Gay rights groups join ranks of disillusioned after Obama administration praises Defense of Marriage Act
By Robert Wallace
I realize now that I was right about the con job, but wrong about Obama.
This revelation came as I was listening to an NPR interview of gay rights activist Dan Savage on the way in to work this morning. It turns out that many of Obama’s left-wing supporters feel just as much–perhaps even more–betrayed than centrist independents who thought they were electing a moderate.
Although Obama publicly stated his opposition to gay marriage, he also managed to convince the gay community that he was on their side, hence the tremendous sense of betrayal as the Obama administration has come out in staunch defense of the Defense of Marriage Act:
[The Obama administration] went into court and argued that gays and lesbians aren’t discriminated against by being denied marriage rights. There’s so much in this package of arguments. Legal scholars have said they really through the kitchen sink at gays and lesbians with this brief.
When NPR asked why the gay community had such high expectations for Obama, Dan Savage laughed bitterly before responding:
Yeah, Obama released a letter to the gay community in which he said “Equality is a moral imperative. As your president I will use the bully pulpit to urge states to treat same-sex couples with full equality.” We have seen a spate of states legalize same sex marriage: Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Iowa. The president has been utterly silent.
When Obama sold himself as a political moderate, he was lying. His sweeping health care, energy, and environmental reforms illustrate that he’s no centrist. But it turns out that when Obama sold himself as a political liberal he was also lying. Dan Savage–like the rest of the gay community–thought that Obama’s opposition to gay marriage was a cover for an actual, real dedication to their concept of equal rights.
But it wasn’t. And that’s where I was wrong.
The biggest lie of the Obama campaign was the lie that he believed in any principles at all. I saw his promises to the left and right, observed that his history was left, and figured he was a committed lefty going incognito with the help of an obedient press to win the general election. Apparently, Dan Savage and the gay community came to the same conclusion. But it turns out that Obama isn’t a covert ideologue — he’s a man without any true principles at all.
The sense of betrayal as Dan seems to realize this really made me feel sorry for him as he responded to NPR’s question about the possible pragmatic reasons for Obama refusing to fulfill his pledges to the gay rights community:
NPR: Could you see how the administration might be a little leery of taking well-publicized steps that might mean potentially a big loss of support in some of those formally red states?
Dan Savage: I don’t even know what to say to that. Then President Obama should be very angry with candidate Obama, because candidate Obama should have seen that coming. He made the promises that he made to the gay and lesbian community. If we are upset it is because our expectations have not been met. Who raised our expectations? Candidate Obama.
Dan then goes on to argue that, at three to five percent of the population, the gay community is a significant voting bloc. He tries to argue that there really is no pragmatic reason for Obama to give the movement the cold shoulder. I don’t know if this is wishful thinking on Dan’s part or, rather, if it’s a subconscious desire to avoid fully realizing what his words have already illustrated: Obama cares for the gay rights community precisely as much as he thinks he can get out of them.
And this is the danger of wishful thinking. Obama stood for hope and change. Hope for what? Change from what to what? That was left up to the individual. Obama is everyone’s very own political mad lib. Everyone who was angry at Bush or felt the country was going in the wrong direction or couldn’t pay for a mortgage they shouldn’t have taken out in the first place could find something from Obama’s speeches, books, or personal life story to serve as the evidence that Obama’s hope was their hope, that Obama’s change would take them from where they were to where they wanted to be.
And so they vested their hopes, their energy, their enthusiasm, and their votes to their own personal version of the myth of Obama. But their own personal version of the myth of Obama doesn’t exist, and never did.
Now we’re waking up from a pleasant day-dream to the frightening realization that nobody got the president they thought they were voting for.
Robert Wallace has been writing for America’s Right since December 2008.