Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Complicated Road A Vote and a Note for Obama

After an incredible amount of thinking, research, conversation and fret, I cast my vote for Obama today. I sank inside a bit.

My hope was less audacious than I would have liked. I voted for a man who gave a speaking opportunity to someone who thinks a part of me that I love and cherish is something to be healed. That man, Donnie McClurkin, globalized his homophobia and now preaches that we all have the opportunity he thinks he took, to be delivered from homosexuality.

And I listen to Obama, who said he does not agree with McClurkin, speak of hope. Speak eloquently of hope, and I cannot help but feel used to gain votes from more conservative Southerners.

Senator Obama, I want to be cheering and excited and on the wagon. I want to be behind this candidacy full on. I have some time on my hands due to a job change. I want to volunteer and engage and shake hands, and use my considerable skills to help bring change to this country.

And I'm struggling terribly with it.

And for the record, Mr. McClurkin, I don't want to be delivered from my relationship of 9 years that is full of a more Audacious Hope than Barack Obama could possibly speak of while he allows you his pulpit to throw me under the bus.

McClurkin's message creates silence, self-loathing, and encourages anxiety, fear, and hatred. That silence keeps people in the closet, slows access to information about sexuality that young men and women need. And I expect better from Obama, from my leaders, and better from any Democrat so boldly proclaiming he will bring us together.

And to explain it as dialogue with those who are different? Try that with the known racist, the known woman-hater. I still feel completely thrown under the bus. It makes me doubt Obama's commitment to unity. It makes me question the audacity of his hope, his political courage.

It makes me feel like his foot is crushing my neck while he stands on the stage. And I can't be part of the celebration of all these wonderful ideas when you say my marriage is not worthy, that listening to others opinions is a good idea here.

Speaking in front of other audiences and disavowing hatred against gays is great, but handing the haters the microphone is deplorable.

Toni Morrison speaks of Obama as “someone whose moral center [is] un-embargoed.” Really? When you dance with McClurkin in the name of educating people about the other side, I would say this is a significant embargo on your moral center.

It’s hurtful to Americans and Obama should apologize for having McClurkin on the microphone and should do so while having his picture taken with Gavin Newsom.

To be fair:

I think I would have sunk inside if I voted for Clinton as well. Someone who, like Obama takes the position that my marriage is unequal to hers. Someone well acquainted with struggles for dignity and humanity but who would only repeal part of the Defense of Marriage Act (Obama, as a plus, would repeal it all).

Someone who voted for a war so many of us knew was preemptive, wrongheaded, and full of opportunities for greed and a misuse of patriotism, a great misuse of our resources and our military.

It is not about finding the perfect candidate. My struggle is with supporting people who deny my humanity. Who say I am less worthy than they are. Who use policy and political tactics to separate me from others. And one who made war possible when we need peace. I hate it.

Obama and Clinton should be grateful that I can still remind myself that my party offers the best opportunities for women, for people of color, for education, for gays and lesbians, and for a healthy economy.

We are more likely to get our soldiers out of Iraq, to sensibly reform and fund No Child Left Behind, and to invest in a green economy. We may very well offer the best opportunity to save Darfur, to encourage peace, and to create opportunities for Fair Trade. To insure the uninsured, to fix our crumbling infrastructure, and to install Supreme Court Justices who are wise and invested in our civil rights and liberties.

I can't help but think I had to make a tough decision today while, at the same time, being excited about the end of the Bush reign.

Even Republicans are understanding what an incredible failure this man has been. Our country, and yes, even Republicans, can do so much better.

For me, a classic undecided Dem for weeks, the decision to vote for Obama came down to a few key factors:

1. We need the strongest contrast to McCain's hawkishness on the war. I reject the thought that Obama is some peace savior here. He has been voting for continuing the war funding and could have been more courageous in his votes. But Hillary Clinton trusted the wrong guy. This is where a healthy partisanship might have helped. Block anything that could come close to authorizing force. Obama looks better against McCain and that matters.

2. I think she would be more effective at ending the war, at patching things up abroad, and getting the right people in place to re-imagine diplomacy. But, I think it is a real roll of the dice to say she can win against McCain. I trust that the people surrounding Obama will work with him to make good choices. I hope she is one of those people.

3. The mobilized, grassroots operation that Obama has is working and reflects Dean's 50 state strategy. An energized electorate matters and Democrats are coming in with record turnouts.

4. The downline Democratic candidates around the country need to ride in on something. The freshness of someone less known but popular will help Democrats in red states in a way that I do not think Hillary Clinton could. She is too known, overexposed, too discussed.

Here is a bit of my thinking before I cast my vote. I take notes on such things:

Neither candidate is a slam-dunk for me.

I will support the Democratic candidate in the general.

I am more interested in what someone says they will do and how they will do it than big ideas writ large.

I believe the country is partisan and divided and that common ground can be useful provided we are not finding it at the expense of the poor and the disenfranchised. Similarly, I think our candidate should be a Democrat first, rest assured their candidate will be a Republican and rushing to the middle ground will not be high on their agenda.

I believe corporate interests have too much power and control and that this has diluted the influence of citizens.

I believe the war in Iraq was wrong and that anyone who knew Bush should have known that. We invaded a country that has nothing to do with 9/11 and spent billions of dollars and thousands of lives and I'm sickened by the thought that anyone could think Bush was going to do this on the up and up.

