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The Audacity of Amateurs

My buddy Chris Crain, former editor of the Washington Blade, expresses disappointment with my latest column in said newspaper, which accused Barack Obama of employing a Nixonian "Southern Strategy" to win over black, socially conservative southern voters by refusing to … Read More

By / November 5, 2007

My buddy Chris Crain, former editor of the Washington Blade, expresses disappointment with my latest column in said newspaper, which accused Barack Obama of employing a Nixonian "Southern Strategy" to win over black, socially conservative southern voters by refusing to disassociate with gospel singer Donnie McClurkin, who says that gays our "trying to kill our children" and says that the Lord rescued him from homosexuality. The Obama campaign had invited McClurkin to head up its "southern gospoel tour" event in South Carolina. Chris writes:

C'mon Jamie… Don't you see a wee bit difference here? Even if you accept that Obama selected McClurkin (which he didn't) as part of a calculated ploy to play to homophobes (which it wasn't), the huge difference here is that Nixon's political positions fit his strategy. He was no friend to African Americans or civil rights.

I'll certainly concede that there's more than a "wee bit of difference" between the tactics of Nixon and Obama, as the former's were far-reaching had a long-lasting effect on the tactics of the Republican Party. But just because the analogy does not fit perfectly (as few analogies do) does not mean that a comparison of sorts simply can't be made at all. Is the intent — cynical vote-getting — behind Obama's double-dealing much different than Nixon's coded appeals to southern whites? Obama says he supports gay rights but is perfectly willing to have a man like McClurkin front for his campaign. And while Nixon was without question an old-fashioned bigot (heaping hate on not just blacks, but gays and especially Jews in hours upon hours of tape-recorded White House conversations) who employed questionable tactics in the 1968 presidential race, it's just not true — as Chris asserts — that "he was no friend to African Americans or civil rights." Nixon, whipping boy of all liberals past, present and for far into the future, significantly expanded affirmative action programs in the federal contracting business and substantially increased the number of women and African-Americans in his administration.

Chris also draws attention to "Hillary's Donnie McClurkins," the anti-gay black preachers Eddie Long and Harold Mayberry, asking why gay activists have not raised more of a fuss over the Democratic frontrunner's glad-handing with first-rate homophobes. He's absolutely right, and his point illustrates what I've been saying for a long time: Democrats think that by mouthing support for "gay rights" they can get away with associating with the most vile of bigots. Liberals and gays apply a double-standard when it comes to the Left's homophobia and it's long past time that gays — and, more importantly, all people of good conscience — say enough is enough.

None of this is to say that gays — or anyone supportive of gay equality for that matter — should withhold support from Obama because of this one incident. Similarly, however, I would expect liberals so critical of Richard Nixon to acknowledge that while the man was a crude bigot, he also supported policies to increase opportunities for women and blacks. What's ultimately more important; what the man said in private or did in public? Indeed, Obama actually seems to have a better record on gay rights than any other mainstream presidential candidate. What this sorry episode does demonstrate, however, is two important points; the first being that while some in the media are touting Obama as the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, Obama has shown that he has little trouble adopting the cynical triangulation tactics of the Clintons — apologizing if he offended anyone but giving a platform to someone who uses it to denigrate gay people. This, again, does not make Obama a bad leader, but it ought to disillusion those who somehow think that electing him will cure the country of its partisan ills.

Secondly, and more importantly to those concerned with electing a Democrat in 2008, is that the McClurkin episode demonstrates the remarkable ineptitude of the Obama campaign. It has been amateur hour for the past two weeks. I can't imagine the tough-as-nails warriors in the Clinton campaign enduring a scandal like this for more than 15 minutes before dealing with the problem decisively by dumping McClurkin.

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