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    October 25, 2007

    Obama's ex-gay sideshow semi-resolved

    Posted by: Chris

    The on-going flap over the inclusion of an "ex-gay" black gospel singer on Barack Obama's campaign tour
    through South Carolina is following a well-worn path toward the absurd. In some ways, the controversy stirred up over Donne McClurkin's role in the tour is the blogosphere at its worst.

    One blogger plays "gotcha" by blowing out of proportion a campaign f*up by distorting facts to make it appear as if the candidate himself hand-selected McClurkin with an eye toward repeating the Bush-Rove wedge politics at the expense of homosexuals.  Never mind that there's (a) no evidence Obama himself even knew McClurkin was either ex-gay or picked to join the tour, and (b) wedge politics, especially at the expense of gays, run completely counter to everything the candidate has said and (practically) every position he's taken.

    But once the blogo-beast has been let out of his cage, he must be fed -- enter other bloggers (John Aravosis, Perez Hilton ("Dear Barack, this sucks hardcore!"), Joe.My.God. and more) and gay rights groups (Truth Wins Out, the Human Rights Campaign) -- demanding the candidate bend to their will, while failing to take any sort of nuanced look at the situation. Why consider the big picture when there's outrage to be tapped?

    In addition to issuing a statement that calls out McClurkin and other black conservatives on their homophobia -- not something you hear a candidate say too often about his own supporters -- Obama has now gone one step further, inviting an openly gay South Carolina minister to join the tour. 

    But did that satisfy? No, of course not. The controversy still had legs, and Aravosis was among the first to pile on, making a silly KKK analogy that he's way too smart to be making:

    How many gays balances one bigot, Senator? One, two, three, three-fifths? That's just not the way it works in civil rights, Senator. You don't get to be a bigot so long as you suck up to the gays too. … Would you let a klansman or a white supremacist, or a Holocaust denier, on stage so long as you invited a rabbi and a black minister too? I somehow doubt it. You'd do the right thing and kick the bigot out of your little show.

    Let's see, bigot, klansman, white supremacist, Holocaust denier, and even a sly three-fifths reference to slavery. I think we've got all our bases covered, although somehow me forgot to bring Hitler into it somehow.  Comparing McClurkin to this trite parade of horribles is not just wishful thinking, it's apples and oranges.

    The debate over gay rights and the nature of homosexuality, including the role religion plays in response to same-sex desires, is in a completely different place today than views about race and the Holocaust. We don't do ourselves any favors by demanding that candidates for national office pretend with us that those who oppose gay rights should be excluded from the mainstream of society the way we do racists.  That's not the world today, and it's unfair and unrealistic to expect Barack Obama to pretend that it is.

    Then from black gay bloggers like Keith Boykin comes disappointment that Andy Sidden, the out gay pastor in South Carolina, is white. It's passing strange to me why a black candidate who needs white support to win the presidency can only use black supporters to court black constituents, but such is the balkanized state of identity politics today.

    "Obama won't win any new black votes by getting a white gay guy to speak at a black event," writes Boykin, another very smart guy who like Aravosis ought to know better.  Jasmyne Cannick has been pressing Obama to sit down with black gay leaders, in what reads a bit like a personal power play.

    Speaking of personal power plays, HRC's Joe Solmonese spoke to Obama by phone yesterday, "expressed to him our community’s disappointment," as if he could credibly speak for such a constituency, especially after stage-managing the story from the sidelines in an amateur "pay no attention to that man behind the curtain" way.

    It's painful to watch how easily the movement can be sidelined by such sideshows like this or Bill Richardson's "choice" flub from the Logo debate, when the presidential race holds real issues of much greater importance.



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    1. Andoni on Oct 25, 2007 7:29:21 AM:

      Here's another way to look at the Obama-McClurkin situation: Obama is not afraid to tell one of his core constituencies, "Yes, I heard what you said, but I'm not going to listen to you on this one."

      As much as we don't like this, I ask you to consider how this might be a positive for us. This type of political bravery may actually help our community some day when Obama tries to do something FOR US that some of his other core constituencies strongly oppose and ask him to halt. Many examples of things other constituencies might oppose come to mind, such as repealing DOMA, or DADT or even supporting immigration rights for same sex couples.

      Think of the traditional presidential candidate whose modus operandi is, "first don't offend anyone." I could name names, but if you are reading this blog, I think you are smart enough to think of a prime example. This type of candidate will only make decisions that are safe and don't cost anything politically. Since there is practically NOTHING on the gay agenda except possibly Hate Crimes and ENDA (without trans) that don't strongly offend another constituency, that's all we are going to get from this type of candidate.