I do not believe all opinions are equal. I can respect a difference, while taking a stand. But that does not mean I favor consensus, especially when it relates to dignity and equal opportunity and the horrific ways the right has demonized gays, women, and others. When Obama consistently talks about uniting the country and even says he respects the views of those who feel differently than he does on gay rights, I am angered. When he says he wants to end the partisan bickering in Washington, I want to know what he will say when the right goes after a woman's right to choose, fails to sign Kyoto, creates insane corporate loopholes, devises anti-child legislation that is harmful to education, and more. We bickered over FEMA royally screwing New Orleans. We bickered over parental notification. Many Democrats bickered over Iraq. I want to hear that you will fight.

I don’t believe Clinton has cornered the market on being a target of right wing propaganda and intense, distracting media-absorbing insanity. These people are working on Obama already. I’m certainly not going to let these tools of distraction have anything to do with my vote, but I think it is naive to say Clinton would be more of a distraction.

I’m a Democrat, a liberal, and I believe in progressive values.

I believe Hillary Clinton is sharper on policy, more issue-focused, incredibly intelligent, and astoundingly capable. I respect her experience and dedication fighting for children and families. I am grateful for her initial attempt to take on health care reform and think the current campaign would not be featuring this very important issue had it not been for Clinton taking some major hits during the Bill Clinton years. I respect her knowledge and foreign policy experience.

I believe Barack Obama is more tested than people give him credit for and less verbal about his policy knowledge than many of us would like. I think he is incredibly intelligent, a savvy campaigner, and an inspiring force. I believe he has surrounded himself with more progressive advisors. I think he will bring new people into the government and that we need that. I am excited that we have someone running with a community organizing background. No Republican has been out there trying to help working families and Obama's work here is inspiring.

Hillary’s likability is irrelevant to me. Too often, it has seemed like people throw the likability statement around with little reason. I am certain that some do feel that they do not like her, but for me, it’s not an issue. I will not be having beer with the President any time soon. I will not be going to dinner with them. And I absolutely do not need the President to be like me. I think our leaders need to be well read, incredibly policy-savvy, with a detailed and critical understanding of history and how policy decisions have made a difference in the world and at home. I believe Hillary Clinton is all of those things and yes, I think I would actually like her quite a bit.

Race and Gender Matter

Race and gender matter. They matter to me. I have to be honest, that I want to see young black and biracial men see someone leading the country who looks like them. I want the racist woman whose story I recently heard to look up and see a person of color whose name sounds different than hers, as the leader of the free world.

And I want to see young girls know that despite the sexism and misogyny of much of the world and much of the country, they too can achieve visible and acknowledged power and agency. I want boys and men to see a bold and loud testimony that women are powerful, courageous, and wise.

I refuse to choose on this regard, but it matters. I am also grateful to be connected to a party that has put forward two candidates who have some understanding of outsider status.

To not be in the majority, to not look like those with most of the power to be connected to the disenfranchised matters. And for the misogynist, the racist, the hater, I hope whoever is elected sends a message to them as well. "I will achieve in spite of the laws you put on my body and I will change them. I will achieve in spite of your prejudice and hatred that would keep me bound, in prison, in fear and I will make important changes to make a better world, even for you."

Next Steps

I hope to catch the Obama fever for the general. I care about what happens to this country and am against McCain's war stance and so many of his policies.

I hope to feel Obama's foot lift off the backs of gays and lesbians and that he will find a clear way to support us as equals. His record points in that direction, I hope his actions will from this point forward.

Next stop: Chinese New Year!


Jamielynnlynn said...

Well said, T&J. My thoughts EXACTLY.

Hope all is merry in the land of Mary and hope to see you both soon.


Stef said...

This is a very well-written post. Thanks for sharing it.

I think along the same lines in most areas, I'm just choosing to support Hillary and I hope she goes all the way. If Obama ends up the nominee, I will support him because I believe in the Democratic platform (though I'd like to see it more progressive). But, at least so far, I don't think I'll be as personally engaged in an Obama campaign... but I hope that could change.

Barbara said...

Wow. What a great thought invoking post!

books and crackers said...

Ya'll probably know this, but it's the 11th annual freedom to marry week this week. http://www.freedomtomarry.org/learn_more.html
I am very impressed by your post, and I am so sad that there is not a candidate you can vote for without reservations. It breaks my heart to think that there are still people in the world who think that your marriage is any less valid than anyone else's, when, in fact, it is probably more worthy than 99.9999 percent of "legal" marriages.

lemmonex said...

Wow, this is just a fantastic entry. I do, also, believe that not all opinions are equal. All of this, just so refreshingly sincere and thoughtful. I cannot wait to meet you at the potluck.

ScottE. said...

Great Post...bloglines missed it, so I didn't catch it until today.

I'm on the Democratic platform as well and will fully support the candidate selected!

I didn't vote for Obama at this time because of the McClurkin issue and a comment, offhanded maybe, about going to war in Afghanistan, or Pakistan, to continue the "war on terror." I don't remember when or where that remark was made, but I took notice.

I hope Obama continues to take the lead and becomes the Democratic candidate, I will vote for him, but I hope be inspired and feel the passion many others do!

Regardless, I am so impressed and almost moved to tears with the prospect of either an African American president or a Female president. Bravo America for moving FORWARD!

FORWARD--the Wisconsin State motto BTW!

hillary b said...

You read my mind, except you repackaged my thoughts in an eloquent wrapping. I voted by mail early on in CA for Edwards, so I narrowly escaped the cage match debate.

I happened to be visiting DC on Tuesday and watched as a fly on the wall as other voters exercised their rights. And then I slipped on some ice.

Taresa said...

Others have said it, but I wanted to say it as well. Great writing. Great thoughts. And it's probably worth mentioning that one of the most happy, successful marraiges I know of is between my two lesbian friends. Shame on the government that won't allow them the same rights and my husband and I.