BY ANTHONY M. BROWN | If any Democrat seriously worries that Barack Obama is irretrievably turning right, I have two words of advice – get real. This is presidential politics at its best. And if we are sincere in our desire to change Washington, we need to see the forest and not simply the trees.
Is it possible that Democrats are finally doing what must be done to take back the White House? Or have we become so idealistic that we have lost sight of the fact that it is a politically cruel world out there. That said, I am in no way suggesting that people compromise their values.
In fact, there is clear PR value to voicing opposition against Obama's recent conservative posturing. After all, when dyed-in-the-wool Republicans see angry liberals, their eyes light up and they get very excited, making their opposition to our candidate less virulent.
According to a July 9 New York Times story by Michael Powell, “Senator Obama has faced a wave of complaints from his followers in recent weeks that he is tacking hard toward the political center, and moving away from his liberal base. His critics note that he recently applauded a Supreme Court ruling knocking down a Washington, DC ban on handguns, supported a proposed wiretap law that he once promised to oppose, and spoke in favor of the death penalty for child rapists. He also has endorsed a role for religious organizations in government that critics, not least many who support him, fear would blur the line between church and state.”
It's true. Democrats fall in love, not in line. Yes, we are more politically discerning than our right-wing counterparts. But why are we so mad? Perhaps it is because we see the insincerity of centrist politics. Maybe we are disappointed in a political leader who appears to be turning against those who put him in his position of power.
I understood well the gravity of the disappointment many Hillary Clinton supporters felt when she lost the Democratic nomination. I spoke with, and listened to, many of her staunchest defenders, including my husband. They all shared one common feeling- that Hillary embodied both a realistic political potential and a powerful awareness of what it takes to win the White House.
Interestingly enough, these people have no problem with Obama's recent statements about gun control, faith-based initiatives, or FISA telecom immunity.
To be honest, I am not altogether thrilled with my candidate's positions on those and other issues, especially marriage equality. But I know that I would prefer Barack Obama choosing the next few Supreme Court justices to John McCain in a New York minute. And though both candidates fall well short on our right to marry, their reactions to the pending California initiative aimed at overturning our victory there could not be more telling.
The last week in June, the Republican fired off an email to ProtectMarriage.com, the website of those seeking to overturn the marriage ruling, saying, “I support the efforts of the people of California to recognize marriage as a unique institution between a man and a woman, just as we did in my home state of Arizona. I do not believe judges should be making these decisions.”
In sharp contrast, in a letter to San Francisco's Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, on the occasional of its gay pride breakfast, Obama wrote, “I oppose the divisive and discriminatory efforts to amend the California Constitution, and similar efforts to amend the US Constitution or those of other states.” Toward the end of that letter, he added, “I want to congratulate all of you who have shown your love for each other by getting married these last few weeks.”
Running contrary to the reigning narrative about Obama's rush to the right, this significant difference between the Democratic and Republican hopefuls has received surprisingly little media attention.
I believe that a smart presidential candidate does what they must to become president. While I hate saying this, consider Karl Rove.
If you really believe that conservatism is infecting our chances for “change we can believe in,” then do something. Give money to liberal causes like EqualityForAll.com, which is battling the California amendment, or to MoveOn.org, call your local, state, and federal elected representatives and tell them what you want them to do- on FISA, hand guns, or the death penalty. Just don't sit idly by bellyaching. The time to act is now.
If, in the end, candidate Obama throws his liberal base under the bus, as Fox News would have us believe he is intent on doing, we have absolutely won! Whatever it takes to get Republicans out of the White House works for me and I support my candidate's strategy. I also let him know the sense of empowerment I feel when I email, write, or call his campaign when I disagree with the specifics. That is the great thing about politics – it is increasingly interactive.
Anthony M. Brown helped prepare the brief for the Lawrence v. Texas sodomy case while interning at Lambda Legal in the summer of 2002. He currently heads McKenna, Siracusano & Chianese's Nontraditional Family and Estates Law division and is executive director of The Wedding Party. He can be reached at [email protected].