.
    The points are simple enough. We gays (as a movement, not as in Andrew Sullivan) were not with him in the primary. So they’re in the back of the line right now.

    And yes, he’ll be worse than Bush if he doesn’t do anything about it by the time his first term ends. That said, it’s only been what, nine months?

    Long story short; he’s a capable politician. He’s not above politics and he’s not above political calculations. The only thing new about him is his race. That said, if he can pull off even half of what he’s putting on his plate he may well be a great politician. And also if the Republicans continue on the course they’re on they may well suffer a Mondale scale whipeout.Report

    • Avatar silentbeep in reply to North says:

      “And yes, he’ll be worse than Bush if he doesn’t do anything about it by the time his first term ends. That said, it’s only been what, nine months?”

      Exactly. I’m not giving him a pass, I’m just reserving judgment.Report

  5. Avatar EngineerScotty says:

    One explaination for Obama’s refusal, so far, to issue an executive order regarding DADT is that he thinks it might not be a lawful use of his power–DADT is currently the law of the land, unfortunately, and simply ordering the military to ignore the law does smack of the sort of executive power-grabbing that the LAST administration so much enjoyed.
    Perhaps its not a good explaination–many on the left would love to see Obama use the full force of office to impose a progressive agenda wherever he can, just as Bush did during his term to impose a conservative one–but Obama, for better or worse, seems disinclined to do so.Report

    • Avatar Bob in reply to EngineerScotty says:

      I think you have it exactly right. My hypothetical in response to Nob, above, was biased on the questionable proposition that Obama could legally instruct DOD to ignore DADT by presidential fiat. DOMA is unquestionably (?) immune from such action.

      That said, Obama dealings with gays, starting with Rick Warren praying at the inauguration, are an abomination.Report

      • Avatar nick.t. in reply to Bob says:

        Well, it depends on what you call an abomination. I personally reserve the term for massacres and sacrifices to or images of Ashteroth, but mileage varies. I suggest that Obama is doing two things on DADT:

        1) Waiting a while to let the national temperature cool down on the issue. When you consider the current furore on gay marriage, it is plausible to think that this is not the time to start a related fire on DADT.

        2) Waiting for the military to start asking for the repeal of DADT – which may be happening. Certainly, doing a full repeal with the military in support would be the best and surest way to achieve it.

        I would be happier if Obama could sign an executive order suspending dismissals from the military pending a full review of the policy, and so force the military to put their cards on the table. What I don’t know if whether we have got to the point where the military would actually advocate repealing DADT. If a full review went the wrong way, it might set everything back ten years.Report

        • Avatar Bob in reply to nick.t. says:

          Responding to the use of abomination, I’m using it in the sense of “disgusting.” See the link.


          • Avatar nick.t. in reply to Bob says:

            Yes, Bob. The point being that disgusting is usually several degrees milder than “abomination” in the general usage. My objection is to your apparent exaggeration, not to the overall idea that this particular policy/non-policy is wrong. Where we differ is that I think that what Obama is doing can be defended as intelligent, timely policy-making. Better to wait for the right time to get things done, and done with solid support from the public and relevant interest groups, rather than rush in and fall at the first fence. I don’t much care for Rick Warren and his ilk, but I also see why Obama would prefer to bring them along over time, rather than fight them. He may be unable to do so, but the aim is not an unworthy one.Report

  6. Avatar Cascadian says:


  7. Avatar Kyle says:

    Bill Clinton may be more punchline than presidential these days but when confronted with an issue where 58% of Republicans agree with 70+% of Democrats, it would’ve been child’s play for him to triangulate a repeal of DADT. Or at the very least make more of a show of at least trying.Report