President Obama, 2009-2017

Barack Obama will be a two-term President.

How do you know?

Because he came out in support of same-sex marriage two days ago.


Yes, well. Let me explain.

Candy Holmes and Darlene Garner, Washington DC, 2010

Barack Obama and David Cameron have little in common. But they are politically on the same page. American politics at a national level is a choice between the Democratic party and the Republican party: the British equivalents are the Conservative party and the BNP.

But Barack Obama ran on a programme promising change. Of course in one respect there was a big change – he was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for not being George W. Bush, like an international sigh of relief.

Steve Bell: Bush backs gay marriage ban

President-Elect Obama was believed on the basis of his campaign – his “Yes we can!” theme – to be running as a progressive President. He won massively because people turned out to vote for him because he seemed to be standing for liberal policies.

But in the early going, it’s clear to many of us that the bigger threat to the progressive agenda lies with the political establishment’s frenzied attempt to narrow the mandate to a cramped, incremental centrism. They insist that the country is center-right even in the face of a broad progressive victory and demand that the the new administration must bend over backwards to accomodate conservatives or risk being seen as liberal, which is assumed to be the political kiss of death. They say this in spite of the fact that the Republican Party is less popular than e coli.

David Cameron ran a campaign on being a sweeter, nicer Tory party. Part of that was pitching woo at the pink vote. He wasn’t very successful, but then he is not as good a public speaker as Barack Obama, and LGBT voters in the UK were well aware of which parties have been supporting equal rights for LGBT people, and which party had been actively opposing equal rights.

Barack Obama’s campaign was much more successful. A people who have far less than we do, and far less hope for change than we do, was far more easily convinced. I can’t recall how many times Americans, asked to identify something good President Obama had actually done, pointed me not at a political action but at a rather excellent speech calling for something to be done.

In November 2008, literally days after Obama had won the election, Avedon Carol wrote presciently:

You know, I really don’t think it would hurt if thousands of people sent actual, physical postcards to Obama saying that they did not vote for some tinkering at the edges, and they really do want real change, no matter what the conservatives who are wrecking our country want to call it. Call it liberalism, call it “socialism” if you must, or call it democracy, but we want an end to war and a return to pursuit of the liberal goals of accountability, freedom, and progress, and anything less at this point really is treason.

It’s worth remembering that, despite what the (right-wing-fuelled) punditocracy says, and have misled many people into believing about themselves, we’re a liberal country, and liberalism is what we want. Sure, after 30 years of hearing people on TV claim that what liberals believe in is “big government” and that we all think abortions are fun and everyone should have them (even though everyone should also be gay), not many people self-identify as liberal, since no one believes in that. But the policies that most people believe in are far, far to the left of what the so-called “centrists” believe in, which is probably more like big government than anything any actual liberal would ever support.

Having run on a progressive platform, Obama then went conservative. There were strong inklings of this as early as 2006, when the financial industry was approving him as not “liberal fringe”. Since 2004, when Obama was elected junior Senator for Illinois, he has always trimmed his sails – or, as he described it, “evolved” his views on gay marriage to suit the prevailing politics.

Barack Obama is no Gavin Newsome or Ken Livingstone, both of whom stood up for equal civil rights for LGBT people when it was politically damaging to do so. Obama isn’t progressive or principled: he’s just pragmatic. His clear political advantage is that he can make himself sound like an exciting force for change in a United States where the Democratic party is pursuing aggressive right-wing goals and the Republican party is doing the same but with added dollops of open racism, sexism, homophobia, and more racism.

For example: enforcing destitution tests, refusing to prosecute criminals from the financial industry (that would be the “liberal fringe” thing to do), continuing support for the US’s illegal prison camps in Cuba and Afghanistan.

Extrajudicial prisoners in Guantanamo Bay

One of the ways in which Obama made himself sound progressive was by talking a lot about LGBT equality.

Matt Taibbi noted in January this year:

This caucus, let’s face it, marks the beginning of a long, rigidly-controlled, carefully choreographed process that is really designed to do two things: weed out dangerous minority opinions, and award power to the candidate who least offends the public while he goes about his primary job of energetically representing establishment interests.

If that sounds like a glib take on a free election system that allows the public to choose whichever candidate it likes best without any censorship or overt state interference, so be it. But the ugly reality, as Dylan Ratigan continually points out, is that the candidate who raises the most money wins an astonishing 94% of the time in America.

That damning statistic just confirms what everyone who spends any time on the campaign trail knows, which is that the presidential race is not at all about ideas, but entirely about raising money.

Barack Obama is well-liked by the financial industry. He serves them well.

