ENDORSEMENT: What We Can Do For Our Country

BY GAY CITY NEWS | In a presidential inaugural address that inspired a teenager from Hope, Arkansas named Bill Clinton, John F. Kennedy famously urged Americans to focus not on what the country could do for them, but on what contributions they could make to the nation.

Mind you, we in the LGBT community are not yet nearly at the point where this nation has made good on the contributions it owes to our lives, our families, our well-being, even our equal citizenship. Faced with the choice of two progressive Democrats who have spoken at length and with conviction about the challenges facing our lives, we still don't have the luxury of picking a candidate who will advocate for our right to marry. We must yet take it on faith that the next president will have the fortitude to insist that Congress – including too many stragglers within the Democratic Party – open up the nation's military to out gay and lesbian patriots. It is far from certain that the next time the Democratic Congress takes up an employment nondiscrimination measure it will include transgendered Americans as well as gay men and lesbians among those protected.

We ought to think about the message our choice sends about a fundamental question – what our politics should be all about. The nation needs to hear our views on how American politics can accommodate new voices in the mix.

But after seven years of George W. Bush, and compared against the prospect of either John McCain or Mitt Romney, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama truly offer hope to LGBT Americans that help is on the way.

Given that the two Democratic contenders share a similar, generally friendly and supportive posture toward LGBT Americans, we ought to think about the message our choice sends about a fundamental question – what our politics should be all about. We are finding our place here and there at the table, but we have also spent much of our life on the outside. The nation needs to hear our views on how American politics can accommodate new voices in the mix.

Judged by that measure and taking full stock of how the Democratic nomination contest has unfolded, we believe the choice is clear.

Gay City New endorses Barack Obama.

The Illinois senator has spoken of a politics of hope and change, not surprisingly given a life that has included a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas, a term as president of the Harvard Law Review and a job as a community organizer on the streets of Chicago.

Obama is a relative newcomer to the national scene, and it is not unfair to ask that he explain as clearly as possible how his skills, experience, and vision qualify him for the toughest job on earth. He deserves kudos for his courage in standing up against the rush to war in Iraq at a time when conventional political wisdom counseled a would-be national figure to do otherwise. He will serve the nation well if he can articulate a comprehensive approach not only toward the mess in Iraq but also the broader and more explosive question of America's standing in the entire Islamic world.

In his recent comments about what Ronald Reagan offered to Americans hungry for optimism and new ideas, Obama ought to have made more clear his understanding that at critical moments the hope for unity cannot substitute for hard choices. This newspaper was probably tougher on Obama than anyone else was for his ill-considered decision to call on Donnie McClurkin – a so-called “ex-gay” gospel singer vitriolic in his attacks on the LGBT community – to reach out to churchgoing African-American communities in South Carolina. We are counting on him to make wiser choices in future efforts to “build bridges” – and on that score applaud the loving words about his “gay brothers and sisters” Obama enunciated from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Atlanta pulpit last week.

The McClurkin episode, unfortunate as it was, pales in comparison to the divisiveness that Senator Clinton has allowed her campaign to devolve into. Her comparison between the roles played by Dr. King and President Lyndon Johnson in advancing civil rights can be chalked up to inartfulness. The comments coming from her surrogates are far more disturbing, forming a pattern that sadly can no longer be ignored.

Three Clintonites – the husband of former New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen, Black Entertainment Television founder Robert Johnson, and, most damningly, key strategist Mark Penn – all injected Obama's acknowledged youthful cocaine use into the debate. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo inexplicably used the phrase “shuck and jive” in describing what a presidential candidate might try to pull with the media, and then had his operatives bombard the press with official umbrage that his words might be construed as targeting the African-American senator.

Nobody, however, has been more egregious than Bill Clinton. In his ardent championing of his wife, the former president has dissed Obama as “a kid” and this past Saturday was quick to mention Jesse Jackson's 1984 and 1988 South Carolina primary wins to contextualize Obama's commanding victory.

Notwithstanding the role of BET's Johnson and the ardent support for the New York senator from towering African-American members of Congress such as Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters, the Clinton campaign's intent is clear – Barack Obama, after his strong showing with white voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, must be marginalized as the “black candidate,” or Hillary runs the risk of losing.

That is unacceptable, and the LGBT community should lend its voice to a growing progressive chorus in turning its back on this kind of politics. For us, winning in the ghetto is no longer good enough – not for blacks, not for gays, not for anyone.

There is a great deal we admire about Hillary Clinton, and our conclusion about the direction of her campaign is arrived at with a heavy heart. Should she prevail in the nomination fight, we have hope that the better angels of her nature will come to the fore in the fall campaign.

But at this moment we put our faith in the hope that remains undimmed. We urge a vote for Barack Obama.