Newsweek has an unhappy prediction for LGBT Americans for 2010: nothing will happen on Capitol Hill as the White House draws exactly the wrong lessons from the Democrats’ 1994 debacle:
Patience became the 2009 mantra of the gay rights movement, which generally supports Democrats. Many activists believe that in his heart Obama supports their flagship issues: the ability to serve openly in the armed forces, to be protected from employment in the workplace, and the right to marry (even though he’s on record as favoring civil unions over marriage). But they’ve received almost nothing for their troubles. What the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered community has learned this year is that the president is ultimately a pragmatist. Although his very presence in the White House is the stuff of culture wars, Obama himself is reluctant to wade into one. Moreover, if socially divisive policies have the potential to compromise his legislative agenda, Obama has proven that he simply won’t pursue them. Expect this tension to become more acute as the 2010 elections loom-and for gay rights to be shunted aside again. The last thing this pragmatist president will do is hand election-year ammunition to an already energized conservative base that’s venomously opposed to gay marriage.
No action on DADT. No action on DOMA. No action on ENDA. No action on immigration equality for separated families. No action on adoption rights.
Further discouraging an already skeptical and disaffected component within the demoralized Democratic base seems like a wonderful strategy for handing control of Congress to the GOP/BlueDog coalition.
Adam Bink points to two reasons why Newsweek’s logic is faulty:
(a) Obama’s approval rating among Republicans in general has averaged between 10% and 20% over the last several months, and even hit single digits. So I have no doubt it’s even worse among the conservative base, teabaggers, etc.
Moving on progressive issues, aka keeping your promises, will always piss off conservatives, and that is part of the ballgame. Inaction on progressive issues isn’t going to suddenly make conservatives happier. And if you’re worried about making them mad, LGBT issues are no worse than any of his other major initiatives, like health care.
(b) If Newsweek is thinking about about energized voters, did they happen to notice an already energized LGBT movement that is pissed as hell at inaction and repeated slights by this Administration? As Mike Lux pointed out, 1994 was lost in major part because the base stays home. If Obama and Democrats in Congress really want to know what, to quote George W. Bush, a “thumpin’” feels like, they should take no action on LGBT issues and watch scores of LGBT people stay home.
Rahm Emanuel and Barack Obama draw the wrong lessons about where progressives LBGTs will go in 2010. It’s not that we’ll vote for the talibangelical GOP. After all, we’re not total idiots. We know those people would just as soon Ugandize our asses as look at us.
The danger is that we will stay at home. And we’ll stay at home not just on Election Day, but on every phone-banking, neighborhood-walking, vote-by-mailing, voter-IDing, precinct-organizing, campaign-blogging day before that. That’s a lot of wo/manpower to run a mid-term campaign without.
Moreover: We are the opinion leaders in our small communities. We are the folks our less engaged friends look to for guidance. Most people don’t pay attention to politics like we do, and they expect us to tell them what’s important and what matters. If our reaction when asked about electing Democrats again in 2010 is ‘meh’ will that motivate the less-engaged among them to vote? Expect a lot of “wait, you said you weren’t excited about that?” when we try to drag them out to the polls on Election Day 2010.
What will we say to them, “Oh, but the Democrats have promised us they’ll move on our issues now!” They’ll laugh at us.
And they’ll be right. Elections have consequences, we’re always told. If Election Day 2008 doesn’t have more positive consequences for LGBT Americans by Election Day 2010, you can expect more passivity from us, Mr President. You will have earned it. See, elections do have consequences.