Why in the world would President Obama, whose legacy has been sabotaged by a housing crisis that Donilon helped create and conceal, have hired him to run the most sensitive position of public trust in his administration? Because he is one of the most skilled of the Washington players, and, as this president has demonstrated so often with his key appointments, it’s the top hustlers of whom he seems enamored. “He has a probing intellect and a remarkable work ethic,” Obama stated this month upon appointing Donilon, thereby reducing ethics to a variant of ambition rather than morality, “although it’s one that depends on a seemingly limitless quantity of Diet Coke.” Ha, ha. But of course Obama must avoid questioning the connection of that work ethic to the impoverishment of tens of millions of homeowners. When Donilon first entered his presidential campaign in 2008, Obama knew he had been working as a legal adviser to Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, two firms that had to depend on government bailouts to survive a housing crisis they helped create.

Obama makes excellent speeches. But even the most excellent speechmaker does better if there is some substrata of fact to work with – somewhere Obama can really point to progressive change. One area where he can legitimately point to – a change that happened in his presidency that would not have happened had the McCain/Palin team won, is the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

US Marine and boyfriend share welcome-home kiss

Barack Obama declaring openly for same-sex marriage is final evidence the tide has turned and no wall will keep it from rolling in. Obama would never have declared himself for the freedom to marry if he hadn’t been sure of that. So in that respect, worldwide as well as in the US, when the President of the United States speaks out for equal marriage, this is welcome support.

The Herald, today:

Mr Rennie seized on a statement by US President Barack Obama that he believed “same-sex couples should be able to get married” and cited similar comments by Prime Minister David Cameron.

The LibDem leader said Mr Salmond’s response was “timid”, quoting gay SNP MSP Alyn Smith as saying “too many politicians are too equivocal on this”.

He said: “Why has the First Minister chosen to be one of the equivocal people rather than joining proudly the progressive world leaders in support of equal marriage?”

Mr Salmond said: “I don’t know if Willie actually believes that David Cameron is a progressive world leader, but if he does then it explains the vast overwhelming departure of any semblance of a Liberal Democrat Party.”

Not that I like Salmond. And I think his reason for refusing to come out in support of equal marriage has a lot more to do with wanting indyref votes from these people despite the likelihood of gay marriage in Scotland by 2014. But he’s got a point. That Obama and Cameron now openly support the freedom to marry means that the ban on same-sex couples marrying is now opposed only by the extreme right and by a handful of confused religious people who read the missing gospel where Jesus declared that the whole basis of Christianity was opposing abortion and gay marriage.
Homosexuals are possessed by demons
Those people wouldn’t vote for Obama anyway (many of them won’t vote for Mitt Romney either), and their presence on the other side will do nothing but energise people into campaigning for Obama who might otherwise stay home.

Barack Obama will win in November 2012. Our human rights are a part of his campaign chest.

But given the alternative, I can’t even say I’m sorry.

(I started following a number of US blogs during the Bush years, and fell away from most of them after Obama won: the only one I stayed with on a regular basis was Avedon Carol’s the Sideshow – strongly recommended. I found most of my US links via Sideshow.)

Tuesday 8th May, The Sideshow:

Calling Obama a “socialist” may be ignorant and/or stupid, but is the right-wing really wrong in perceiving Obama as a threat to American freedoms? He is simultaneously trying to take away our few economic protections while systematically eliminating our ability to speak out against the corruption of an increasingly abusive oligarchy that works in tandem with the state – with Obama’s whole-hearted support. American poverty increases, our control of our lives decreases, the prison industry is one of our most powerful employers as we lock more and more people up – more than any other country does.

Too Left For Obama

Update – Gallup poll published about an hour after I posted this:

More than half of Americans say they approve of President Obama’s stance that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry legally, but 60% say that his shift in position will have no bearing on how they vote in the November election, according to a new USA TODAY/Gallup poll.

Update – and yet….

White House with rainbow pillars: New Yorker cover

…this is great.

Update, 22nd September 2012

So, I was right four months ago: Obama’s going to win. Roll on 7th November for another four years of the American David Cameron – better than, well, Mitt Romney:

President Barack Obama has about $88 million available to spend for the presidential campaign’s final stretch, giving him a sizable cash-on-hand advantage over Republican rival Mitt Romney.

Obama filed monthly finance documents Thursday with the Federal Election Commission. The documents show his campaign spent more than $83 million last month as he battled for an advantage in the tightly contested race.

Romney has $50.4 million available to him at this point in the campaign.

Obama and the Democratic National Committee raised about $114 million in August. That gave Obama a narrow edge over Romney and Republicans after having trailed the GOP in fundraising for three straight months.

The combined cash on hand for Obama and the DNC is slightly more than $125 million.

In some ways, American politics must be boring. Two months ahead, you count the money, and you know whichever guy raised most, that one’s going to be President. Secrecy about party fundraising at least makes it a bit of a surprise on Election Night… Pretty sure I got this via The Sideshow. But if not, I got other useful US election news there.

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Filed under American, LGBT Equality

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