      Give me someone who is not afraid to offend me every once in a while, because that same person will not be afraid to offend other constituencies every once and a while --- and he will be able to accomplish more for me in the long run when it counts. When he is trying to achieve something for me that really advances my rights, it cannot be achieved without offending another group. And I want someone who will not be afraid to tell the other groups, "Sorry, I'm not going to listen to you on this one."

    1. Tim C on Oct 25, 2007 8:37:46 AM:

      As I have said many times before, those who seek to be offended will be offended. Such is the state of many self-appointed gay opinion leaders today.

    1. Kevin on Oct 25, 2007 10:25:54 AM:

      I hope Obama ignores them and lets them all bubble in their own pots just long enough so that a race ensues as to who can accuse him of murder or something similar. That ought to be entertaining.

    1. adamblast on Oct 25, 2007 11:31:57 AM:

      I can't quite get around the following sentence, which speaks to a core issue yet to be resolved:

      We don't do ourselves any favors by demanding that candidates for national office pretend with us that those who oppose gay rights should be excluded from the mainstream of society the way we do racists.

      I'm not sure why. They get a pass because they're religious? Because they're sincere? Phelps has all of that in spades. Or do you suggest that religious bigots should get a pass simply because they're in the majority? At some point you have to break with tradition and say treating gays as sinful and worthy of degredation in the public sphere is unacceptable, whatever your private religious doctrine.

      The only stupidity and naivete I sensed from the whole mess was in not recognizing that McClurkin and Mary Mary are in fact truly representative of the current state of Black Gospel. As another pundit wrote, saying "Fire the anti-gay gospel singer" is basically saying "fire them all"--at least all the famous ones.

      There are deep divisions within the Democratic party, and deep divisions between blacks and gays. In particular, the black gospel world is virulently homophobic, and politically active about it. They will not accept gays overnight. Barak was sure dumb to inadvertantly pit the two groups against each other, but the division is real and serious. And it is not the gays who are in the wrong.

    1. Lucrece on Oct 25, 2007 11:46:37 AM:

      I agree with adamblast; all I sensed was the promotion of an is-ought fallacy in that comment. That may not be the reality, but that doesn't mean we should demand a change to it.

    1. Double T on Oct 25, 2007 3:08:25 PM:

      Religion is the last safe harbor for bigotry.

      I would really love to see the fundamentals practice what they preach. They all cry about the importance of marriage, but don't have a damn clue what they are talking about.

      They support Rudy Giuliani who has been divorced more times than even he can remember.

      Then they condemn Hillary for forgiving Bill and sticking to her marriage vows.

      Most Fundamental Christians wouldn’t recognize Jesus Christ if he leaped off a crucifix and bit them on their ass.

      And they say all the religious crazies are in the middle east.

    1. Jim-n-Alpharetta on Oct 25, 2007 8:30:35 PM:


      I have to respectfully disagree with you on this one.

      Look...this guy Donnie McClurkin has said many things over the past few years that really enables homophobes, and even those advocating violence against gays.

      It's one thing to state that you disagree with a homosexual 'lifestyle'. It's quite another thing to publicly rail and denounce even to the extent of saying you're at war with the homosexual agenda.

      I'd also note that just yesterday you were comparing the HRC response to their support for Hillary. Today the HRC found favor in the addition of the gay pastor giving a prayer to the event.

      Is the HRC still hauling water for HRC?

      For the record, I am NOT a Hillary supporter. Hillary is my last choice.

    1. Joseph Kowalski on Oct 25, 2007 11:16:44 PM:

      The reason there is a difference in the perception of racist and homophobic speech and actions is because racial minorities refuse to accept racism in society and rightfully pounce on every racist speech or action brought to their attention. It's about time gay people do the same.

      There is a lot I like about Barack Obama but I don't like the way he is handling the McClurkin situation. If Obama truly believes in gay equality, he should not campaign with homophobes.

      And if Barack Obama has problems standing up to the homophobes among his own supporters, how is he ever going to stand up to the majority of Republicans and the handful of Democrats who are homophobes in Congress?

    1. North Dallas Thirty on Oct 26, 2007 8:21:53 PM:

      Question, Joseph; doesn't it seem odd that HRC and gay liberals scream bloody murder about what Obama is doing -- when they endorse and support as "pro-gay" and "gay-supportive" FMA and state constitutional amendment supporters themselves?

      (http://mpetrelis.blogspot.com/2007/02/lets-see-if-we-can-follow-bouncing.html , http://www.washblade.com/2004/8-13/news/national/emily.cfm , http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2001999067_kerrygay07.html)

      In short, HRC and its ilk are hypocrites, inasmuch as they are demanding something of Obama that they can't and won't do themselves.

    1. Joseph Kowalski on Oct 26, 2007 11:37:14 PM:

      I agree North Dallas Thirty, they are hypocrites but what has that to do with Obama?

      Obama is the one running for President and will be the one who has to deal with any anti-gay measures from Congress if elected.

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