This train is bound for glory, this train. And in 2008 it may just be a question of whether you’re on it, under it, or — as I think I will be — standing by the track, watching it go by. As the 2008 presidential field shapes up, I’m remembering a little advice my dad once gave me about voting: “If you can’t find somebody to vote for, find somebody to vote against. But vote.”
While my dad’s intention was probably just to encourage me to take part in the political process, I think 2008 is going to be one of those years when I can’t find anybody to vote for, with any sense of enthusiasm anyway, and will have to settle for finding somebody to vote against. It will come down to the difference between thinking “I want him/her in office” or simply deciding “S/he’ll do.”
And as it looks like Barrack Obama is morphing into the Democrats Great Black Holy Hope for 2008, I guess I should start now working my way up to a rousing, enthusiastic, heartfelt, “He’ll do” Maybe.”
Obama was making with the “God talk” earlier this year, so it’s no surprise — after an election in which even progressives were backing moderate-to-conservative Dems, and Democrats won 1/3 of the coveted white evangelical vote — that Obama would emerge as a leading Democratic hopeful for the White House in 2008. (Particularly now that Condi’s said once again she ain’t gonna do it.) And it’s probably also no coincidence that Dems recently picked “progressive evangelical” Jim Wallis — author of God’s Politics, which I reviewed earlier — to deliver the the Democratic response to Bush’s radio address, while Obama himself is cozying up to Rick Warren — evangelical, and author of The Purpose-driven Life — and visiting Warren’s church to address evangelicals on AIDS, despite the fact that some of them don’t want to hear from him (because he supports keeping abortion legal). Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress are already planning to play it safe on controversial issues. (Note: Gay issues don’t even make the list.)
If I may be excuse for indulging in another religious reference, I’d say the handwriting is pretty much on the wall. Obama may joke about a possible 2008 run, but even the most skeptical brotha can’t help noticing Obama is already doing some serious outreach in important primary states like Iowa. So, while I won’t go so far as to say Obama will be the Democratic nominee for 2008, I will say he’s definitely going to give it a serious shot. And if he does it even half-way right, he might just get the nomination and end up the first black man in the White House.
You’d think that might be enough to get me just a little excited. Well. Not so much. If Obama gets the nomination, I may vote for him. And if he wins, that’ll be great, but I won’t exactly stand up and cheer, because I pretty much know what time it is with me and Obama.
As a supposedly bipartisan politician who understands and reconciles opposing views, and a non-doctrinal Christian whose personal identity and life journey shaped his lens to include those on the margins, why then, I ask, is this presidential hopeful not united with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer voters on the issue of marriage equality?
“I was reminded that it is my obligation not only as an elected official in a pluralistic society, but also as a Christian, to remain open to the possibility that my unwillingness to support gay marriage is misguided,” Obama wrote in his recent memoir, The Audacity of Hope.
… But he ought to know, as a civil rights attorney, that granting LGBTQ Americans only the right to civil unions violates our full constitutional right as well as reinstitutionalizes the 1896 U.S. Supreme Court decision Plessy v. Ferguson. As a result of that decision, the “separate but equal” doctrine became the rule of law until it was struck down in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision.
However, Obama doesn’t understand that regardless of one’s gender expression or sexual orientation, we want equal status to be institutionalized within our marriages as well.
I’m not entirely unrealistic. (I plan to write another post about what we can reasonably expect from the Democratic Congress.) I know that no leading Democratic candidate is likely to come out in support of same-sex marriage, even if he or she privately supports it. That may be the case with Obama and his “willingness to be wrong.” Clinton didn’t. Kerry didn’t. Dean didn’t. And the next Democratic nominee almost certainly won’t. In that sense, Obama may be an “improbable gift during a horrible time”, a bridge that many may wish to cross over into someplace better than the last six years or so, or that leads to somewhere better than we’ve ended up. In that sense, he may be the candidate of many people’s hopes. But not mine. Not unless I choose to set some of my hopes aside.
This week, during a discussion of the 2008 Democratic field, someone asked me if I was jumping on the Obama bandwagon, and I shrugged it off. I can understand his effect on other people, but he just doesn’t do it for me. And there’s no candidate on the horizon that I can see giving my full, enthusiastic support who also has a shot at winning. The last time I felt any kind of enthusiasm for a candidate was for Clinton in ’92 and Dean in ’04, and we know how those both ended. Like I mentioned earlier, the one guy I was all set to support isn’t running, and there’s still the question of whether the one other guy I could support will be drafted or not. Meanwhile, there’s Hillary, Obama, Vilsack, Edwards, and possibly Kerry.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure Obama or any one of the above would be a better choice than just about anyone the Republicans could nominate. But once, just once, I’d like to have the audacity to vote my hopes — to borrow from the title of Obama’s latest book — and have it actually mean something.
Unfortunately, in this case, hope doesn’t win elections.