You can measure a politician’s principles by his willingness to do something which he believes to be the right thing, but which carries a political cost.
Before he was ever elected President, Ronald Reagan did just such a thing, showing political courage in standing up against anti-gay bigotry. In 1978, he came out publicly against the Golden State’s Briggs Initiative which would have banned gay people from teaching in public schools. At the time, that pernicious proposition led in the polls. Not just that, the Gipper was gearing up to run for the Republican nomination for President in 1980. Opposing that initiative would have hurt him among social conservatives, then beginning to migrate to the GOP.
And yet gay people prefer Bill Clinton to the Gipper, even though when that Democrat had the choice between keeping a promise he made to us during his successful campaign for the White House (repealing the ban on gays in the military), he cut and run because of the political cost. Unlike Ronald Reagan, when it came to gay people, Bill Clinton showed no political courage.
And now where does the current President stand? As Andrew Sullivan, dewy-eyed for the Democrat during the campaign and well into the first hundred days of his Administration, is now beginning to wake up and smell the coffee. He’s figured out who the rubes are. And it ain’t the true gay conservatives who backed John McCain.
The left-leaning blogger laments:
But I have a sickeningly familiar feeling in my stomach, and the feeling deepens with every interaction with the Obama team on these issues. They want them to go away. They want us to go away.
Here we are, in the summer of 2009, with gay servicemembers still being fired for the fact of their orientation. . . . And what is Obama doing about any of these things? What is he even intending at some point to do about these things? So far as I can read the administration, the answer is: nada.
Obama surely senses that there is a political cost to doing these things, so like his most recent Democratic predecessor, he’s cutting and running. Just like when it comes to standing up to a bigoted preacher (whose church he once frequented), when it comes to standing up for gay people, Barack Obama lacks political courage.
Perhaps, Andrew should have realized that if he — and other gays — got all googly-eyed over the charismatic candidate, that Democrat might realize he could take gay support for granted. After all, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) continued to back Bill Clinton even after he signed DOMA.
There are only a handful of issues where we gay people really need the government to act on our behalf. Repealing DADT is once such issue. Federal recognition of same-sex unions is another. It would be nice if there were a politician or two who would act on our behalf, even if doing so meant risking their political careers.
Some times, however, when they take such risks, as did the Gipper in 1978, they reveal themselves as men of principle. The short-term loss they suffer to special interest politics, they more than make upin the long term for they help burnish their images as men who transcend petty politics.
Ronald Reagan was such a man. And despite what dewy-eyed Democrats promised us last fall, Barack Obama is not.