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Wayne Besen

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An Obama Administration and Gay Rights

Posted: 10/07/08 06:40 PM ET

Who can blame John McCain and Sarah Palin for saying that Barack Obama is "palling around with terrorists?" The GOP ticket is bombing so badly that they must blow up the race to have a shot at winning. Palin, about as subtle as a moose in an igloo, telegraphed the pugnacious plan of smearing Obama by sneering that they will "take the gloves off."

But, even in their attacks, the McCain campaign is a mumble jumble of mixed messages. On one hand, they tried to portray Obama as a closeted Muslim by having Lee County Florida Sheriff, Mike Scott, call the Democratic candidate "Barack Hussein Obama." However, Sarah Palin quickly reminded voters of Obama’s former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. This might leave voters who are just tuning into the race wondering why this supposed Muslim spent so much time in church.

The truth is, the McCain/Palin experiment is a dud. He's looking too old and she's looking too new. McCain has gone from a man of stature to just plain stodgy, while Palin has been reduced from fresh to freshman. She needs more seasoning, while he's stayed at least one season too many. He appears long in the tooth, while she can't help baring her fangs.

Palin's nasty one-liners aren't resonating at a time when peoples' bank accounts are flat lining. Cutthroat politics don't work as well when people are cutting back on gas and groceries. In a time of grave economic harm, one needs more than folksy charm. Sure, Palin can wink, but people want to know if she can think.

With Barrack Obama and Joe Biden emerging as the adults in the race, they are beginning to pull away. The McCain campaign suspended its operations in Michigan, and a Washington Post/ABC-News poll has Obama/Biden up seven points in Ohio.

A month is forever in a campaign and things can go sour quickly. Still, unless, there is a game-changer, like a YouTube video of Obama having tea in a cave with Osama, it looks like the Democrats will take the White House. Leaders of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, have to begin thinking about what this will mean. What should our community's expectations be? Will this be a huge step forward or a series of disappointments?

What I fear is that the enormity of our nation's problems makes it easier for Congress and an Obama administration to put GLBT equality on the back burner. They can even complicate our efforts by portraying us as self-serving at a time of economic crisis and war.

Now, I'm not suggesting that the new president should make gay issues his top priority at the Inauguration. Of course, this would actually backfire and cause a great deal of resentment from people who are worried about feeding their families. However, shouldn't we expect Congress to pass a law prohibiting job discrimination in the first six months? Or, hate crime legislation to reach Obama's desk within the first year? Will Don't Ask/Don't Tell be overturned by Congress or will Democrats postpone action, afraid of consequences in the midterm elections?

As far as I'm concerned, the Democrats need to take action sooner, rather than later. Since Newt Gingrich came to power in 1994, the Democrats have credibly been able to blame the Republicans for thwarting pro-gay legislation. If they finally have a Congressional majority and the presidency, however, they can no longer hide behind the big, bad ogres of the GOP. If the Democratic leaders make excuses for ignoring our concerns for an extended period of time, widespread disillusionment of GLBT Democrats may occur.

I also worry that some of our best and brightest leaders are too close to the Obama campaign. On one hand, this may serve us well, as they will have voice in the administration. But, as we know, it is always more difficult to criticize friends. Those who end up serving Obama must not end up like democratic versions of the Log Cabin Republicans, essentially serving as party apologists. They should put the well being of the community ahead of their careers.

If the insiders do not have the willingness or the leverage to move the Democrats, I predict the growth of outsider political groups who will turn to direct action to push Congress and the Administration. Sometimes, it takes grassroots organizations that do not have conflicts of interest (such as friendships with the establishment) to propel the movement forward.

Even as we fight on towards Election Day, we should take a deep breath and imagine the possibilities, while managing our expectations. While Obama is not the Messiah and we should not count on miracles, we should expect at least a few campaign promises to come to fruition.

 

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